USC OT INDOCTRINATION
A Distorted Portrayal of Social Justice on OTConnections Volume Two [REVISED Dec. 2, 2014]
Published Nov 15, 2012  printer-friendly

Part 4 of 9: The Loss of Credibility as a Partner in Social Justice Debates

          What the previous volume showed was that Dr. Braveman distorted the subject of social justice in his debate with Professor Carson. It is not that he made a single, off the cuff remark on non-substantive issues, but that he made repeated statements on fundamental issues that he suggested were backed up by the academic literature. Dr. Braveman’s participation calls into question his credibility to speak on the subject of social justice. This section will examine other statements by Dr. Braveman along the same lines that indicate a very limited experience or limited understanding with (1) the literature cited in his articles for the social justice edition of AJOT, or (2) the academic debates over social justice generally. It will then provide some comment on Dr. Braveman’s aggressive debating style. First to the statements indicating limited experience with the literature cited in his own articles.

A.“They Might Exist”

         In his post on Feb. 22, 2011, 2:09 P.M., Dr. Braveman asked Professor Carson a very curious question:

          · Feb. 22, 2011 2:09 PM: “Can you please provide a citation or reference that includes a solid explanation of a social justice philosophy or framework AND suggests that redistribution of wealth is necessary?

          The reader is forced to contemplate whether that sounds like a question posed by someone who has read the books found in Dr. Braveman’s bibliographies. This is the sentence that followed that question:

          · Feb. 22, 2011 2:09 PM: “I am fully willing to admit they might exist, but not in the mainstream contemporary literature on the topic and not in our Code of Ethics” (emphasis added).

          He is saying that he is willing to admit such sources “might exist,” but not in the mainstream contemporary literature on social justice. I think a fair interpretation of this statement is that he is not aware of them himself. And so, it is a bizarre statement coming from someone who was peacocking in the forum about “social justice concepts that are so eloquently explained in the full and vibrant body of literature” and belittling another professor for his lack of knowledge about the academic literature.

          Fortunately, after reviewing the results of evidence-based research, the reader is now in a position to respond to Dr. Braveman’s request for references stating that social justice is a political agenda requiring the government’s redistribution of wealth, as these sources definitely do exist. Here we can simply refer Dr. Braveman to his own bibliographies where he will find:

a.       John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971), particularly pages 275-277

b.      Beverly & McSeeney’s Social Welfare and Social Justice

c.       Ann Wilcock’s An Occupational Perspective of Health (1998), particularly pages 230 and 236, and

d.      Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal (1994).

 

B.“You Just Don’t Understand What Social Justice is Really About”

          Another statement indicating that Dr. Braveman has very limited experience or limited understanding with the social justice literature and the academic debates on the topic came in response to a statement by Professor Carson. This is the statement by Professor Carson which served as the basis of Dr. Braveman’s critique:

          ·         Feb. 22, 2011 9:09 AM: “Social justice is not just another name for civil rights. It's a social engineering program to bring everyone in a more economically level status.  The primary complaint I have is the Federal Government mandating such redistribution, either directly or indirectly.

          This is Dr. Braveman’s response:

          ·         Feb. 22, 2011 9:09 AM: “This statement . . . says to me that you just don't understand what social justice is really about.

          Again, this is an incredibly bizarre statement from someone claiming to be familiar with the social justice literature. Note that the essence of Professor Carson’s statement is that social justice is about creating economic equality through government redistribution of wealth or income. This view is fully substantiated by the social justice literature, particularly the literature cited in Dr. Braveman bibliographies. Here is a statement from one of those sources, stating that the issue presented by Professor Carson is actually the primary question of social justice that scholars deal with:

          “Nearly all of the writers I cited earlier who define justice in distributive terms identify questions of the equality or inequality of wealth and income as the primary questions of social justice” (Justice and the Politics of Difference, 1990, pp. 18-19)(emphasis added).

          The “primary questions of social justice,” states Young, have to do with the unequal distribution of money.

          And in the following sentences, Young emphasizes that the questions have revolved around what the government (“the state”) can do about this economic inequality:

         “Public discussions of social injustice tend to revolve around inequalities of wealth and income, and the extent to which the state can or should mitigate the suffering of the poor” (Justice and the Politics of Difference, 1990, p. 19)(emphasis added).

          That’s exactly what Professor Carson wrote.

          And yet again, Young repeats the point:

          “Contemporary debates among theorists of justice, as Charles Taylor points out, are inspired largely by two practical issues. First, is the distribution of wealth and income in advanced capitalist countries just, and if not, does justice permit or even require the provision of welfare services and other redistributive measures?”(Justice and the Politics of Difference, 1990, p. 19).

           Exactly what Professor Carson wrote.

           The idea of using the government to force wealth redistribution for the sake of making people more equal is also the central them of another book found in Dr. Braveman’s bibliography, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971). In fact, Professor Carson’s statement could serve as a synopsis of the book: it is a social engineering program designed to make everyone more equal economically. It argues that the only justification for any inequality in society is that it must make the lowest people in the socio-economic ladder better off. And Rawls describes how his government scheme is supposed to work: by confiscating the wealth of those whom the bureaucrats think have made too much money. In other words, Dr. Braveman is basically telling John Rawls that he doesn’t know what social justice really means. 

          Here it is also important to recall Kenneth Minogue’s definition of social justice from Volume One of this article. He wrote that:

          “Social justice is the belief that it is the duty of the government to redistribute the wealth of a society so that each person enjoys at least the right to a basic minimum and so that, poverty having been abolished, certain equalities prevail” (“Social Justice in Theory and Practice” in Social Justice: From Hume to Walzer, 1998, p. 254) (emphasis added).

          Again, that is perfectly in line with what Professor Carson stated. To accuse Professor Carson of not knowing what social justice really is about when his description aligns with some of the most accomplished scholars to address social justice is a distortion of the subject.

C.      Aggressive Debating Tactics

          Debates are a kind of partnership. Ideally, what you get are two informed people exchanging ideas, facts, and interpretations of the evidence. The process can lead to each person involved in the debate learning from each other, and those observing the debate learning from the debaters. But in order for the process to be a success, you must have credible and reliable partners. I don’t believe that Dr. Braveman’s participation in the forum is evidence of someone who makes a good partner in debating social justice.

          One of the aggressive debating tactics used by Dr. Braveman is the histrionic hyperbole regarding those who oppose social justice on the basis that it is political. Recall his statement that:

          Feb. 23, 2011 11:36 PM: “… the only thing that is ‘political’ about the concept of social justice is an attempt to co-opt a century's old tradition of caring and charity in an attempt to discredit political opponents in any way they can.

          Standing on its own, this statement is ridiculous. And it becomes even more so when we review Dr. Braveman’s articles in the social justice edition of AJOT. There he himself tells us that the social justice literature is about developing “political will” to change the “political structures,” and then calls on the profession to “demonstrate political will” in addressing social justice issues through research, practice, and education. And this is only exacerbated when we look at his bibliographies, which cite authors such as Ann Wilcock who tells us social justice is based “Political Science,” and about “political lobbying” and the “promotion of political awareness.” The problem is only magnified when Dr. Braveman, in one of these articles, uses a definition of social justice taken from the book Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal (1994), which is a book outlining a political agenda for Britain’s left-wing political party. A good debating partner does not make ridiculously hyperbolic statements that are contradicted by his own words and bibliographies in his own published work as well as the mainstream contemporary literature on the subject.

