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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2010 no.4 (Posted December 2010)


Terrorism || Social Justice|| Religion ||

Social Justice



Poverty and Political Empowerment Local Citizen Political Participation as a Path toward Social Justice in Nicaragua
Leslie E. Anderson, Research Foundation Professor of Political Science, University of Florida

As we struggle to find avenues toward greater social justice in our world, we can sometimes learn about the process by viewing events in a small, poverty stricken nation where citizens are trying to improve their own lives.  Nicaragua is a nation with a long history of authoritarian governments and it has been the target of extensive imperialism and political meddling from the United States.  These events caused and perpetuated severe poverty and excluded average citizens from participation in their own government and from efforts to improve their own lives.  Prior to its popular revolution in 1979, Nicaragua was a prime example of long-standing social injustice.  To find the nation moving now toward greater social justice and poverty alleviation is a remarkable story indeed and one that warrants close attention.  This paper describes what is happening inside Nicaragua today and how the nation arrived at its current situation.

This article begins with a brief history of Nicaraguan politics and suggests that dual processes of democratization and de-democratization are underway in this small nation.  The article then explains how Nicaragua’s revolutionary history has contributed to polarized politics at the national level and extensive citizen participation at the municipal level.  I then consider how political science has seen the potential of local politics as a promising source of pragmatic and democratizing politics.  The essay ends by noting that the future of Nicaragua’s democracy is uncertain and that the international community can play a role in supporting Nicaragua’s continued democratization

Dismantling Rape Culture around the World: A Social Justice Imperative
Pamela R. Fletcher, Associate Professor of English and Women Studies, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota

Many object to the term rape culture, deeming it an overstatement.  Some even consider it an oxymoron, for how does rape and culture really connect? In speaking of culture, we editors of Transforming A Rape Culture (Buchwald, Fletcher and Roth 1993, 1995 and 2005) refer to the way in which a society operates formally and informally, based on attitudes, beliefs, customs, and rituals that its members sanction as acceptable and normal.  Based on our research and analysis of the high incidence of sexual violence perpetrated around the world, we contend that the term encompasses widespread anti-female attitudes and values, and the resultant oppressive conditions women and children encounter in the global institution of patriarchy.  Misogyny and sexism are the cornerstones of patriarchy that enable a rape culture to flourish.
In Transforming A Rape Culture, we define a rape culture as “a complex of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women [and girls], a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent, and a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself.  A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women [and girls] and presents it as the norm” (Buchwald, Fletcher, and Roth 2005, XI).   The physical and emotional terror that stems from sexual violence, while often deemed as terrible, is usually dismissed as individual misfortune rather than understood as a cultural phenomenon.

Measuring and Understanding Poverty: Contributions of Community-Based Participatory Research
Richard H. Morgan, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University

This paper seeks to explore the contributions of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) as a means of measuring and understanding poverty.  The paper was presented on July 12, 2010, by the author at the Oxford Round Table on Social Justice at Oxford University, Oxford, England.
After exploring the historical and epistemological roots of CBPR and the principles that guide this paradigm of research methodology, the use of CBPR in the United States and around the world in developing nations is examined.  This then is followed by a description of the methodology involved in one particular CBPR project with which the author is associated as an ongoing example of this form of research.  The conclusions consider some criticisms of CBPR as well as the overall contribution this paradigm may make to understanding poverty more effectively from the inside out

Beyond Juridical Abstraction: Poverty in a World Of Plenty
Kunirum Osia, Professor, Department of Applied Psychology and Rehabilitation Counseling, Coppin State University

Social justice conjures up the concepts of fairness, equity and parity in human relations. While not advocating anthropological sense of equity in a world of unequal distribution of goods, why does poverty still persist? What causes poverty? What has been done to eliminate poverty? What moral or juridical force does social justice have that would enable individuals, and governments eliminate poverty with finality? There are conceptual ambiguities, differences as to how data have been interpreted, and assumptions made in measurement about poverty (Ravillion, 2003a). There are concerns about methods in some studies and lack of clarity about how poverty is aggregated in cross-country data sets for defining the level of poverty or other covariates (Ravillion, 2003b).
This paper argues that since poverty is a human condition characterized by pervasive   and persistent deprivation, the claims of social justice must not be an abstraction merely celebrated, but a call to action to eliminate poverty. Although there are many critical elements that cause poverty: natural cause, man-made cause; this paper will focus on governance and globalization to expose the structural and institutional settings that neutralize efforts to create equity and parity.

