Social ethics involves the art of learning to live together in groups that interact within the larger framework of society as a whole. The sources that contribute to social ethics include the domains of religion, philosophy, human social experience, literature, art, and the social and political sciences. From this mix, a variety of patterns for cooperation essential for the survival of human social life emerge, some more useful, constructive, and beneficial for social life. Such patterns give rise to social norms and behaviors that become the focus of social ethics.
All social change involves social ethics decisions that affect the common good. The book Journeys into Justice explores the norms, values, and forms of the social organization—collaboration—which is informed by a social ethics of interdependence, trust, sharing, inclusiveness, and distributive justice. Through this social ethics vision, the book describes the social justice work of ten collaborative organizations engaged in empowering groups of people to create a living wage for workers, affordable rental housing, justice for migrant workers, juvenile justice, fair treatment for immigrants, effective legislative advocacy, and greater environmental responsibility.
Successful collaboration for the common good requires working from a social ethics viewpoint that embraces the best of humanistic and religious ethical norms, values, and structures. This is a pluralistic social ethics that is a dynamic resource for love-compassion-justice that is inclusive, trust-building, cooperative in spirit, goal-oriented, communal, and seeks common ground, is cooperative in spirit, shares resources, and is moving toward a vision of a more equitable society. It is also social ethics that embodies operational realism, which understands the need for aggregated people power, political processes, negotiation, and skilled use of coalitions in the service of the common good.
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