          Another instance of aggressive debating tactics came with this statement:

           • Wed, Feb. 23 2011 9:14 PM: “I simply believe based on all my readings that social justice does not need to be problematic for anyone regardless of their political views or concerns over use of [the] federal [government’s] resources unless you want to make it so.

          What this statements says is that there are no intellectual reasons for opposing social justice, and that those who oppose it do so only out of a desire to be problematic. This is the conclusion Dr. Braveman has come to “based on all [his] readings.” And we should note that Dr. Braveman’s readings were, according to him, based on “a pretty extensive literature review on social justice and related terms (e.g. distributive justice . . .” (see “Some Early Morning Ramblings About Social Justice and Occupational Therapy,” Feb. 22, 2011, available at http://otconnections.aota.org/blogs/brentbraveman/archive/2011/02/22/some-early-morning-ramblings-about-social-justice-occupational-therapy-and-being-a-human-being.aspx, accessed July 16, 2012).

          Readings based on an “extensive literature review” should have discovered the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED’s) entry for social justice, which contradicts Dr. Braveman’s claim that social justice need not be problematic to anyone regardless of political views or concern over the use of federal resources. In fact, the OED explains that concern over government spending is part of what the debates over social justice are about:

          “Much of the debate surrounding social justice has been concerned with the precise nature of fair distribution, and to what extent this may conflict with individual rights of acquisition and ownership.

           The controversial nature of social justice because of its focus on government redistributing was made clear in the two most recent sample sentences provided by the OED. The first one is from the 1982 edition of A Dictionary of Political Thought by the philosopher Roger Scruton:

          “Robin Hood acts unjustly (by taking what he has no right to take) in order to bring about social justice (through redistribution).

          The most recent sample sentence is from 2002, in reference to the recently deceased philosopher, Robert Nozick:

          “He forced the philosophical advocates of egalitarian social justice onto the defensive, by showing how the state cannot be justified as the redistributor of wealth without violating the rights of the individual

          What the OED indicates, contrary to Dr. Braveman, is that one’s political views have a profound influence over how one sees social justice and that opposition to the concept is not based on a mere desire to be problematic, but on the profound philosophical issue regarding what constitutes the violation of individual rights. The philosophers referenced in the sample sentences show a philosophical opposition to the idea based on the fact that before the government can redistribute, it must first confiscate what it will redistribute, which is seen as a violation of individual rights.

          This view of social justice is also contained in Samuel Fleischacker’s A Short History of Distributive Justice (2005). There he explains that the debates about social justice:

          “tend to center on the amount of means to be guaranteed and on the degree to which state intervention is necessary for those means to be distributed” (A Short History of Distributive Justice, 2004, p. 4) (emphasis added).

          So despite claiming to have come to his conclusion from readings based on an “extensive literature review,” Dr. Braveman’s aggressive statements are contradicted by easily accessible and well-respected sources articulating the mainstream view of the subject. But a further review of Dr. Braveman’s AJOT bibliographies suggest that the issue is not really with what sources he was able to locate, but how well he was able to understand the information contained in the sources he did find.

          Recall the quotes cited above from Young’s Justice and the Politics of Difference, a book found in his bibliography. These quotes reiterate the same point made by the OED and Fleischacker:

          “Contemporary debates among theorists of justice, as Charles Taylor points out, are inspired largely by two practical issues. First, is the distribution of wealth and income in advanced capitalist countries just, and if not, does justice permit or even require the provision of welfare services and other redistributive measures?”(Justice and the Politics of Difference, 1990, p. 19).

          Another source in Dr. Braveman’s bibliographies that contradicts the claim that social justice does not need to be problematic for anyone regardless of their political views or concerns over use of use of government resources is the article “Forbidden Relations? The UK's Discourse of Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice” by William Bowring.

          Bowring wrote that:

          “questions of social justice always and inevitably concern the lives and hopes of groups, collectivities of people. That is why individualist liberalism is so hostile to the concept” ( page numbers not available, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/lgd/2002_1/bowring/).

          What Bowring is referring to is that there is a philosophical and moral objection to the notion of social justice as it is predominantly understood. That philosophical and moral objection comes from what he is calling “individualist liberalism.” Here it must be understood that Bowring is a Brit and uses the term “liberalism” to mean something different than what we in the U.S. use it to mean. Generally, outside of the U.S., the term liberal or liberalism means the opposite of what it means here; it refers to economic policies more consistent with free market capitalism, whereas in the U.S. liberalism refers to having more government control of the economy. So the dispute in social justice debates is over how government will use its power to take money and spend it.

          Bowring develops the notion of this philosophical opposition to social justice by stating that:

          “There is a strong tradition within liberal thought according to which social justice is a dangerous threat to freedom” (see previous citation).

          Bowring then presents some of the thinking of the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Friedrich Hayek, who opposes social justice. I think we can assume that Hayek studied and criticized social justice for decades, including writing the book, The Mirage of Social Justice, not simply because he wanted to make it problematic, but because he found severe intellectual flaws with the concept, flaws apparent from the quotes presented by Bowring.

          So again, not only are Dr. Braveman’s aggressive debating tactics flawed on their own, in this case denigrating the opposition to social justice on one’s mere desire to make it problematic, the flaws become ridiculous when examined in light of the literature. That literature reveals that opposition to social justice stems from how the government functions in redistributing resources, an evaluation highly dependent on one’s political views. Once again, Dr. Braveman’s statement on the matter, which he claims was based on “all [his] reading” and a “pretty extensive literature review,” distort the subject of social justice as presented in the mainstream academic literature. 

D.      The Straw Man Fallacy

          Another way to lose credibility as a debating partner is to use logical fallacies in your argumentation. One of the more common logical fallacies is known as the Straw Man Fallacy. The Straw Man Fallacy occurs when a person misrepresents another’s position and then argues against the misrepresented position rather than the actual position held by his debating opponent. An example of this came in Dr. Braveman’s response to Professor Carson’s claim that social justice is a political statement about the redistribution of wealth that uses the federal government to level the economic playing field. Dr. Braveman wrote: 

          · Feb. 22, 2011 3:22 PM: “Unless we go to a totally non-governmental system where it is everyone for themself with no support for education, basic services such as fire or police etc. there will always be some redistribution of resources, but focusing on THAT misses the point totally in terms of occupational therapy” (emphasis added).

           Anarchy is the name of a “non-governmental system,” which is the system without a police force, basic services, education, fireman, etc. The implication of the statement above is that Professor Carson was advocating anarchy because he opposed the greater redistribution of wealth required of social justice. But there were no statements by Professor Carson indicating any anarchist inclinations in the forum, and there were, in fact, many statements to the contrary. That is not something Professor Carson was focusing on.

