WILLIAM A. KAPLIN
to these fundamental questions often — rather than setting them aside hav-
ing once grappled with them. There are various perspectives and vantage
points from which one can view the concepts of law and justice, and there
is an almost unlimited number of particular applications for these concepts.
The more one reverts to the fundamental questions, the more one will be
able to absorb new perspectives, critique particular applications, see com-
monalities and conflicts, and thus enrich one’s own understanding of law
The answers to the fundamental questions (to the extent there are spe-
cific answers) will vary from one legal system to another, and often from
one legal philosopher to another. This is not to say that there are no, or
can be no, universal core principles of justice. There are various interna-
tional treaties and declarations suggesting that the world is making some
progress with certain particular applications of the concept of justice. But
as to the entire concept of justice, and to many of its particular applica-
tions, it is still appropriate to say that, even within a single legal system, it is
usually the case that law and justice are contested concepts, and the con-
nection (or not) between law and justice is a matter of continuing debate.
So it is in the United States, as discussed below.
IV. Social Justice in the United States
As a constitutional democracy, with pertinent historical precedents stretch-
ing back at least to the Declaration of Independence, the United States may
have developed something approaching consensus on what law and jus-
tice mean in the abstract for our governmental system. But even after the
long historical experience of this system, there is no consensus on what
law and justice mean in their application to many particular circumstances.