What is Social Justice?


What is the most important thing that career guidance is engaging with at the moment?


For me, the answer is the attempt to imagine a version of career guidance that conceptualizes social justice and finds its driving force from this understanding. When I trained as a careers advisor in 2011/12 (not that long ago!) the general mood was that career was connected to two central realities

  1. Government policy that created the operating frame for why career guidance existed.
  2. Liberal individualism which argued career guidance got its energy from being committed to the individual and making life better for them.

There was not a serious move to recognize outcomes beyond the realities of individuals. In my training and early days of practice, there was a general skepticism about radical career guidance that aimed to improve society either that it was ethical (as it seemed to argue for universal norms beyond the individual) or that there were significant models that made it possible.

I feel this is changing. Partly society as a whole has shifted. Everything from Occupy, Anonymous, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and potentially recent edicts around the environment have raised a popular awareness that radical ideas did not die with the fall of the Berlin wall but are part of society’s ongoing dialogue. Alongside this careers theorists such as Ronald Sultana, Tristram Hooley and Rie Thomsen have started to write and explore social justice and especially its link to neo-liberalism.

But what is social justice? This is half the battle, to actually work out what we mean by a complicated term like social justice.

I find Ronald Sultana’s work really helpful around this where he draws attention to four traditions of social justice.

(1) social harmony – social justice is about what you can contribute to society, it is our collective responsibility.
(2) equality – social justice is treating people equally e.g. getting rid of racism, sexism etc.
(3) equity – social justice is enabling similar results but through treating people according to their needs e.g. affirmitive action, widdening participation
(4) pluralism and difference – social justice is allowing people to define and pursue the good life for themselves rather than being locked into someone else’s viewpoint.


I find thease are helpful schools of thought to consider when trying to think about what is just. They all flag up different issues and draw attention to different potential soltions. So what do you think is social justice? And what can career guidance do to promote it?

This is day 3 of my 30 days of blogging challenge

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