           The Straw Man created above is the anarchist: that to disagree with social justice because it entailed the redistribution of wealth was endorsing the “non-governmental system” of anarchy. To be precise, Dr. Braveman’s argument has the following implication: If you are against social justice because you believe that it involves an inappropriate redistribution of wealth such as using the federal government to make people more economically equal, then you are making an argument in favor of anarchy.

          This is simply not true. It is a false dichotomy: social justice or anarchy. As shown in the review of Wilcock’s An Occupational Perspective of Health (1998), which is listed in one of Dr. Braveman’s AJOT bibliographies, she reported that all Western countries are against implementing the “rhetorical commitment” to social justice because they do not want to commit to the “massive redistribution involved.” Wilcock was not saying that all of these countries were for anarchy because they rejected the massive redistribution entailed by social justice. All of these countries supported many government services, including fire, police and education, but drew the line on government services at a place considered unacceptable by social justice advocates. Thus Professor Carson’s objection to social justice is exactly the kind of objection reported by one of the foundational scholars in the occupational therapy literature. Again, it is Professor Carson’s view that is supported by the literature.

Part 5 of 9: The Loss of Credibility Due to Sloppy Scholarship

          Some may argue, as Dr. Braveman has, that OT connections is just an online forum for informal discussions, and thus is not academic. And so, participation there should not be given too much weight. Considering what has been discovered by comparing Dr. Braveman’s statements in the forum to the academic literature, it is understandable why some would want to argue against placing too much value on one’s forum participation. This view deserves three responses.

          The first response is that the statements I have examined so for, and will examine in the next section as well, deal with only three fundamental issues where Dr. Braveman made repeated statements. So these were not off the cuff remarks made on some tangential issues. They were repeated statements on the fundamental issues of (1) whether social justice was a political term, (2) whether it was mainly defined by the government’s redistribution of wealth, and as we will see below, (3) whether in predominant usage it is a term associated with a left-wing/progressive/liberal political agenda.

          The second response is that Dr. Braveman stated at the time that he wanted to use the forum to leave a record of his views in order to persuade and educate the AOTA membership on social justice. These are his words:

           · Feb. 24, 2011 9:32 AM: “My intent is to convince any AOTA member who might read this thread that I understand more about contemporary interpretations and implementation of social justice efforts, particularly within the occupational therapy profession than you [Professor Carson] do

         And the third is that even if one reviewed Dr. Braveman’s scholarly work on social justice, one could still find him to be an unsuitable partner for discussions on the subject. This is because of the sloppy nature of his scholarship. And here I refer to the only substantive article he wrote for the social justice edition of AJOT, the article titled “Social Justice and Resource Utilization in a Community-Based Organization” (referred to herein as “Resource Utilization”).

          Four errors will be addressed here.

          Error One: Dr. Braveman makes an important claim without providing a citation. That claim, however, is contradicted by one of the sources in his bibliography. This is that claim:

          “From the time of the early philosophers, the concept of social justice has focused on the moral and philosophical meaning of individual rights, free society, and free will” (p. 13).

          The focus here is on the very first part of the sentence referring to individual rights: “from the time of the early philosophers the concept of social justice has focused on moral and philosophical meaning of individual rights . . .” This is not a casual, commonly understood or agreed upon claim. It is precisely the kind of statement that needs a citation for justifying its presence in a peer-reviewed journal, especial one that is not about philosophy or politics. If this was a peer reviewed article, the peer reviewers failed to address this. It is also unclear who exactly Dr. Braveman is referring to with the term “the early philosophers.” The only reasonable guess is that he is referring to the first philosophers in Western civilization. This would be the Greeks from roughly 600 to 300 B.C. The problem in making the debatable and unsourced statement that “the early philosophers” dealt with the issue of individual rights is that it contradicts a source in Dr. Braveman’s “Resource Utilization” article.

          That source is “Forbidden Relations? The UK's Discourse of Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice” by Bowring. Bowring states that the notions of rights were meaningless until the 18th century. He wrote that:

          “before the 18th century the concept [of human rights] had no referents or content at all - no-one used it, and it would have had no meaning” (page numbers not available, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/lgd/2002_1/bowring/).

          He continues:

          “The first statements of natural rights, the 'first generation' of civil and political rights, are to be found in the revolutionary documents of the French and American Revolutions” (see previous citation). (for an opposing view see Fred Miller’s Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle's Politics (1997)).

          Philosophers of the 18th century are not “early philosophers.” They are  modern philosophers (see World History Charts here http://www.worldhistorycharts.com/famous-modern-philosophers/ and Wikipedia entry for Modern Philosophy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_philosophy). This means that Dr, Braveman’s unsourced statement is off by 2,000 years according to the article cited contained in his bibliography.

          Error Two: Dr. Braveman also uses the Bowing reference to wrongly substantiate the claim that the roots of social justice date back to the early teachings of the Catholic Church. Here is his statement:

          “Some of the roots of the notion of social justice date back to the early teachings of the Catholic Church as well as philosophers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, David Hume, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Bowring, 2002).” (AJOT, Jan/Feb 2009, p. 13).

          Again we are given some very vague phrasing without precise identification: what are these specific “roots” of the notion being spoken of? We never know. Furthermore, Bowring never refers to the philosophers Aquinas, Locke, Hume and Rousseau. And even if he had, we must wonder what Dr. Braveman is expecting his readers to take by listing these four names. What their ideas are and how they relate to social justice are not explained. There is nothing learned by naming them as the readership in occupational therapy is not schooled in philosophy. These names just become filler, and referencing them is made more problematic when the citation used does not even refer to them.

          Furthermore, Bowring does not refer to “the early teachings of the Catholic Church.” Instead, Bowring writes:

          “The concept of social justice, too, has deep roots. Most notably, these are to be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Many of the web-sites which a search on the words 'social justice' throws up are church sites. This subversive aspect of Catholic teaching finds its expression in liberation theology and a focus on workers rights - the Catholic trade unions of the European continent” page numbers not available, see http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/lgd/2002_1/bowring/).

         Note that Bowring’s statement is NOT about the “early teachings” of the Catholic Church. The early teachings of the Catholic Church would have to go back to its founding shortly after the death of Christ. Bowring is not referring to that. He is just saying it has deep roots, not that it goes back to the Church’s early teachings. This is important because the term “social justice” is a modern concept, attributed to a Catholic priest who lived in the 1800s:

          "’Social justice’ owes its origin as a distinct concept (giustizia sociale) to the Italian Risorgimento of the nineteenth century. It was first used, to our knowledge, by the Jesuit philosopher Luigi Taparelli d'Azeglio in 1843 in the debates over the beginnings of the Risorgimento's effort to unify the Italian peninsula politically” (see Thomas Patrick Burke’s “The Origins of Social Justice: Taparelli d’Azegliohere” http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1760&theme=home&page=2&loc=b&type=cbbf).

          Social Justice did not become part of the official Catholic teaching until 1931 (see previous citation).

          We should note that Bowring did not provide a source for his claim about the deep roots of social justice within the Catholic Church. He merely states that when you google social justice, “many of the web-sites” that come up are Church websites. Bowring’s article for this us hardly scholarly in nature.

