Injustice, one in a series of allegorical capitals depicting vices and virtues at the Ducal Palace in Venice

Injustice is a quality relating to unfairness or undeserved outcomes. The term may be applied in reference to a particular event or situation, or to a larger status quo. In Western philosophy and jurisprudence, injustice is very commonly—but not always—defined as either the absence or the opposite of justice.[1][2][3]

The sense of injustice is a universal human feature, though the exact circumstances considered unjust can vary from culture to culture. While even acts of nature can sometimes arouse the sense of injustice, the sense is usually felt in relation to human action such as misuse, abuse, neglect, or malfeasance that is uncorrected or else sanctioned by a legal system or fellow human beings.

The sense of injustice can be a powerful motivational condition, causing people to take action not just to defend themselves but also others who they perceive to be unfairly treated. Injustice within legal or societal standards are sometimes referred to as a two-tiered system.[4]

Relationship with justice

Professor Judith Shklar has written that Western philosophers tend to spend much more time discussing the concept of 'justice' rather than 'injustice'. On the other hand, she states both historical writing and fiction use instances of injustice as subject matter far more often than justice.[5]

In philosophy and jurisprudence, the dominant view has been that injustice and justice are two sides of the same coin—that injustice is simply a lack of justice. This view has been challenged by professors including Judith Shklar, Thomas W Simon and Eric Heinze, who consider that justice and injustice are independent qualities. So, in this minority view, you can increase the justice of a situation without reducing the injustice. Heinze has even gone as far as to argue that an increase in justice can actually cause an increase in injustice.[2][3][5]

A relatively common view among philosophers and other writers is that while justice and injustice may be interdependent, it is injustice that is the primary quality. Many writers have written that, while it is hard to directly define or even perceive justice, it is easy to demonstrate that injustice can be perceived by all.[6] According to von Hayek, the earliest known thinker to state that injustice is the primary quality was Heraclitus, whose view was echoed by Aristotle and dozens of others down the centuries. Hayek said that writers often express the idea that injustice is the primary concept "as though it were a new discovery", suggesting the view is rarely directly expressed in theories on Justice. But Hayek went on to say that legal positivism has proved that injustice, not justice, is the primary quality.[7]