Social Justice Research, VoL 3, No.

1, 1989

Justice in Social Relations. Edited by Hans Werner Bierhoff~ Ronald L. Cohen, and Jerald Greenberg. New York, Plenum Press, 1986.
Reviewed by Barry MarkovskyI

Justice in Social Relations is a recent addition to the "Critical Issues in Social

Justice" series (Plenum Press; Melvin Lerner, editor). This series has become the leading outlet for nonjournal publications of social scientific thinking in the justice area. As with previous volumes, the present contains a set of relatively informal and discursive chapters and an international cast of scholars from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. The wide array of topics obviates general statements about the book. have dealt with this problem by dividing this eassay into two major sections, The first, "Synopsis," provides nonevaluative capsule summaries of every chapter. The second, "Comments," presents a set of general evaluative criteria for theories and discusses a number of issues raised in, or pertinent to, selected contributions. This discussion touches upon some fundamental issues regarding the way we theorize and conduct research on justice.

Part I: Conflict, Power, and Justice. Chapter t (Deutsch: "Cooperation~ Conflict, and Justice") reviews previously published work by the author and his students. This research includes the effects of group orientation (competitive-meritocratic vs. cooperative-egalitarian) on choices of distribution systems, and the effects of these choices. Chapter 2 (Cook and Hegtvedt: "Justice and Power: An Exchange Analysis") uses exchange theory and experimental tests to shed light on the relationship between power and justice in social networks. Key factors include structural differentiation and subjects' knowledge of the network structure. Chapter 3 (Lamm: "Justice Considerations in Interpersonal

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Chapter 9 (Bierhoff. cognitions. and perceived likelihood of inequity amelioration. Buck. the author claims that "justice cannot be merely relative and ever shifting. Chapter 10 (Reis: "Levels of Interest in the Study of Interpersonal Justice") offers three criticisms of equity theory: Equity motives and norms are conflated. and Dalbert: "Thinking About Justice and Dealing With One's Own Privileges: A Study of Existential Guilt") deals with the sense of uneasiness and conflict often experienced by the beneficiaries of injustices. Hymes. Part II: Theoretical Perspectives on Justice. and Klein: "Social Context and Perceived Justice") hypothesizes that group members infer input levels from reward allocations. fine-grained predictions of responses to inequities are made possible. This framework helps identify a number of potential contexts. Chapter 5 (Sampson: "Justice Ideology and Social Legitimation: A Revised Agenda for Psyhological Inquiry") asserts that "caretaking and receiving" underlie all justice principles. draw- . Using retrospective reports and role-play studies. Schmitt. Chapter 8 (Folger: "Rethinking Equity Theory: A Referent Cognitions Model") extends the author's referent cognition approach to the realm of equity judgments. In contrast to predominant approaches. Chapter 7 (Montada. motivations. inpttts and outcomes are defined too generally. the author develops a typology for justice-related emotions. Chapter 12 (Mess6. bases. and actions. Chapter 11 (Schwinger: "The Need Principle of Distributive Justice") presents a framework for studying distribution according to need. and the theory's domain of application is unclear. and MacCoun: "Group Categorization and Distributive Justice Decisions") hypothesizes that how a person categorizes herself and others determines whose norms of fairness she adopts when deciding how to distribute rewards to others. The authors use questionnaires to examine a variety of factors that affect the sense of guilt. Cohen also discusses the conditions necessary for collective action by victims of injustice and the roles played by leaders' tactics. and applies it to the case of interpersonal conflict over justice issues. Chapter 13 (Wender: "Children's Use of Justice Principles in Allocation Situations: Focus on the Need Principle") compares Piaget's and Damon's developmental models. legitimation processes. By focusing on evaluators' actual and imaginable outcomes. Experimental results are generally confirmatory. A set of propositions is derived and tested using vignette surveys. Part III: Norms and Justice. and shared justice symbols. Justice principles must be founded on a more fundamental stratum of human life.58 Review Essay Conflict") presents a framework that describes the emergence and resolution of dyadic conflict situations. Chapter 4 (Cohen: "Power and Justice in Intergroup Relations") addresses the problem of why victims of injustic rarely seek systematic change. and data on the transaction principles adopted by subjects under various enivronmental contingencies." Chapter 6 (Mikula: "The Experience of Injustice: Toward a Better Understanding of its Phenomenology") focuses on the nature of injustice-related emotions. Reis devises a typology of justice issues to facilitate future theorizing. and resolutions to such conflicts.

