A New American Justice:

Stackhouse, Max L

Missing Goliath's forehead A NEW AMERICAN JUSTICE Danid C. Maguire Doubleday, $9.95, 218 pp. Max L. Stackhonse DANIEL MAGUIRE is one of the leading ethicists today. He is quite prolific, and he...

...Distributive Justice" is the third and highest form of justice...
...They will develop elaborate plans for social engineering only to see them frustrated by ill-formed pieties...
...Rights have a certain cogency insofar as they reflect needs...
...Besides, only comprehensive political action can relieve the disabilities in our midst...
...Hence, the state must be the key agent in social justice...
...But in the final analysis, I believe that Maguire's book is dangerously wrong, precisely at the core of his philosophical argument...
...He believes that American social life is founded in false philosophical views of justice...
...This, his newest book, is an artful intellectual polemic against the individualism which he sees as pervasive in American culture in favor of a redefinition of the common good which will demand preferential treatment for Blacks and women...
...At least they cannot achieve any well-being...
...He weaves together the results of dozens of studies to document the web of institutional racism and sexism, bom freighted with class-ism, that pervades every sector of life...
...With-Ľout this recognition, social analysis and philosophical arguing, as well as the struggle for justice, are likely to miss the decisive dynamics of the crisis, to dry up and grow cold...
...Rightly designed, Maguire thinks, it both allows the fulfillment of Social Justice and the common good...
...Especially as some of the vocal "neo-conservatives" rise to prominence in contemporary American political life, the threats to whatever modest gains America has made in regard to the struggles against racism, sexism and classism are pronounced...
...For these reasons alone, he is well worth reading...
...There is much that is compelling in the book...
...He surveys the ideologies and the institutions where systemic bias is entrenched, and he exposes the intellectual and social-political egoism embedded in popularly held defenses of discrimination...
...The attempts to organize for social justice or to protect the rights of minority persons are the first to be crushed whenever institutionalized protections of rights are subverted, as they almost always are when "rights" are submerged entirely to the common good...
...C. Maguire reveals a certain blindness, present also in many of the secular writers he opposes, to the role of religion in forming the dominant values and institutions of the society...
...The issues are of such importance that, at least, more Augustine and less Aristotle, more Martin'Luther King and less McGeorge Bundy, are surely required...
...He is quite prolific, and he writes with superb clarity and style...
...If one wishes to get a readable guide to contemporary progressive Catholic thinking on these issues, A New American Justice is well worth the price...
...B. The crypto-Aristotelian celebration of the natural benevolence of the Polis has led and can easily lead again to a confusion of the vision of an inclusive society with that of a comprehensive state...
...Humans cannot be without the Polis...
...A. He does not understand the nature or history of the theory of "rights," either as they pertain to the rights of individuals or as they are the source of the rights of groups to organize for social change...
...are surely required...
...Beyond the reporting of the travesties of the present situation, however, Maguire has a particular philosophical point to make, one that lies at the core of his book...
...He also represents a major tendency in contemporary, post-Thomistic Catholic thinking which is deeply attracted to the newer movements toward social ethics...
...He makes three related errors, in my judgment, which will prevent the well-intended'stones from ultimately finding the forehead of Goliath...
...Modern or classical, these theories have not served distributive justice in the past...
...Maguire ignores this entirely...
...Because we are political in nature, and because the Polis is of such scope,Social Justice requires our support of the state...
...Instead he rehearses conservative natural law theories in modern style...
...On these two points, Maguire has parted company with the two most important developments in Catholic ethics of the last century-the rediscovery of Human Rights and the encounter with modern pluralist social theories...
...Maguire argues that individuals act to protect themselves in this regard everywhere and always...
...It is also a system of symbols through which the members of the society interpret their meaning and destiny.'' Further, the state must function in every realm of life-ecological, the arts, research, health care, education, economic, energy, police and military, etc...
...or, where they temporarily did so, they proved to have side-effects which undermined other forms of justice unwittingly...
...In fact, humanity is a "sharing animal" and hence a natural, social, essential basis is available to link the individual to the whole and to demand the sacrifice of individual rights for the common good...
...The first form of justice, that pertaining to the individual, is "not likely to be neglected...
...Further the book equips us, in some respects, with ready ammunition against the philistines...
...To counter that, he attempts to show that there are three natural forms of justice, all to be properly regulated by the "common good...
...but individual rights are not very helpful in the matter of social discrimination, according to Maguire...
...By the nature of things, the state is not just a functional apparatus...
...I believe the evidence is clear: the sources of racial, sexual, and class sin in America, and the resources for social conversion are fundamentally theological...
...He has an inerrant nose for those revealing and self-condemning quotations from the heirs of Adam Smith and the social Darwinists who offer "scientific evidence" for libertarian neglect of "those who can't make it...
...If progressive Catholics pursue this mode of investigation, their efforts will be marked by polemical mis-perceptions of whence the dominant patterns of American life came, what is going on, and what is at stake...
...Social Justice concerns individuals' debt to the common good...
...Few, I believe, can hold themselves to be intellectually honest or morally compassionate and not be deeply concerned about the tendencies toward casteism in American society...
...Maguire argues mat this second form of justice is closer to the heart of the problem...
...Since the predominant religious influences in American history have been Protestant, and since many Catholic and most "enlightenment secularists" do not find that interesting or compelling, the precise identification of both the causes of the "American Dilemma" and the available means to constructive transformation are entirely ignored...
...They develop elaborate defenses, such as "rights," to do so...
...By it, the state redresses unbalanced previous allocations of goods, services, and opportunities and moves toward affirmative action...
...Indeed, Maguire is tempted to this danger when he argues that equality is not a regulative principle of justice...

Vol. 108 • January 1981 • No. 2


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.