Labour And ‘The Wealth Of Nations’
David H. Plowman and Chris Perryer

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (WN) has been an important point of departure for much economic literature and debate.  As Coates (1975: 218) has observed, a ‘multitude of ideologists and propagandists have cited him in support of their polemic campaigns’ while ‘innumerable scholars have sought to comprehend the meaning of his writings and to assess their significance for Smith’s own and subsequent epochs’.  Though the WN has influenced classical and other schools of thought, for much of its life it has been associated with neoclassical economics, homo economicus, and ‘little more than a single principle that all trade should be free’ (Rothschild: 2001: 67). However, over the last 30 years there have been important re-interpretations of the work which has shown the WN to be more complex and encompassing (Waters1976: 76).

Labour is an important element in a book seeking to explain the nature and causes of economic development. Indeed, the WN is a cornucopia of labour market concepts that have been further refined and developed by subsequent economists. In Smith’s writings it is the development of labour, and of labour surplus, that differentiates stages of economic development. The exchange of labour surplus also spurs the need for currency but in Smith’s schema it is the price of labour that continues to determine value. The division of labour, itself the product of ‘surplus labour’, creates productivity and ‘universal opulence’. The supporter and promoter of ‘high wages’, Smith sees the rewards of labour as simultaneously the cause, effect and index of a nation’s economic progress.

In reviewing Smith’s analysis of labour this paper is broken into three substantial parts. The next section is concerned with economic development and the division of labour.  This is followed by sections dealing with labour value and income distribution, and high wages and economic growth respectively. The final section is by way of summary and conclusion.  

Re-thinking Poverty in a Time of Crisis
John A. Powell, Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Mortiz College of Law, Ohio State University; Executive Director, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

This paper re-conceptualizes poverty from the point of view of structural racialization.  I argue that poverty in the 21st Century, and particularly in the wake of structural, systemic failures such as that of the subprime lending and foreclosure debacle, must be understood with regards to racialization, interacting institutions, and access to opportunity.  To bring about action, we must move public and policy discourse away from individualistic framing.  Rather, we must illustrate poverty’s structural causations, solutions and impacts.  Thinking about poverty in such a robust way means that we must look at the socio-political, institutional, and spatial systems and structures that produce impoverished outcomes.  Achieving sustainable poverty reduction in a time of increasing poverty, inequality and economic instability is a monumental challenge. 

At the heart of this challenge is a normative vision of an inclusive transformative society—inclusive physically, socially, economically and spiritually. Addressing the economic challenges of the 21st century will require us to reframe the discourse on wealth, poverty and assets, and change how we talk about critical policy solutions. Our ability to transform the future of economically marginalized people and communities requires building broad public support for expanding access to opportunity. The paper concludes with an example of a U.S.-based community organizing group re-framing the discussion around inequality to include discussion of structural racism and a new way forward.

The Link between Poverty, the Proliferation of Violence and the Development of Traumatic Stress Among Urban Youth in the United States to School Violence: a Trauma Informed, Social Justice Approach to School Violence
Portia D. Rawles, Adjunct Professor, Norfolk State University

This paper presents two premises regarding school violence in urban America. First, that traumatic stress among urban youth in the United States is a key factor in the development and exacerbation of school violence in urban areas. Secondly, an efficacious approach to the resolution of school violence cannot be achieved without addressing this factor. This discourse explores these two premises within the context of two phenomena. The first phenomenon is the development of traumatic stress as a consequence of the lack of social justice in urban areas, which promotes a culture of poverty and subsequent increased exposure to violence and maltreatment among youth. The second is that such increased exposure to violence fosters the vulnerability of youth to engage in aggressive and violent behaviors in the school setting. Interrelated concepts of economic inequality, maltreatment and violence, traumatic stress theory, childhood development, attachment theory and risk and protective factors will be included in this discourse.


