chapter  16
System Justification as an Obstacle to the Attainment of Social Justice
Pages 20

I t was not long ago that questions of social justice and social welfare were at the forefront of theoretical and empirical inquiry in social psychology. The father of modern social psychology, Kurt Lewin, promoted the discipline as, among other things, a scientific means of fostering democratic, egalitarian norms and preventing tyranny and oppression from gaining the upper hand in society. Although he seldom (if ever) couched these goals in the explicit language of social justice, it is clear that his “applied” research programs on overcoming certain forms of prejudice, outgroup hostility, and self-hatred among Jews-to mention some of the most salient examples-reflected a commitment to social justice as well as a scathing critique of authoritarianism and the fascist ideology that had seized the hearts and minds of so many of his fellow citizens in 1930s Germany. Lewin selfconsciously strove to integrate theoretical and applied goals, which he believed could be “accomplished in psychology, as it has been accomplished in physics, if the theorist does not look toward applied problems with highbrow aversion or with a fear of social problems” (Lewin, 1944/1951, p. 169).