Despite a tidal wave of awareness of social justice issues (or maybe because of it), a lot of conversations are getting stuck. Some people are becoming increasingly “anti social justice.” And we seem to be circling loops that go back decades.

Recently, I’ve been wondering: How might we break the loops? How might we respond to people who criticize social justice movements? How might we take steps toward this ultimate goal of “social justice”? (That is what it is, right? A goal?)

3-Dimensional Social Justice is what came to my mind. My theory is that we’ll be more successful if we include (at least) 3 dimensions in our social justice arguments. 

As for what those dimensions are, or how we incorporate them, I have tons of ideas. For example, let’s start with these three: efficacy, scale, time.

Image showing three dimensions of social justice: efficacy, scale, and time

With any social justice intervention, we might consider the following questions:

  1. Will this produce the desired effect? (Efficacy)
  2. Can we apply this to society-at-large? (Scale)
  3. What will the future look like with this implemented? (Time)

Or maybe it’s more helpful in a given situation to consider multiple dimensions within a concept:

  • Efficacy: goal, theory, implementation
  • Scale: individual, societal, global
  • Time: past, present, future
All three dimensions broken into three dimensions (efficacy: goal, theory, implementation; scale: individual, societal, global; time: past, present, future)

With these dimensions in mind, if someone is critical of a social justice, we can investigate which part they’re resisting (is it the goal? Or something else?).

Or maybe we consider how each of the dimensions of efficacy pass or don’t pass the scale or time tests, and mash the two above concepts together.

If this is starting to sound like a Rubik’s Cube, I think that’s apt: none of this is simple, and any square not in alignment is actively impeding our goal.

A Rubik's Cube made from the efficacy, scale, and time dimensionsBut what if it were simple?

Maybe 3DSJ is just about having more social justice arguments in literal 3-dimensional space. In-person. Meatspace.

For me, it’s apples and oranges doing social justice education on the internet vs. in-person — and the apples are the poisonous variety.