Four theories to improve justice in Latin America

In the new issue of Developing Latin America: ‘Four theories to improve justice in the region’, co-written with my good friend, the lawyer Basilio A. Martínez-Villa, we provide a very brief introduction to the theories of justice of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Jürgen Habermas and Amartya Sen, as they bring forward the requirement for developing indicators with a wider scope, and we summarize relevant aspects of justice that can enrich the needed reflection and discussion for new Latin American models of justice.

Abstract: The theories of justice according to Rawls, Dworkin, Habermas and Sen, although from a predominantly Anglo-Saxon background, are useful for the Latin American reality. Such views of justice bring forward the requirement for developing indicators with a wider scope, so that they measure diverse aspects such as: income, commodities, freedoms, economic, cultural, educative, political and well-being factors. Concluding remarks summarize relevant aspects of justice that can enrich the needed reflection and discussion for new Latin American models of justice.

Full text at Sage Publications

Open access version

Recommended reference: Martinez-Villa, B. A. and Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2016). Four theories to improve justice in the region. Information Development, 32(4), 1284–1288.


Random Rant

At the time of writing this, I am in Athens, on the occasion of an international conference. After our respective presentations, which were very well received (I believe), we took the occasion to relax a bit and have a couple of beers and a good conversation.

Between jokes and serious talk (both these tones use to get confused in a dialog among friends), we were talking about some of our favorite topics as we do whenever we have the chance to meet. With this friend we talk about our experiences studying our PhDs abroad, the copyright industry’s battle against piracy, open access, alternative business models, the good “old” Wikipedia, the Internet, and digital culture in general. Today’s conversation was about how, in a way, we see ourselves almost as outsiders when in conservative academic circles. This isn’t the case of this conference, I must point out, as we were not criticized and I believe both our researches were well received by the academics present.

For example, on one side, my friend is using a grounded theory method on his research about metadata, he is interviewing mostly young researchers and academics from the LIS field. He told me he has been highly criticized because of the method he is using and even some have told him: “why metadata?” (WHAT!!) More than as a friend, I think even as a colleague, I believe in his research. I told him: what is the problem? Aren’t there already enough research done in a more traditional top down way with tried and good approaches or theories?

This is also applicable to my own PhD research, where I take an action research perspective to study the use of social networking tools in higher education. Possible critics may very well point out the highly subjective charge of my research, by making direct interventions on the activities I give to the participants. But then, isn’t learning one of the most subjective processes? We are not machines.

We argued that we get very weary and a bit tired at times of the old debate of positivism vs. constructivism, or objectivism vs. subjectivism. I believe there is not a single phenomenon in social sciences or humanities for which someone has found an absolute, universal, measurable and replicable truth.

I don’t remember where I saw it, perhaps you can identify where I got this piece of quote without author: “The outcome or goal does not matter, the most important thing is the journey.” All the insights you could get around a problem or a phenomenon subject to study; or all the discussion that leads you to your findings. Isn’t that good enough on the social sciences and the humanities?


The artist is the creator of beautiful things.

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.

This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.

They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.

That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium. No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies.

An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician.

From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type.

All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.

When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

Oscar Wilde. The Portrait of Dorian Gray.