          But the main distinction to note between what Dr. Braveman wrote compared to what Bowring wrote is the difference in meaning. When Dr. Braveman claims that social justice can be traced to four respected philosophers stretching hundreds of years ago and is dated back to the “early teachings of the Catholic Church,” it makes social justice seem as a natural, normal and traditional part of Catholic Doctrine that existed since its very beginning. In other words, it is not controversial. Yet, Bowring refers to social justice as “This subversive aspect of Catholic teaching” (emphasis added). Subversive means “intended to overthrow or undermine an established government.” These meanings are completly different.

          Furthermore, Bowring is clearly writing about a modern context by referring to liberation theology, which is a late 20th century phenomena that adds a communist twist to Catholicism. That is radically different from something having its roots in the early teachings of the Catholic Church. (For a book detailing the development of social justice within the Catholic Church see Thomas Patrick Burke’s The Concept of Justice: Is Social Justice Just? (2011)).

          Error Three: A third error is a false citation. Dr. Braveman wrongly attributed this quotation to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice (1971):

          “The distributive justice theory ‘refers to the way economic and social goods and services are distributed in a society’” (“Resource Utilization,” p. 14). (The quotation, which is italicized, is within the second set of quotation marks, whereas the other words belong to Dr. Braveman).

          Dr. Braveman says that this quote is from page 448 in A Theory of Justice, but that sentence is not from Rawls’s book. Not just not on that page, but not in the book at all. A mistake such as this would normally mean nothing on its own. No one would criticize Dr. Braveman for a random mistake. The problem, however, is that Dr. Braveman mentioned his status as the editor of the social justice edition of AJOT and as “the lead author” on two of those articles, which gives the impression that he has some special authority to speak on the subject of social justice. And he is criticizing Professor Carson for not being familiar with literature, yet, Professor Carson’s statements about social justice, that it is a political statement about the government’s redistribution of wealth to make people more economically equal, is a perfect characterization of Rawls’s book.

          Error Four: Error Four is a problematic reference to “Lowery 1998

          On page 13, “the “Resource Utilization” uses a reference to Lowry 1998 to state that:

          “Social justice also encompasses the study of the relationships between society and government and the accountability of the masses (Lowery, 1998).

          The statement from Lowery on this point, however, is:

           “These politically liberal ideas [liberty, justice, and contract] were built on doctrines concerning the relationship of society and government in the Bible (God ordained covenants), Roman law (authority) and Aristotelian principles (king-tyrant; accountability to the masses)” (“Social Justice and International Human Rights” in the social work textbook, The Foundations of Social Work Practice, 1998, p. 23).

           Note the differences in these passages: First, where the “Resource Utilization” article refers to social justice, Lowery is referring to “These politically liberal ideas,” which were liberty, justice and contract.

           Also note that the “Resource Utilization” article speaks of the relationship between society, government and the accountability of the masses, but that the relationship discussed in Lowery 1998 is more complex. There the relationship concerns “government in the Bible (God ordained covenants,” not just government. And notice that where the “Resources Utilization” article includes “accountability of the masses,” Lowery is actually referring to specific “Aristotelian principles,” giving the examples of “king-tyrant” and “accountability to the masses.” It appears that the “Resource Utilization” article simply cherry-picked the “accountability to the masses” part and ignored the part about “king-tyrant."

Part 6 of 9: The Meaning of Social Justice in Predominant Usage      

          This article has thus far addressed two fundamental issues dealing with social justice: its political nature and whether it is mainly described in the academic literature by its redistribution of wealth by the government. The next issue is whether social justice is something that divides people along political lines because it is predominantly associated in common day usage with a specific political ideology. Dr. Braveman denies this. This is what he said:

          · Feb. 21, 2011 2:35 AM: “The concept of social justice is not reflective of a singular political ideology and should not be reframed as such.

          · Feb. 23, 2011 11:36 PM: “Social justice does not need to be problematic for anyone regardless of their political views.

          · Sept. 21, 2011 2:44 PM: “I do not see this issue as strictly a liberal or conservative viewpoint” (see the other social justice forum for this quote: OTConnections Forum “Motion #2-Social Justice,” available at http://otconnections.aota.org/forums/p/9397/83390.aspx, accessed Sept. 20, 2012) (emphasis added).

          Dr. Braveman stated that social justice is “not reflective of a singular political ideology.” This statement is technically true, but technical truths often lead to false impressions. What Dr. Braveman gives us in this statement is a superficial conclusion. What we should expect instead from our scholars in occupational therapy is a synthesis based on examining the subject in both its breadth and its depth. Such a synthesis would lead to the very obvious conclusion that social justice:

          1.       Can be used by many different groups to mean many different things, but

          2.       In predominant usage it is tied to political agendas termed liberal, progressive, or leftist.

          3.       In occupational therapy, the meaning of social justice is tied to political agendas termed liberal, progressive, or leftist, and

          4.       In the Code of Ethics it is tied to a political agenda termed liberal, progressive,   predominately tied to left-wing ideology,

          These are The Four Basic Truths about social justice. This section will deal with the first three.

A. Social Justice is used by Different Groups to Mean Different Things

          It is true that both Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives, the Catholic Church and the National Organization for Women and many other groups use the term social justice. But what is important to note is that they use the term social justice to mean different things, and not just different things, but opposite and conflicting things. So when they say they are for social justice, they are not using it to mean one and the same thing. It is thus incredibly simple-minded and just plain wrong to claim that they are all for social justice.

          For example, social justice is part of the Catholic Church’s teachings, but the Catholic Church is also opposed to abortion as they see it as the murder of innocent life. The National Organization of Women, however, is also for social justice. But their conception of social justice includes the right to an abortion. Does it make sense to say that both the Catholic Church and NOW are for social justice? It is foolish to do so when you realize they use the term to mean opposite and conflicting things:

          This is the same issue with saying that liberals and conservatives, or the political right and left, are for social justice. Those on the political right will usually say something to indicate that what they mean by social justice is something different than what is typically meant by the term, because what is typically and predominantly meant by the term is left-wing, redistributive, oppressed-oppressor politics. This is why you hear the president of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, contrast the two views on social justice in the following way:

          “Conservatives think social justice is best pursued through the restoration of community, familial love, self-respect and responsibility – all products of a robust civil society. Progressives think social justice requires that we redistribute material wealth” (Edwin Feulner, “The Power of Civil Society,” The Washington Times, Oct 3, 2011, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/3/the-power-of-civil-society/?page=all, accessed Dec. 21, 2011).

          To say that both the left and the right are for social justice, when both mean something opposite by it, (not just different, but opposite) is to acknowledge the fact that there is an irreconcilable difference between the two.

         To say that “all groups are for social justice” turns social justice into a meaningless abstraction. It is equivalent to claiming that gays and Evangelical Christians are both for “marriage” because they both say that they are “for marriage.” The problem with that statement is that the first group would consider a marriage between two men a true marriage, whereas the second group would not because it thinks that true marriage can only be between a man and a woman; the Evangelicals would think it a violation of their deity's law. There is no reconciling the two views on marriage. To say that both of these groups are for “marriage,” then, overlooks that they mean radically different things by the term. And this is an important point for the AOTA Code of Ethics, especially regarding Subsection D of the social justice requirement. That subsection states that therapists must encourage others to “abide by the highest standards of social justice.” To say that these gays and Evangelical Christians could form an organization whose code of ethics required them to encourage others to “support the highest standards of marriage,” as AOTA members are now required to encourage others to abide by “the highest standards of social justice,” is to make a mockery of a code of ethics because there is no reconciling views that contradict each other.

