Occupy Justice: Introducing the Injustice Framework

138 Pages Posted: 6 May 2022 Last revised: 22 Jul 2022

Date Written: April 10, 2022


This Article introduces a framework for understanding and debating justice and its potential role in law and the legal system. Such a framework is, in our view, long overdue and responds to a fundamental hypocrisy in the law. Part I begins by introducing our “injustice framework,” which highlights common factors that produce a sense of injustice and that encourage individuals and groups to mobilize for change. Although the injustice framework does not itself resolve questions of justice, it does have implications for how and where injustice might thrive and how it might be challenged by advocates, activists, organizers, and policy entrepreneurs seeking to advance justice. Part II surveys seven iconic texts associated with movements for justice, analyzing how their rhetorical (and associated direct-action) strategies accord with our injustice framework. That part argues that the consistency of approaches across such widely hailed texts supports our claim that the injustice framework captures a basic consensus regarding the meaning of in-justice and helps illustrate what amounts to a nationally or culturally shared conception of justice. Part III revisits those same texts to explore briefly what they reveal about the relationship between justice and two other fundamental cultural values: freedom and democracy. That part suggests that the texts give those terms discernible meanings that cohere and overlap with justice, thus forming a network of related definitions. Part IV examines key texts in some of the prominent social justice movements that have arisen in the decade since Occupy Wall Street. That section illustrates how those texts similarly employ the elements and associated strategies of the injustice framework and reflect the interrelated meanings of justice, freedom, and democracy. The Article ultimately argues that the law should not be permitted to pledge justice while simultaneously dismissing it as meaningless. Of all institutions, the law should be true to its promise. The legal profession, the judiciary, and the legal academy, among others, either should make a good-faith effort to render the norm functional and meaningful or they should abjure it altogether. This Article represents our attempt to advance the former option.

Keywords: justice, injustice, legal theory, systemic justice, social activism, Occupy Wall Street, Declaration of Independence, Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, New Deal, Brown v. Board of Education, Earl Warren

Suggested Citation

Hanson, Jon D. and Lipton, Jacob, Occupy Justice: Introducing the Injustice Framework (April 10, 2022). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2021, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 22-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4099230

Jon D. Hanson (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts
Griswold 403
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
607-496-5207 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/facdir.php?id=25

Jacob Lipton

Justice Catalyst ( email )

123 William Street
New York, NY 10038
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics