On The Concept of Formative Justice

Problems of justice arise whenever people cannot have it all, that is, whenever they must choose between competing "goods," positive and negative. Different types of justice arise because people find themselves constrained to choose between different types of goods—public goods with distributive justice, human rights with social justice, enforcement of norms with retributive justice, and the pursuit of potentials with formative justice.

Problems of formative justice arise because persons and groups, always facing the future, find more possibilities and potentialities before them than they have the energy, time, ability, and wherewithal to fulfill. They must choose among these and in doing so they are struggling to form their unfolding lives. Conceptions of formative justice advance principles for choosing, in the face of an indeterminate future, among controlling aspirations, for allocating effort towards desired fulfillments, personal and public. Formative justice is difficult because people must make consequential choices, uncertain whether they will prove to be successful and sustainable, and it is important because persons will suffer or enjoy, as the case may be, the lives they attempt thus to form.