Sociology Index


Distributive justice is one of two categories of justice or fairness, the other being retributive justice. Distributive justice refers to fairness in the allocation of the rewards or benefits of society or of an institution within society. For example, it is seen as ‘fair’ that those student essays which best meet the criteria of academia should receive the best grades. When Karl Marx asserts that workers produce value in a commodity which they do not receive and are thus exploited, he is concerned about distributive injustice.

Retributive justice, on the other hand, refers to fairness in the administration and imposition of punishment on those who have brought harm or negative consequences on individuals or society.

Retributive justice is seen as fair, for example, that those who violate the law should receive punishment. The criminal justice system can be thought of as the institutionalization of retributive justice.

Untangling Procedural and Distributive Justice - Their Relative Effects on Gainsharing Satisfaction - Theresa M.Welbourne, Cornell U.
Prior studies on fairness have investigated the conditions under which either procedural or distributive justice is more important to employees. One view holds that procedural justice is more important when the outcome is group-based, and distributive justice is more important when an outcome is individual-based.

The second view is that distributive justice is more important when an outcome is high or positive, and procedural justice is more important when an outcome is low or negative. This study examined of the effects of procedural and distributive justice on satisfaction with gainsharing, which involves a group-based outcome.

Principles of Distributive Justice - Experiments in Poland and America 
Grzegorz Lissowski, University of Warsaw 
Tadeusz Tyszka, Wlodzimierz Okrasa, Polish Academy of Sciences
An experiment was conducted under conditions approximating Rawls's "veil of ignorance." It was a replication of Frohlich, Oppenheimer, and Eavy's experiment, using Polish instead of American students. In accordance with Rawls's prediction, most of experimental groups in both samples reached the consensus. However, the chosen principle was not the Rawlsian principle of maximizing the floor income, but the principle of maximizing the average income with the floor constraint. Moreover, in individual rankings and choices, the principle of maximizing the average income with a floor constraint received the highest ranks, while the Rawlsian principle received the lowest ranks. Our interpretation of these results is that the notion of distributive justice should not be reduced to considering only the welfare of the poorest.