What Are the Different Types of Justice?

The four types of justice are distributive, procedural, restorative and retributive. The four categories of justice descend from Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, who sought to define the good life for individuals and the larger body politic.

The four types of justice have implications for law and society. Distributive justice is fair distribution of goods such that all members of society enjoy the benefits of the community to which they contribute. Procedural justice is fair application of rules and processes so that all who are subject to rules get an impartial outcome. Restorative justice is repairing individuals and relationships when harmed, and making amends to victims when they are harmed or suffer loss. Retributive justice seeks to mete consequences to individuals who have committed harm.

The concept of justice in Western philosophy has evolved since the ancient Greek philosophers. Plato argued that justice is part of a metaphysical, ideal realm that humans ought to imitate. In the 17th century, philosophers such as John Locke postulated that justice is part of natural law. Liberal philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th Century argued that everyone in a community is equal, and has equal right to accept the benefits and to contribute to their society. Utilitarian thinkers of the 19th century and later argue that justice is what is best for the majority.