This means providing explicit definitions that eliminate unintended interpretations. concepts are not testable. and the system. Rather. definitions allow the theorist to share with readers the meanings that he or she attaches to theoretical terms. and may serve to clarify ambiguity in reward-relevant inputs. schemes. Part IV: Applications of Justice Research. Though often ignored in the social and behavioral sciences. Concepts live or die only through the theoretical statements they compose. Chapter 14 (Crosby. measuring fairness perceptions of judges. Research conducted with preschool and primary school children provides more support for Piaget's model. Defining a concept does not necessarily imply that the theorist claims insight into the "true essence" of the concept's referent--although some writers clearly tip off their delusions of omniscience. COMMENTS In order to place my comments in perspective. We seek theories that maximize explanatory power while minimizing the number and complexity of concepts. another examines evaluations of the president and the political system.Review Essay 59 ing special attention to the implications each has for the emergence of distributive justice concerns. Chapter 18 (Greenberg: "The Distributive Justice of Organizational Performance Evaluations") provides research to support the idea that performance evaluations in organizations may serve as either penultimate or ultimate outcomes. First. I first explicate the criteria I employ. decisions. Chapter 16 (Tyler: "The Psychology of Leadership Evaluation") focuses on justice-related factors that affect support for leaders. Therefore. arguments over the truth or goodness of alternative concepts. Research points to greater sensitivity to the former condition. Research indicates that these factors interact with perceived "locus of control" in judgments of pay differences. they are nevertheless standard in scientific fields. . the terms or concepts used to express theoretical ideas must be unambiguous. Censor. Importantly. Research evidence from several fields helps to identify underlying justice principles and their attendant social structures. and MacKethan: "Two Rotten Apples Spoil the Justice Barrel") studies the impact of injustice in a few clear-cut cases of gender discrimination versus accumulations of minor cases. or typologies are by their very nature unresolvable. One study interviews people who had appeared in court. Chapter 17 (Martin: "When Expectations and Justice Do Not Coincide: Blue Collar Versions of A Just World") distinguishes judgments based on comparing actual rewards to either expected or just reward levels. Burris. Chapter 15 (Sporer: "Justice as Fair and Equal Treatment Before the Law: The Role of Individual versus Group Decision Making") claims that a society's laws are distilled justice principles based on implicit psychological assumptions.

philosophical positions. Note that hypotheses most assuredly are neither free-floating theoretical statements nor empirically informed conjectures about other empirical events. assumptions about human nature. orientations. frameworks. or postulates) can be manipulated with the syntactic rules of the formal system to produce new expressions (derivations or theorems). axioms. 1977. on the other hand. Metatheories can only be assessed through tests of the theories they inspire-if at all. and Quine and Ullian. for it is the difference between having provisional knowledge about something. perspectives. then y" relates the concepts x and y through "material implication. "If x. Even then. Yet the distinction is crucial. but the foregoing provides an adequate basis for the present purposes. specific. Every term in a hypothesis has a concomitant term in an abstract and general theoretical statement. (See Flew. Much more could be said about theory construction. sets of ideas and value statements that specify key concepts. the more frequent or intense the justice-restoring attempts" (Markovsky. propositions. none of the 18 chapters achieved the level of rigor called for by these . etc. Theories expressed in nonformal languages are often indistinguishable from metatheory. By comparison. preferred research methods.) As it turns out. statements that we take as given in a theory (known variously as assumptions. and so on. "The greater the Injustice Experience. Hypotheses. and either merely stating how we ought to go about getting it or pretending that one already has it. The power of a formal system lies as much in its ability to generate new. language and other differences usually inhibit comparisons. A theory makes abstract and general statements containing well-defined concepts. Thus. the greater the ratio of actual annual salary to the annual salary considered just. debates over the "truth" of metatheories are quite pointless unless arrays of tested theories motivated by different metatheories are available for comparison. The links are formal relations allowed within a chosen formal system." a basic relation in sentential logic.. From a scientific standpoint. it is these derived expressions whose concepts are translated into concrete terms ("operationalized" or "instantiated") to form empirically testable hypotheses. are concrete and specific: "For each respondent to my 1988 survey of workers at the Spacely Sprocket Co. often implicit. At least some of a theory's statements can be systematically linked to observable phenomena via concrete." A highly parsimonious theory is one from which a great many derivations and hypotheses may be drawn from a small set of assumptions. 1985).) are loosely organized. A final point worth noting is the distinction between theories and entities such as metatheories. metatheories (etc. paradigms. appropriate modes of theoretical discourse. 1970.60 Review Essay Theoretical statements consist of linked concepts. noncontradictory statements as in its capacity to organize existing ones. the greater the expressed feeling of dissatistfaction and admission of unjustified absenteeism. testable hypotheses. In general. Theoretical statements are abstract and general. For example. for good introductions to these and related issues. For instance.

