Theories of justice often fixate on purely normative, abstract principles unrelated to real-world situations. The philosopher and theorist Axel Honneth addresses this disconnect, and constructs a theory of justice derived from the normative claims of Western liberal-democratic societies and anchored in morally legitimate laws and institutionally established practices.
Honneth's paradigm-which he terms "a democratic ethical life"-draws on the spirit of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and his own theory of recognition, demonstrating how concrete social spheres generate the tenets of individual freedom and a standard for what is just. Using social analysis to re-found a more grounded theory of justice, he argues that all crucial actions in Western civilization, whether in personal relationships, market-induced economic activities, or the public forum of politics, share one defining characteristic: they require the realization of a particular aspect of individual freedom. This fundamental truth informs the guiding principles of justice, enabling a wide-ranging reconsideration of its nature and application.