        Yet, this is exactly how Dr. Braveman analyzes the issue when he points to the Heritage Foundation and says that both liberals and conservatives are for social justice and that anybody can be for social justice regardless of political views: he simply ignores that what all these different groups mean by social justice conflict with each other in fundamental ways.

         To say that all groups are for "social justice" because they say “I am for social justice” overlooks any substance involved in the discussion and focuses solely on the superficial use of language. It is the difference between playing a word-matching game and doing some serious thinking on the subject.

          Doing serious, evidenced-based thinking on this subject would easily discover the widespread connection between social justice and left-wing/liberal/progressive political agendas. And that is the thesis this section sets out to prove: the predominant meanings attached to social justice are meant to express viewpoints labeled left-wing/progressive/liberal.

          To show how social justice is predominantly tied to the political left, the volume will examine various sources such as dictionaries, including, once again, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Wikipedia, and the work of several scholars, journalists and prominent writers. But first it will examine what social justice means in occupational therapy, as the predominant meaning of the term in the field is the same as it is in predominant usage outside of the field.

          B. The Term Aligns With Liberal/Progressive/Leftist Politics in Occupational Therapy

          A good source for determining the meaning of the term in occupational therapy is by looking to the glossary of the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework 2nd Edition (2008). The Practice Framework’s glossary provides two books from which it extracts the meaning of social justice. These books are Social Justice: Strategies for National Renewal (1994) and the 2nd edition of Ann Wilcock’s An Occupational Perspective of Health (2006). This article has previously dealt with the first book, which presents the political agenda of Britain’s leftwing political party. This is the same definition of social justice used in the introductory article by Braveman and Bass-Haugen in the 2009 special social justice edition of AJOT (see “Social Justice and Health Disparities” page 8). It is also used in other foundational articles in occupational therapy such as those by Ann Wilcock and Elizabeth Townsend.

          This article has also previously dealt with the first edition of Wilcock’s book a number of times. In the second edition, she still refers to social justice as requiring the massive redistribution of wealth in the context of The Black Report (see pages 255-256). This report has been described as promoting socialism on every page. Additionally, Wilcock’s second edition endorses the left-wing Green Party for its “political value” of social justice (p. 231). As part of its Social Justice platform, The Green Party advocates (a) a left-wing single-payer health care system, (b) free government money for Blacks living today to pay them for the slavery of 150 years ago, and (c) free social justice abortions for the poor regardless of age paid for through tax dollars (see “Green Party 2010 Platform: Social Justice” available at http://www.gp.org/committees/platform/2010/social-justice.php#998908).

          When the main documents, the main books, and the main articles in the profession use the definition of the term from a book designed to promote a left-wing political agenda for the government and has one of its foundational authors on social justice endorse the Green Party for its political agenda of social justice, it becomes impossible to deny that the within the profession of occupational therapy, the predominant meaning of social justice is tied to a liberal/progressive/leftist viewpoint. And the use of the Green Party also gives a clue as to the predominant meaning of the term in common usage.

C.The Predominant Meaning of Social Justice in Common Usage

          To get a further sense of predominant meaning in common usage, we can also look at Urban Dictionary.com. It’s a dictionary that sells itself as “the dictionary you wrote,” because it provides meanings to terms as they are supplied by readers of the site. (All quotations below were taken from the UrbanDictionary.com entry for social justice, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=social+justice, accessed Jan. 4, 2012.)  This dictionary is not used here as a scholarly tool, but as a tool to indicate predominant usage. The first definition reads as follows:

          “Common meaning for equality. Typically among the social classes. Leftist in nature” (emphasis added).

          This definition gives evidence of predominant usage: social justice is “Leftist in nature.

          Another definition is just one word:

          “Socialism

          Socialism is leftist in nature too.

          A third definition for social justice reads as follows:

          “A euphemism for an economic mugging by political force.

          What should resonate here is just how negative the definition is – social justice is about being mugged by those with political power. Can there be common ground on social justice when one person sees it as something good and the other sees it as a mugging? The point of the definition is that the leftist/progressive/liberals who support social justice are not the ones who think it is a mugging by political force; that is the view of those who oppose the left.

          A fourth definition reads:

          “Mob violence, usually associated with a victim group.

          Again, we have a negative definition. And the reference to a victim group is a reference to the political agenda of the left, which divides the world into three groups – the oppressors, the oppressed victims, and the good-hearted liberals whose policies for redistributing wealth through a social justice agenda creates what they call “fairness” – (and what others call a mugging by political force).

          Now let’s look at sample sentences used with one of these definitions in the Urban Dictionary to understand the meaning conveyed:

          “That 19 year old college kid had her 2006 BMW stolen before it ever got the new plates. Who stole it? Robin Hood? That's social justice.

         Social justice is about stealing says the Urban Dictionary.

          These are four of the seven definitions found at the Urban Dictionary. Three are negative and the fourth, “Socialism,” is either negative or positive depending on what the reader thinks about socialism. How you go about putting definitions into the Urban Dictionary is irrelevant because as you will see, it won’t matter. The views expressed there are widespread. Recall the reference to Robin Hood. It also appears in the sample sentences in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The two most recent sentences come from 2002 and 1982. The sentence from 1982 is from philosopher Roger Scruton (Ph.D. Cambridge University):

          “Robin Hood acts unjustly (by taking what he has no right to take) in order to bring about social justice.

          It is the same kind of reference to Robin Hood as in the Urban Dictionary, but this one is made by someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy from one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It says that social justice is about taking something one has no right to take.

          The next OED sentence from 2002 is from the British magazine Spectator, and it is in reference to Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick, who had recently died. This is what it said about him:

          “He forced the philosophical advocates of egalitarian social justice onto the defensive, by showing how the state cannot be justified as the distributor of wealth without violating the rights of the individual.

          The thing to recognize here is not that it is talking about the redistribution of wealth by the government. That has already been addressed. The issue here is the reference to egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is associated with the left (see the Palgrave MacMillan Dictionary of Political Thought (2007) entry for “left” below, which is indicated by triple asterisks: ***). What the reader should be alerted to here is that egalitarian social justice requires what is considered a violation of individual rights.

          But it is not just the Urban Dictionary and the OED that point to the fact that the term is identified with the progressive/liberal/left. Under the entry for “left,” the Palgrave MacMillan Dictionary of Political Thought (2007) lists several things identified with the political left. Number eight reads:

         “***egalitarian leanings together with a desire for social justice.

          Here it connects the left’s “egalitarian leanings,” an idea expressed in the OED’s sample sentence regarding Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick. There is no reference to social justice in the entry for “right” in the Palgrave MacMillan Dictionary of Political Thought (2007).  Therefore, this dictionary – the third dictionary examined here – also sees social justice as a distinctive feature of the left.

