chapter  5
20 Pages

Justice

ByAlan Jacobs

Auden believed, at the time, that the personal satisfactions of love could not be accepted as an alternative to, or a distraction from, the public demands of political justice. The tiny personal claims of love seem, many of us think, to carry little weight when compared to the sovereign demands of justice. But this apparent conflict bears a great deal of examination. If justice is no longer relevant only to those who rule, but there are no widely recognized ways of redescribing justice as a virtue for everyone, then the practical result is that justice becomes a collective rather than a personal virtue, exhibited primarily in institutions rather than individuals. The power of institutions to regulate and rationalize charitable activities is so great that it transforms even old-style private charitable work. One can see the confusions about charity and justice, private and public virtue, in the emergence of the word charity as a noun describing an institution.