Contextualizing Social Justice in International and Transnational Law

As interdependence among economies and societies deepens with the growth of transnational business and social networks, so too does the ability of states and non-state actors to hinder or facilitate the pursuit of social justice beyond borders. The foundations of social justice are rooted in principles like equality or mutuality that aim to organize relationships between human beings, and between society and its members. As the cross-border dimensions of these relationships intensify and the borders of societies become more permeable, our understanding of social justice and its impact on how individuals, societies and states relate to each other deserves re-examination. Key issues include: the conceptualization of social justice in contemporary context; its corollary implications on the rules and institutions that govern cross-border economic and social transactions; and its impact on how the rights and responsibilities of states and non-state actors are recognized and applied in specific fields of international and transnational law. 

The research initiative, Contextualizing Social Justice in Transnational and International Law, sought to examine such issues in a series of research dialogues leading to scholarly published contributions, launched by means of a research workshop in Windsor on August 8, 2016. Organized in collaboration with Janelle M. Diller, Paul Martin Sr. Professor of International Affairs at Windsor Law, TLJN invited contributions across philosophical, political, socio-economic and legal disciplines as well as empirical, theoretical, and inter-disciplinary approaches that engaged in these types of questions: 

  • To what extent is the reach and content of the concept of social justice evolving as cross-border dimensions and experiences of “society” evolve? 
  • How do political relations or institutional and legal practices of economic and social actors across borders influence ways in which the pursuit of social justice is expressed (e.g., conditions, processes, structures or outcomes defined in socio-economic or political terms)? What rights and duties of individuals, societies, or states give legal articulation to these qualities of social justice? 
  • In what way(s) can a reconstructed social justice concept serve as an analytical or theoretical tool to assess the theory, rules and institutions of international economic and social law and transnational cooperation? 
  • What legal rights and responsibilities relating to social justice are recognized in theory and practice in contemporary cross-border legal contexts (e.g. non- obstruction, facilitation, the precautionary principle)? How do they relate to states’ national effort or international cooperation, international organizations, or non-state actors like business, civil society groups, and local communities?