Posted by Matt McAvoy on Saturday, November 11, 2017 Under: Book Reviews


I had half an hour or so to spare, so I thought I’d peruse “What is Justice?”, as one with a background and interest in this field.  It was sent to me as a short book, with the tagline “A Quest to Understand the Truth”.  In T. Ajay Shankar’s defence, I feel some of the unpleasant and actually quite rude reviews I’ve seen are a touch unfair, and it does sting a little seeing a fellow author treated to such harsh criticism.  That said, however, unfortunately this is not a “book”, nor can it really call itself a “quest” to understand the truth.

What it is, in fact, is little more than a thesis or dissertation in which Shankar presents every common argument of what defines justice, evaluates it (in the author’s defence, quite fairly), and then subsequently proceeds to dismantle it.  Such examples for discussion include morality, the law, social equality and more, before eventually, and perhaps not unexpectedly, coming to focus on a theological explanation.  I say “unexpectedly” because the piece actually reads more as a monologue or statement; it is as though Shankar has composed a speech and then simply published the paper it was written on.  Again, though, in the author’s defence, the theological argument is not one which is drilled home; Shankar does not present to be an overly religious person, and actually discredits this particular explanation equally, but, still, one does get the impression this remains the focal point of “What is Justice?”  The passionate vitriol throughout, and the continuous addressing of the readers as “my wise men” does become a touch distracting, and seems to increase in its zeal to a point where the language becomes almost incoherent.  English is clearly not the author’s first language, and it is broken to a sufficient level to render Shankar’s point, when it comes, almost indiscernible.

All this regardless, I do not consider “What is Justice?” to be a moot work or lost cause, as some might suggest.  I definitely wouldn’t call it a story, but I still admire Shankar for the passion and consideration put into the work.  I feel the book definitely needs a pretty hard copy-edit for the English language and formatting, including ruthless cuts of the second person (reader) reference.  I also think it would be much more enjoyable delivered in a creative way – perhaps as a fable, being imparted to a crowd by the principle, or by a lawyer in court; maybe this could encourage Shankar to write an anthology of his theses for publication, which I would actually be very interested to see.

In : Book Reviews 

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