Their attempt was facilitated by their focus on improving the Ajzen-Fishbein attribution model--a theory whose terms could be better defined. Yet when the author tried to pin down some testable theoretical implications for justice issues. To many social scientists. though interesting. it seems reasonable to asse~ that structural informtion in the exchange context affects attributions which in turn affect bargaining intensity. Deutsch was on the right track with this typology of reward allocation principles. Instead. however. The efforts of Mess6 et aL to make rigorous theoretical progress were also noteworthy. Folger. However. Cook and Hegtvedt seem tantalizingly close to this achievement. Their proposed extension is potentially important. but whose assumptions are quite explicit. The research. The problem is due to the lack of an attribution theory whose level of rigor achieves that of power-dependence t h e o r y . . but because they ventured beyond exiting theory. the approach showed some real promise. they neither constitute theories nor serve as end points in the theory-building process. This chapter also illustrated the fuzziness that can foil the theory/metatheory distinction. and the consequences of this emergence. That is. Lacking any connection to proposition-building. typologybuilding serves no purpose. were the complex relationships between this explanation and the many variables and interaction effects introduced in the research and results sections.s6 et aL Cook and Hegtvedt utilized power-dependence theory. and equality as types of reward allocation principles. and hypothesis-testing. their use of ideas from the attribution literature remains conjectural. lost some of its punch as a result. Montada et aL's study of existential guilt seemed to provide an elegant explanation for the phenomenon. which is formally explicated elsewhere. Folger's referent cognitions framework was presented informally. and Me.. he discussed conditions under which one or another allocation principle emerges in a group.a situation for which Cook and Hegtvedt are not culpable. The task now is to incorporate the necessary theoretical elements for an attribution extension to the exiting power-dependence theory. The authors distilled several assumptions from an amorphous "role theory" and integrated these with attribution ideas. But this is not yet theoretically derivable. need. three chapters stood out from the rest in their theoretical potential: those by Cook and Hegtvedt. derivation-drawing. but gave the distinct sense that a small set of simple and potentially powerful assumptions lay just below the surface. typology-building is theory construction. Although his concepts often were not well defined. Although typologies are potentially useful in theories.Review Essay 61 criteria. From this they derived testable predictions relevant to equity processes. A number of authors presented conceptual typologies or schemes. He did not stop at simply identifying equity. Not so elegant. Stating these conditions is a necessary step along the path to building a theory of the sources and consequences of allocation principles.

called for a "revised agenda for psychological inquiry.also undefined. but I have yet to see an equity theory that is anything but silent on this assumption. The manifest utility of the work was highly overstated. This is not how laws are tested or their validity established. Many showed no interest in using their typologies. Deutsch claimed that "implicit in equity theory" is the assumption that people will be more productive if their rewards are proportional to their contributions. for example. attributions." It asserts that "the typical effects of a given social relation tend to induce that social relation. Reis provided a general scheme describing the variety of topics that have appeared under the equity rubric. First he said that we should seek one underlying. Fasifying cases abound. For instance." The author's own words suggest that it is much too soon to revise any agendas based on these notions. Mikula sought to classify the emotions. It is a statement's resistance to falsification that makes it lawlike. Yet Deutsch took his crude law and attempted to elevate it to the status of "a summarizing and integrating principle" for the areas of conflict. it is hyperbole. and other responses associated with different types of actual injustices." He eschewed all traditional approaches. Although Deutsch's chapter was not without merit (see above). Later he seemed to believe that he found it: the practice of "caretaking and receiving". It is simply impossible to evaluate their potential without their employment in testable theories. thoughts. Sampson described his effort as "preliminary. Ironically. Sampson." but failed to cite any specific version. and Deutsch's crude law has little or no such resistance. He ventured beyond more "typologizing" by discussing conditions under which one or another type of justice statement should occur. Some authors made several questionable claims. objective." It is not that these ideas were fruitless or uninteresting. Martin claimed that justice theories reflect economic expectations. it is difficult to see any utility in his "crude law of social relations. This is not careful scientific theorizing. and justice." Deutsch invoked his "law" by quoting it whenever it seem to fit an observation. I have seen equity theorists suggest this. describing a set of stages and activities that are assumed to occur in any context where conflicts over justice issues must be resolved. favoring the study of the "nature of personhood"-a concept never dearly defined." saying that it "should lead to several directly testable hypotheses. Schwinger provided a "scheme for guiding research and empirical interpretation. Which justice theories? What do they actually say? An equally invalid critique occurred whenever authors asserted or implied that equity theory is flawed because it does not account for some particular . But later she wrote that justice theories blur the issue.62 Review Essay Lamm presented a fascinating and potentially useful typology of conflict situations. Many authors criticized "equity theory" or "justice theory. and when the conflict resolution process should branch one way versus another. negotiation. societal justice principle. not justice evaluations.

