Doing Justice

Liberalism, Group Constructs, and Individual Realities

By Leroy H. Pelton

Subjects: Politics
Series: SUNY series in Deviance and Social Control
Paperback : 9780791441800, 244 pages, April 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441794, 244 pages, April 1999

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Table of contents


Introduction: Reviving Liberalism

1. Nondiscrimination

2. Decategorizing Welfare

3. Restructuring Social Services

4. Regulating the Community

5. Reconceptualizing Criminal Justice

6. Group Constructs in War and Destruction

7. The Principle of Peace: Generating a Liberal Foreign Policy

Conclusion: Doing Justice and Justice Done



Offers a revised liberal political philosophy, arguing that group-based policies are discriminatory and proposing individual-oriented policies in their place.


Offering a new way of thinking about liberalism and public policies, this book contends that group-based policies, predicated on all manner of group construction, pervade public policy. Such policies are grounded in group distinctions that include not only race, ethnicity, gender, and age, but current and past behavior, employment status, personal preferences, and numerous statistical and inferential factors. Although many of these policies are considered to be liberal, they are all discriminatory in essence. For example, the Social Security Act of 1935, although regarded as the foundation of modern liberalism, is riddled with group-based policies that are inconsistent with the principle of nondiscrimination. This book examines other examples of group-based discrimination in such diverse areas as public welfare and child welfare, drug and gambling laws, drunk driving laws, criminal justice, and foreign policy.

Pelton argues that the true roots of liberalism are found in nondiscrimination and respect for the individual. Doing Justice proposes just that—nondiscriminatory, individual-oriented policies in place of each of the group-based policies that are analyzed. The book's innovative thesis points to a conceptual and political rebirth of liberalism.


Leroy H. Pelton is Professor and former Director of the School of Social Work, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Previously, he was Special Assistant to the Director of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, and a member of its Bureau of Research, Planning, and Program Development. He is the author of The Psychology of Nonviolence and For Reasons of Poverty: A Critical Analysis of the Public Child Welfare System in the United States and is the editor of The Social Context of Child Abuse and Neglect.