          Wikipedia is another good source to determine predominant usage. The analysis that follows consisted of looking up various movements that divide along the left-right split in politics. What the analysis shows is that the political movements representing the left always referenced social justice. But this is not the case when one looks at political movements representing the right, which do not reference the term.

          The Wikipedia entry for “Christian Left,” for example, states that: 

         “The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as 'left wing' is social justice”(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_left, accessed June 26, 2012).

          Here Wikipedia is telling the reader that social justice predominantly represents a left-wing viewpoint.

          Social justice, however, does not appear in the Wikipedia entry for “Christian Right” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_right, accessed June 26, 2012).

         The Wikipedia entry for “Jewish Left” contains the following sentence:

          “A range of left-wing values vis-à-vis social justice can be traced to Jewish religious texts” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_left, accessed June 26, 2012).

          Social justice does not appear in the Wikipedia entry for “Jewish Right” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_right, accessed June 26, 2012).

          The Wikipedia entry for “Left-wing Politics” states that social justice is one of the many common left-wing concerns:

          “Other common leftist concerns such as pacifism, social justice, racial equality, human rights, and the rejection of excessive wealth can be found in the Bible” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-wing_politics, accessed June 26, 2012).

         Social justice does not appear in the Wikipedia entry for “Right-wing Politics”(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_politics, accessed June 26, 2012).

          In Wikipedia’s general entry for “social justice” it states:

         “Some tenets of social justice have been adopted by those on the left of the political spectrum” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice, accessed June 26, 2012).

          It does not say the same for those on the right of the political spectrum.

          We can conclude that because Wikipedia connects social justice with the Christian Left, the Jewish Left, Left-wing Politics, and those on the political left generally, but not their antinomies on the right, that Wikipedia reflects the view that social justice expresses a predominately left-wing viewpoint.

          The left-wing professor of education, Barbara Applebaum, took up the connection between social justice and left-wing ideology in her article, “Is Teaching for Social Justice a ‘Liberal Bias’?” (Teachers College Record, vol. 111, no. 2, Feb. 2009, pp. 376-408). She explained that her paper was motivated by the widespread charges that social justice education involved left-wing indoctrination:

         “It has become increasingly important to examine whether social justice education is a ‘liberal bias’ and ‘leftist propaganda’” (p. 378).

          She would not have to bother with such an article but for the fact that social justice is predominantly connected to left-wing propaganda, and it is often criticized for that very reason when left-wing professors try to impose their left-wing political views on their students by teaching them with a social justice lens. To the question, does social justice education represent a left-wing bias, Applebaum admits that, yes:

          “Of course, social justice education involves a bias” (p. 402). 

          She calls the left-wing bias “criticality.” And this bias is all right according to Applebaum because it does not:

          “necessarily entail indoctrination, propaganda, or imposition.” (p. 402).

          This left-wing bias is justified according to Applebaum because one of the main goals of social justice education is to target White students for left-wing enlightenment regarding the left’s oppressor-oppressed worldview with the hope of forcing Whites to feel guilty over the idea of White privilege. In Applebaum’s own words:

          “One of the objectives of social justice education is to help white students understand how racism is systemic, how race is socially constructed, how whiteness as the invisible norm systematically constitutes ‘difference,’ and that white people can be complicit in sustaining the system unintentionally – even when they are not aware that they do so, and especially even when they think they are morally good” (p. 399).

          Dan Butin (Ph.D. University of Virginia) is another left-wing professor of education. The following are excerpts from his book, Service-Learning in Theory and Practice (2010). In the first excerpt he describes what are considered traditional opposing values between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats are for social justice, he says, in contrast to Republicans, who favor charity and individual responsibility:

          “Republicans believe in individual responsibility and charity, while Democrats focus on institutional structures and social justice” (p. 37). 

          In the next passage, Butin explains how service-learning is designed to move students from the “political” right to the “social justice” left. Note that the word “political” is used to describe the right whereas the term “social justice” is used to describe to the left:

          “The linkage of service-learning to social justice inherently presumes a dichotomous liberal/conservative spectrum with service-learning meant to function as a mechanism to move individuals from the (political) right to the (social justice) left” (p. 55).

          What this shows is how the left sees the issue. It is the right that is “political,” but the left is not political, it is about people who are for “social justice.” This describes the dynamic in the AOTA forum with Dr. Braveman accusing his opponents of being political and twisting the meaning of social justice, whereas he is just for social justice, which is supposed to be nonpolitical.

           In the book, The Politics and Government of France (2001), political scientists Andrew Knapp and Vincent Wright tell us that in all of Western Europe:

          “The politics of class is the single most common factor dividing Left from Right in Western European political systems, with the former seeking social justice through redistributive social and economic intervention by the State, and the latter committed to defending capitalism and private property” (p. 7) (emphasis added).

          In a recent book, Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas (2012), Jonah Goldberg explained how the left/progressive/liberals use a whole bunch of words that promote their political values under the guise of being non-political and non-ideological – cheating in the war of ideas he calls it. One of these terms is social justice. He wrote:

          “Social justice is not a non-ideological concept that simply draws on ethics or morality or the overall need for goodness in society. No, it is a deeply ideological set of assumptions that most practitioners of social justice refuse to openly and sincerely acknowledge” (p. 143).

          To hide their political leanings, Goldberg says liberal/left-wing/progressives say things like “I am fiscally conservative.” Of course, no one would describe herself as a “fiscal profligate.” That is why descriptions such as “fiscally conservative” in common conversation are terms of evasion.

         The issue of evasiveness was addressed by counseling psychology professor Robert Hunsaker, who criticized counseling psychology’s embrace of a social justice agenda, something promoted in the field, but done so without admitting its left-wing bias:

          “Why don’t social justice activists, who are by-and-large academics, present the explicit political nature of social justice? I suggest that it’s because of the movement’s most inconvenient irony: while claiming to fight against oppression, social justice actually perpetrates its own form of oppression by seeking to impose a far-left political agenda on all mental health professionals. Social justice’s most ironic turn, then, is that it seeks to erase difference, impose its values, and proclaim only one standard of ethics” (“Social justice: An Inconvenient Irony,” Counseling Today “OpEd,” April 2008, available at http://sjirony.blogspot.com/2008/09/social-justice-inconvenient-irony.html).

          According to Hunsaker, the ultimate problem for the social justice academics in his field is that:

          “They would have to admit that social justice can only be practiced by those on the political far-left” (“Social justice: An Inconvenient Irony,” Counseling Today “OpEd,” April 2008, available at http://sjirony.blogspot.com/2008/09/social-justice-inconvenient-irony.html).

          Counseling psychology is not the only profession infected with left-wing social justice propaganda.  Social work is another. The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will wrote about what he called a “code of coercion” regarding the social justice requirement in the social worker’s code of ethics. The following is a passage he quoted from a widely used textbook in social work courses:

          “‘social and economic justice’ [are] especially imperative as a response to ‘the conservative trends of the past three decades’” (“Code of Coercion,” Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101202151.html, accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

          In response to the textbook’s description that social justice was a response to “conservative trends,” Will wrote:

          “Clearly, in the social work profession's catechism, whatever social and economic justice are, they are the opposite of conservatism” (see previous citation) (emphasis added).