choice of distribution principles. Wender. Only a theory that can explain everything would be immune to this type of attack. it is invalid to criticize them for not having done so. however.a t least as presented in the chapter-placed a great deal of emphasis on biological age. resource information. Age is treated as having intrinsic import. But the chapter's contribution remained metatheoretical: It suggested appropriate ways of framing the problem and possible directions for solutions. If the target of criticism is not even clearly identified-frequently the case in these chapters--the attack is doubly preposterous. explicit equity theory out there to which these criticisms all refer. Bierhoff et aL. and those in the Applications of Justice Research section-Crosby et aL. Martin. justice symbols. and Greenberg. Age may serve as proxy for cognitive and social developmental factors that influence the emergence of justice principles.Review Essay 63 phenomenon. actor motivations. The final section contained applied research. and if we take seriously the collective claims of this volume's authors. and much more. an activity that probably has no effect on justice perceptions. These are all important issues. contrasted and tested two relatively explicit developmental mode l s . Many chapters presented what are best termed theoretical beginningspromising but difficult to assess. power process. One's age. Wender. This is less of a problem for a field having an efficient division of labor: Theorists work back and forth with basic researchers on theories. Both of the m o d e l s . if we know for certain that those factors are very highly correlated with age. If we accept as valid this all too common mode of critique. A perennial trade-off with applied research is that pressure to solve real problems impels researchers to apply theories that may not be sufficiently developed. He addressed the question of what conditions lead to action on the part of unjustly treated groups. The exception occurs when the criticized theory fails to extend to a domain that is subsumed by an alternative nonfalsified theory. Would it be legitimate for me to say that the theory should also explain the emergence of legal (justice-administering) institutions? What about fluctuations in Justice Department budgets? Construction starts for justice-related facilities? Would I be correct to assert that equity theory is inadequate until it explains the emergence of political boundaries? Political ideologies? Religious canons? The point is that while it is desirable to extend theories to new domains. allocation procedures. is simply the number of times one has orbited the sun. Included in this category are chapters by Cohen. Another example of a potentially fruitful theoretical direction is found in Cohen's chapter. then equity theory fails until it can explain or account for the effects of emotional responses. applied researchers work with the best avail- . The factors that Cohen identified all seem important: leader tactics. Tyler. for instance. legitimacy processes. Sporer. etc. But such factors are not brought out in the chapter.a fimdamentally sound idea. So let us assume that there is a unitary.

In the long run they rarely amount to much. despite the research orientation of most contributions. and originality of informal theories garners reward. That is why. pressing those fragments into service before they are ready. In the short run. Labor in the field of justice is not so neatly divided. Still many of the ideas and results presented in these 18 chapters may one day prove valuable in the context of future developments. the appearance of breadth. It means that it is difficult to run with them: to test them. . a self-correcting feedback mechanism results in steady theoretical and practical improvements. This will never happen. Many of us don multiple hats. To find exemplary theories being ignored makes a dour statement about a purportedly scientific field. improve them. Their lack of structure. Justice in Social Relations is a forum for state-of-the-art work in the justice field. there is not much theory out there to apply. The lack of explicit theorizing in this volume does not mean that its ideas are bad. my comments have been directed at theory. Those claiming to offer full-blown revolutionary alternatives did not even begin to do so. revise them. and so on. An implicit. an explicit formal theory flaunts its shortcomings. retest them. This is where work must first be done. As indicated by the first sections of the volume. but they were a far sight better than the ad hoc implementations that we so often find in applied research. but it was scarcely mentioned. seeing how new factors affect justice. comprehensiveness. inhibits further growth. encouraging attention to be focused on areas most needy of development. however. That state is primarily one of lateral expansion: taking justice angles on old issues. playing theorist with what theoretical fragments are available. and the result is work resembling that in the final chapters. But these are properties endemic to all good scientific theories! Jasso's (1980) elegant and path-breaking distributive justice theory was published 4 years before the conference from which this volume was derived. Though their work was problem-oriented. Rigorous justice theories are ignored. research loses it meaning. Those ideas did not satisfy the theoretical criteria provided earlier. without the adoption of more rigorous theoretical methods and criteria. But theory construction is not easy.64 Review Essay able theoretical products. informal theory conceals its inadequacies. probably because of their formality and abstractness. their efforts were idea-driven. CONCLUSIONS Without theory to motivate it. its rewards are few and its products not widely appreciated in our fields. In fact. and their results get fed back to the theorists and basic researchers. In such fields. But the authors of the applied research chapters made laudable efforts. The goal of constructing and testing theories is to rectify explanatory inadequacies. however.

(1970). B.. Prometheus Press. Jasso. Am. 50: 822-839. J. NY. and Ullian. Buffalo. Random House. A new theory of distributive justice. REFERENCES Flew. Ouine. paraphrasing Harpy Reis. The Web of Belief. A. (1977). W. Am. Thinking Straight.Review Essay 65 Absent this change. V. SacioL Rev. (1980). SocioL Rev. Toward a multilevel distributive justice theory. we should not be surprised. G. . S. Markovsky. to find our field slipping away quietly. (1985). 45: 3-32. New York.

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