Current notions of fairness and justice in resource politics are mainly influenced by liberal political philosophy. Such ideas adopt a Rawlsian understanding of distributive justice so as to develop a liberal cosmopolitan framework (Wapner, 1997; Beitz, 1999; Pogge, 2001, 2008; Held, 2002; Hayward, 2006; Nili, in this volume). This liberal approach conceptualizes resource production, distribution, and consumption as a global challenge and calls for the redistribution of natural resources based on an abstract moral justice ‘compass’ (Nili, in this volume). While such a framework supports the redistribution of natural resources from a global egalitarian perspective, it lacks an adequate conceptualization of the specific politicaleconomic and socio-cultural relations that characterize the current patterns of access, control, and distribution of natural resources. In other words, a liberal framework fails to link global justice principles with power relations, inequalities, and concrete socio-ecological conflicts. Based on a political ecology perspective, this chapter develops a multidimensional conception of resource justice – that is, socio-ecological justice – that explicitly incorporates power relations and inequalities in the access to and distribution of nature and natural resources on different scales. Accordingly, such a conception explicitly stresses political dimensions of socio-ecological justice and links them to claims for a democratization of societal nature relations (gesellschaftliche Naturverhältnisse). In doing so, the chapter reverses the line of argument from abstract moral justice principles to socio-ecological conflicts as a starting point for resource justice. As a heterogeneous and interdisciplinary research field, political ecology analyses the appropriation and control of natural resources (e.g. land, water) and links them to social configurations and power relations. Socioecological conflicts, then, evolve from unequal power relations and injustices that constitute the access to and control over resources (Bryant and Bailey, 1997: 38-39). So far, political ecology has rather implicitly than explicitly referred to principles and dimensions of justice and democracy (Bryant and Jarosz, 2004; for activist debates on environmental justice, see
Schlosberg, 2004). I argue that a conceptualization of socio-ecological justice benefits from a link to democracy theories that – like political ecology research – emanate from conflict and contestation, therefore explicitly highlighting political dimensions of socio-ecological justice that exceed mere distributional aspects. In line with radical democracy theories (e.g. Chantal Mouffe, Jacques Rancière), I understand democracy not necessarily as a form of government with a specific set of criteria and indicators (e.g. elections, rule of law, and division of powers) but as an emancipatory process that builds on the historical genesis of social struggles. With regard to the control of natural resources, socio-ecological conflicts emphasize the challenge of existing societal nature relations based on enclosure, valorization, and a shrinking of the public sphere. Emanating from such a conflict-oriented, yet limited, perspective with regard to the specific qualitative relation between justice and democracy, I further elaborate on political dimensions for rearranging societal nature relations. These dimensions evolve both from social movements and activism as well as political theory. The chapter proceeds as follows: The next section critically examines the assumptions of liberal global justice, and is followed by a section introducing political ecology. The understanding gained from these discussions helps to develop an understanding of socio-ecological conflicts that serves as a point of reference for the subsequent elaboration in the third section on democratizing societal nature relations. The fourth section, then, links socio-ecological conflicts to a conflictual understanding of democracy, which paves the way for an elaboration on some explicit political dimensions of socio-ecological justice in the final section.