          The connection between social justice and left-wing ideology also came up in a New England Journal of Medicine review of the book Medicine and Social Justice (2002), a collection of articles on the subject. Commenting on the title, the reviewer wrote:

          “Any book with ‘social justice’ in its title will tend to tilt to the left” (Lewis Sandy: “Book Review: Medicine and Social Justice: Essays on the Distribution of Health CareThe New England Journal of Medicine, 348. 19, May 8, 2003, 1936).

          What this reviewer tells the reader is that even in the health care literature, the identification with social justice and left-wing ideology is robust. Scholars who write on health care policy should be aware this. It is a growing concern among doctors that a social justice agenda in medicine is going to create doctors who care more about political agendas than they do about doing what is best for each of their patients. The following is a statement by Dr. Paul Hsieh (M.D., University of Michigan), former assistant professor of musculoskeletal radiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri:

          “medical schools are now increasingly admitting students based not on competence in the sciences, but rather on their commitment to ‘social accountability.’ Medical school ethics courses are thus increasingly emphasizing ‘social justice’ over traditional notions of ethics — or the individual patient’s welfare. But ‘social justice’ is frequently just a euphemism for a socialist political agenda of leftist politics, redistribution of wealth, and heavy state controls over the marketplace” (“The Wisconsin Protests and the New Medical Ethics,” Feb. 21, 2011, http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-wisconsin-protests-and-the-new-medical-ethics/?singlepage=true, accessed Dec. 3, 2011) (emphasis added).

          Anthony Giddens is one of the most accomplished sociologists in the world, with almost three dozen books published in over two dozen languages. He is a man of the left. In The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy (1999), he wrote the following:

          “Although it can be interpreted in quite different ways, the idea of equality or social justice is basic to the outlook of the left. It has been persistently attacked by those on the right” (The Third Way, 1999, p. 41).

          He makes the point again a few pages later:

          “The term ‘center-left’ thus isn’t an innocent label. A renewed social democracy has to be left of center, because social justice and emancipatory politics remain at its core” (The Third Way, 1999, p. 45).

          Therefore, even one of the most accomplished sociologists in the world sees social justice as an inherently left-wing concept.

          Janeane Garofalo is a left-wing actress and former left-wing radio talk show host. She is included here because she substantiates the thesis: the predominant meaning of social justice is tied to left-wing viewpoints; to prove this the reader needs to see how it is used at all levels of the culture, not just academia. Garofalo said the following:

          “Being liberal is something to be very proud of. Over the last 30 years or so, the right wing of this country has managed to bastardize the word. They think it's something to be feared because liberalism equals progress and social justice, and Republicans and conservatives hate progress and social justice” (“Q&A with Janeane Garofalo,” http://www.inkedmag.com/article/q-janeane-garofalo/, accessed Dec. 14, 2011) (emphasis added).

          Garofalo equates social justice with a specific political ideology: “liberalism equals … social justice,” she says. And she doesn’t think liberals and conservatives can find common ground on social justice because “conservatives hate … social justice.” Conservatives and liberals are diametrically opposed on the issue of social justice according to the actress Garofalo. This view is corroborated by the left-wing linguist, Democratic activist, and U.C. Berkeley Professor George Lakoff.

          Lakoff has written on the issue of how each side of the political spectrum uses language. His book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (1996), describes how conservatives have what is called a Strict Father view of government, which is modeled on how conservatives believe they should be strict with their children. The government is supposed to be the father in this model, and the people the children. After examining the conservative Strict Father worldview, Lakoff wrote:

          “In such a worldview, the concept of social justice does not make sense” (Moral Politics, 1996, p. 203).

          This is a left-wing linguist stating unequivocally that under the worldview of conservatives, social justice does not make any sense.

          Susan Sontag, a left-wing icon, refers to social justice as being predominantly tied to the left. Sontag was most famous in the last quarter of the 20th century, and passed away in 2004. She wrote dozens of books, plays, novels and movies. In the passage below she laments the fact that social justice is seen exclusively as a left-wing concept:

          “I think that it’s a shame that the fight for social justice should be completely identified with the left; such that, if we decide that the left has betrayed us because the left is no longer what it should be, or because the left no longer exists, you can’t have social consciousness” (Conversations with Susan Sontag, 1995, p. 164) (emphasis added).

          Sontag said this – that social justice is “completely identified with the left” – in a 1979 interview, indicating the left’s association with the term is not something recent.

          No discussion of social justice’s connection to left-wing ideology would be complete unless it also mentioned Marxism. (For a lecture on Marx see “Why Marxism?” by Clemson University professor C. Bradley Thompson, available on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt58gg1DQGk&feature=relmfu).

          University intellectuals typically have an affinity for Marx. In 1955, the sociologist Raymon Aron took note of this attraction by intellectuals in his book The Opium of the Intellectuals, a classic of intellectual history. Aron wrote:

          “The Left everywhere preserves certain features which are characteristic of the struggle against the Ancien Regime; everywhere it is recognizable by a regard for social justice” (p. 24).

          The left, then, is recognizable everywhere by a regard for social justice. Everywhere, it seems, except among scores of left-wing faculty in American universities, who love what they consider to be Marx’s commitment to justice and the fight against oppression, but apparently lack the self-awareness to properly plot themselves along the ideological spectrum.

          The next passage is from David Mamet’s non-fiction work. Mamet is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who has been nominated for an Oscar twice. He is such a prolific writer that it is likely everyone in the AOTA social justice forum has seen one of his movies. The passage below explains how the left uses social justice as a tool for getting the state to redistribute money, rather than alleviating social problems through voluntary interaction:

          “To correct this observed inequality, which the Left sees as unnatural, it invented the term ‘social justice.’ But a system of Justice already exists, formulated by the Legislature, in supposed expression of the will of the people, and administered by the Judiciary. This is called the Judicial System. What, then, is this additional, amorphous ‘social justice’? It can only mean, as Hayek wrote, ‘State Justice.’ Here, though the Left will not follow the reasoning out to its end, the State (operating upon what basis it alone knows, and responsible to no law enacted by the people) confiscates wealth accumulated under existing laws and redistributes it to those it deems worthy” (The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, 2010, Kindle Locations 689-694).

          David Friedman, who has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago and teaches law at Santa Clara University, makes a similar claim:

          “As far as I can judge by observations of usage, ‘social justice’ means ‘ideas of justice that appeal to left wingers’” (see comments section for David Friedman at http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/04/is_bleeding-hea.html, accessed Sept. 29, 2012).

           Similarly, according to Stanford University’s Thomas Sowell (Ph.D. University of Chicago), social justice is part of the left’s vocabulary. He says the following in an article titled “The Left’s Vocabulary”:

          “The left has a whole vocabulary devoted to depicting people who do not meet standards as people who have been denied ‘access.’ Whether it is academic standards, job qualifications or credit requirements, those who do not measure up are said to have been deprived of ‘opportunity,’ ‘rights’ or ‘social justice.’ The word games of the left -- from the mantra of ‘diversity’ to the pieties of ‘compassion’ -- are not just games. They are ways of imposing power by evading issues of substance through the use of seductive rhetoric.” (“The Left’s Vocabulary,” Capitalist Magazine Aug. 5, 2004, http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/culture/3830-the-left-s-vocabulary.html, accessed Dec. 4, 2011).

