A socially just society is defined by its advocates and practitioners[who?] as being based on the principles of equality and solidarity; this pedagogy also maintains that the socially just society both understands and values human rights, as well as recognizing the dignity of every human being. The Constitution of the International Labour Organization affirms that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” Furthermore, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action treats social justice as a purpose of the human rights education.
The term and modern concept of “social justice” was coined by Jesuit priest Luigi Taparelli in 1840 based on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and given further exposure in 1848 by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati. The phrase has taken on a very controverted and variable meaning, depending on who is using it. The idea was elaborated by the moral theologian John A. Ryan, who initiated the concept of a living wage. Father Coughlin also used the term in his publications in the 1930s and the 1940s. It is a part of Catholic social teaching, the Protestants’ Social Gospel, and is one of the Four Pillars of the Green Party upheld by green parties worldwide. Social justice as a secular concept, distinct from religious teachings, emerged mainly in the late twentieth century, influenced primarily by philosopher John Rawls. Some tenets of social justice have been adopted by those on the left of the political spectrum.