Child Judicial Conferences: Making an Impact with Children in Dependency Court
Diane L. Scott, Mark D. Olson and Joseph R. Herzog

The research project is an exploratory study of a court jurisdiction in Santa Rosa County, Florida that used judicial conferences to increase foster youth participation in dependency court. Data collection entailed case file reviews of 371 foster youth, and focus group interviews with case workers and Guardians Ad Litem to examine the impact of the conferences on children. Despite calls for greater involvement of foster youth in dependency proceedings, there is limited research on the of increased foster youth participation in the dependency process.  
            Salient themes from focus group interviews included alleviation of the child’s fears of the judicial system through Humanizing/Personalizing the Judge, enhanced Insight/Understanding of the child’s perspective for foster care professionals, Empowerment of foster youth as a result of having a voice in the dependency process, and the Child Centered emphasis of the conferences, encouraging the child’s participation. Nearly all of the respondents identified the conferences as a means of increasing foster youth participation in dependency proceedings. The results of the study provide support for the value of enhancing greater involvement of foster youth in dependency court, and suggest implementation and policy issues for the child welfare system and dependency court.

Welfare Reform Disparities: Is Economic Fairness and Productivity Possible? 
Wendy Slone, Visiting Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University


In the wake of welfare reform initiatives there is a rising trend in regional/local administrators' ability to determine the distribution of resources (i.e., childcare, medical, food, and income subsidies, etc.) in exchange for work.  Often the shortages of adequate employment opportunities have promoted administrators' to "shift" resources in an attempt to enhance economic fairness and productivity among welfare recipients.  This paper will look at the impact of administrators' use of discretion in potentially facilitating social welfare disparities.

Rotten Outcomes:  How Impoverished Neighborhoods Influence the Life Trajectories of Children in the United States
Paul D. Steele, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Director, Center for Justice Studies
School of Public Affairs, Morehead State University

To use Lisbeth Schorr’s term, children who are at risk for “rotten outcomes” are not randomly scattered throughout the society but are, rather, concentrated in impoverished neighborhoods.  In recent decades, government policy and public opinion in the U.S. has reflected the belief that children who experience rotten outcomes are, at least in large part, somehow responsible for their own problems.  I assert that the social influences which the child experiences in their neighborhood of residence also influence their life outcomes in both direct and indirect ways.  Neighborhoods are social environments where children experience life:  presenting risks and opportunities, offering or withholding resources necessary for success, creating experiences with and beliefs about social institutions and their representatives, and providing the ecology in which children develop into adults.   
This article summarizes contemporary scholarly perspectives and unpublished research that describe how neighborhoods influence life outcomes for children.  It adopts a social capital perspective in addressing the influence of neighborhood’s residents, places, and institutions on the child’s safety, health, and education, distinguishing between compositional and contextual neighborhood effects.  It concludes that the life outcomes of children, be they successful or rotten, are influenced by their access to the resources of immediate family and peer social networks (bonding capital), connections to other residents and their networks (bridging capital), and relations with representatives of broader social institutions as manifested in their neighborhood (linking capital). 