          Professor Peter Wood (Ph.D. Anthropology), president of the National Association of Scholars, has written extensively on how left-wing professors use social justice to promote their political agenda. In one article, referring to a Ph.D. program in social justice, created at the University of Massachusetts, he wrote, wonderstruck by the political depravity of the university, that: 

          “If we sound a little wonderstruck by this development, it is because just when we think higher education couldn’t sink any lower into the mire of politicization, we find someone has already plumbed a new depth.  Giving degrees in ‘social justice,’ however, must surely be the Mariana’s Trench of academic irresponsibility” (written with Ashley Thorne, “A Degree in Agitprop,” Aug. 11, 2008, http://www.nas.org/articles/A_Degree_in_Agitprop, accessed July 14, 2012).

          (Mariana’s Trench is the deepest part of the ocean’s floor.)

          Wood continued his attack on the term, stating that social justice:

          “has now become in common use just a slogan tossed around in the pep rallies of the campus left. It presumably imparts a flavor of righteousness to the daily grievance mongering, but in character it is an anti-intellectual gesture” (see previous citation) (emphasis added).

          In addition to stating that the term is leftist in nature, he points out that it is an anti-intellectual gesture. This is so because most audiences who hear the term do not know what it means exactly, but they will be for it because it is presumably a good thing that no one can be against.

          Wood concluded by stating that:

          “Above all, ‘social justice’ has become the rhetoric of social divisiveness” (see previous citation).

          David Horowitz, who has written about university professors who push their political ideology on students, wrote the following:

          “For academic radicals who hope to ‘change the world,’ teaching is not a disinterested intellectual inquiry but a form of political combat. The banner of this combat is ‘social justice,’ the emblem that signifies to the post-Communist left the triumph of the oppressed over the oppressors” (Indoctrination U: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom, 2009, Kindle Locations 284-285).

          What Horowitz just said is that social justice is the symbol of the left in its combat against the right. It is combat. It is political combat. It is the type of thing that divides people along political lines. It is not the type of thing that people from the left and right can get together on, especially not on a code of ethics for a professional organization that requires members to encourage others “to abide by the highest standards of social justice.To not know just how divisive the term is, is to be out of touch with intellectual life.

          This paper has just cited various dictionaries and scores of people with divergent political views, all saying that social justice predominantly expresses a left-wing viewpoint. The list of examples could be longer, but it would be pointless. If the reader believes that prominent scholars such as the economist Sowell and the linguist Lakoff and the physicist Friedman and the education professor Applebaum and the service-learning professor Butin and the political scientist Knapp and the political scientist Wright and the sociologist Aron and the sociologist Giddens and the counseling psychologist Hunsaker and the radiology professor Hsieh and the anthropology professor Wood and the literary icon Sontag and the Pulitzer Prize-winner Mamet and the Pulitzer Prize-winner Will and the accomplished journalist Goldberg and the prolific author Horowitz and Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary and the Palgrave MacMillan Dictionary of Political Thought and the book reviewer for The New England Journal of Medicine are all wrong, and that Dr. Braveman, who has written an average of five pages with two co-authors is right, then persuasion on this point is not possible.

          Most readers, however, would consider the case closed: predominant usage of the term social justice is tied to liberal/progressive/left-wing ideology as expressed through ideas about the redistribution of wealth and an emphasis on the oppressor-oppressed view of the world. And because this politically charged term was made part of the AOTA Code of Ethics, it's now necessary to contemplate the meaning of the term social justice in the AOTA Code of Ethics as well as the judgment of the AOTA Ethics Commission in inckudung the term in the Code.

[Edited by Miss Kimberly Mason an M. Lovey]

Comments:


1.

Brent Braveman, on December 7, 2012 at 9:12 am

Alex,

I am not going to take the time to respond to each point in your long essay. I will state that I do not believe it is fair or accurate as it only presents my posts and not both sides of the dialogue. My comments in the OT Connections discussion represent personal opinions and were not meant to be supported directly by the articles published in AJOT. The two are apples and bananas written for very different reasons. The abbreviated bibliography provided in one of my early responses was only to make a point in response to just one of multiple issues being discussed in the thread. Comparing my personal opinions against that bibliography or the articles in AJOT is not a fair and reasonable exercise in my opinion. If there are occupational therapy practitioners or students reading your essay, I would ask that they read the original discussion and draw their own conclusion about my opinions which are far from “academic” in the context of OT Connections. The discussion can be found here:

http://otconnections.aota.org/forums/p/9285/64676.aspx#64676

I will share a reflection after reading your essay.

The OT Connections discussion and your treatment of it serve as a lesson for practitioners, myself and others participating in an Online discussion forum like OT Connections. Occupational therapy is a small community and OT Connections has very limited participation in discussions. Frequently you are engaged with the same person in multiple discussions on different topics at the same time. It is easy to be lulled into a feeling of safety; to perhaps mistakenly and tacitly believe that your comments will be taken in stride, that if you make a mistake, need to back off a strong stance, are misunderstood or change your mind you can easily correct it. Because in many cases you are “talking” with people with whom you have a long history and are familiar with you personally or through previous interactions you can assume that they will give you the benefit of the doubt and understand your motivations and accept them as well meaning.

The lesson and reminder is that in today’s world with Internet communication we need to be careful about such a feeling of safety when communicating Online. Once you post thoughts and opinions that might be off the cuff or made informally as if you were debating a concept over a cup of coffee or beer, they are permanently available. Such postings can later be used in part or whole by persons with varying intent and purposes. In retrospect I feel naïve to have not taken much more care to carefully craft my responses in this particular discussion. This is not further “equivocation;” I stand by the basis of the opinions I stated in the discussion. It is just a slight opening of the eyes and mind. Sadly, I realize that I will have to be much more careful about choosing my words in the future even on OT Connections. Losing that feeling of safety is just a little disappointing. Perhaps a footnote added to each post saying “Don’t hold me to this, I might think differently after a night’s sleep or after I learn something new!” LOL! It is a lesson for all of us who participate in Online forums like OT Connections.

One other note. The Rawls citation in our AJOT article is an editorial error for which I apologize. The citation was meant to be a place holder that should have been removed before publication. The definition of distributive justice provided in quotes should have been attributed to the citation just before the quoted text (Longres & Scanlon, 2001) and the Rawls citation should have been removed. In the final stages of preparation I accepted a suggested change by a technical writer made due to the place holder that I should have rejected. I was the first author on the article and it was my responsibility and I should have caught that error and I apologize to readers.

Thanks,

Brent Braveman




 


2.

Alejandro Duran, on December 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm

...My response to these comments are now posted under the AOTA tab on this website with the title "My Response to Dr. Braveman's Dec. 7, 2012 Comments."
 

 

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