Social justice, social problems, social questions, and social teachings have been core issues in a major public policy discourse of recent decades. Vital roots of these issues are found in the social teachings that were formulated by European Catholicism in the nineteenth century and gained official validity through the Rerum Novarum Encyclical of 1891. These teachings defined the complex nature of the social questions and social problems during the Industrial Revolution and suggested remedial strategies.

Furthermore, the recent revival in political philosophy has injected an impressive vitality into the discourse of the criteria defining social justice. Utilitarianism has reaffirmed its faith in the criterion of maximum utility for the largest number of people. To social contract theorists, the maximandrum remains equality. Inequality is permissible only as long as it benefits the least advantaged. The prime political virtue for libertarians is freedom. In the...

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