The Mass Marketing of Inequality: Perpetuating Female Subservience One Schema at a Time
Linda Steiner, Applied Social Psychologist, Lecturer, University of Wisconsin

Social injustice toward women continues to permeate every institutional and interpersonal domain in societies all around the world. And while experts, dedicated to feminist ideals, work dutifully to reduce and eliminate barriers to female equality—changes in social policy and structure will ultimately fail until, and unless, the female psyche is unshackled from the strategically induced, schematic confines of socialized inferiority and servitude. This paper will identify and disclose some of the ways in which tactics employed by American mass-market media establish and maintain superficial, subservient self-concepts in the female psychology across the life span.  From infancy through aging, mass marketing campaigns target the female mindset with messages that frame concrete degrees of sexual, domestic and economic servitude with symbolic images of increased power, independence and effectuality. Employing the use of critical content analysis, this paper demonstrates examples of how wording, color, imagery and context are utilized by market media to thwart the advancement of female equality from the “inside-out”. The foundation and premise of this perspective is to emphasize that formal efforts to discriminate against women will become increasingly unnecessary, as females unwittingly internalize, adopt and aspire to compliance with the subservient roles assigned to them by mass-marketing campaigns. In effect, women have become consumers of marketing strategies that socialize the female psychology into an unjust and inequitable schematic representation of self—thereby ensuring the perpetuation of inter-generational inequality.

Breaking Bonds, Actualizing Possibility:  Schools as Community Hubs of Social Justice
Pat Williams-Boyd, Professor of Education, Eastern Michigan University,

One of every two children in the world lives in poverty, with no access to safe water, health services or adequate shelter to the extent that 25,000 children die every day.  Thirty-seven million Americans, thirteen million of whom are children, live below the poverty level.  Of the developed world, despite our wealth and sophistication, the United States has the most children who live in poverty.  Rather than race, ethnicity or gender, it is poverty, socio-economic class and deprivation that account for poor performances in school, to the extent that young people from poor families are three times more likely to drop out of school.  Alone, neither schools nor communities can adapt to or realize the overlapping and contextually interacting needs presented by students and their families.  Collaboratively, where schools are beginning to offer quality, equitable education at the same site in which access to requisite health, social and human services for children and families are provided, both educational and psycho-social outcomes are enhanced.  Using a holistic position and an ecological model of resilience, this paper would suggest that these community schools, serving as hubs of social justice, are mitigating the academic and nonacademic needs of vulnerable children and families.

Redress and the Salience of Economic Justice
Eric K. Yamamoto and Brian Mackintosh

In the new millennium’s second decade, tribunals around the world work to foster justice for the victims of major civil and human rights abuses.  In doing so, they also seek to repair continuing damage to the social fabric of affected polities.  That so many special tribunals—prosecutorial and reconciliatory—are now grappling with historic injustices is salutary.  Long-suffering groups are starting to find their voices; global communities are beginning to listen.  And human rights organizations are writing rights to redress into their operating documents.  According to observers, the communities of humankind are engaging an “Age of Reconciliation.”  Yet, the paths to social healing are rubble strewn.  Redress initiatives for even fully acknowledged injustices face stiff opposition.  Disagreements over culpability and reparative responsibility quickly arise.  Even sympathetic governments plead financial incapacity.  And traditional legal remedies are slow in coming and limited in reach.  Moreover, the formal legal process falls far short of addressing the damage to culture, communities, education and economic and spiritual well-being—damage that persists over generations.

This essay employs a multidisciplinary “human capability” approach to extend jurisprudential concepts in order to rethink a key aspect of reparatory justice.  It addresses, during economic retrenchment, the salience of a country’s promise of economic justice as a key aspect of its larger commitment to reconciliation, or social healing, for the persisting wounds of historic wrongs—wounds inflicted through systemic discrimination, denials of self-determination, violence or culture suppression.  Through an examination of Peru’s and South Africa’s complex reconciliation initiatives, it engages the questions:  What does economic justice as future capacity-building, as an integral part of a social healing initiative, look like practically on the ground—where things quickly get messy?  And what happens to the mix of individual reparations and economic development when a government is threatened by financial instability?  More particularly, what happens to bottom-up plans for economic justice when government and business fail to fund promised individual reparations?  When plans for economic restructuring stall?  When government cries of “no money” present real political obstacles to even well-conceived reconciliation plans?  The essay concludes that in addition to public story-telling and allocation of responsibility, capacity-building for those most harmed through individual payments and economic restructuring and development—economic justice—may well be a key to a public sense of "reconciliation achieved".





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