The 2013 Student Essay Contest

“Is Social Justice Just?”

The Left has long claimed to act in the name of social justice. From Marx’s advocating a proletarian uprising, to the Great Society project of the late 20th century, to the wild protests of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the modern day, “justice” is the constant refrain of progressives or revolutionaries. But even as conservatives express justifiable skepticism over such schemes, an alternative vision must be offered. After all, justice remains a legitimate concern of any political community, especially now among young people in this country, who want desperately to feel that American society is just.

Russell Kirk offered a clearheaded explanation of the concept of “social justice” in his essay, “The Question of Social Justice.” In it, Kirk returns to the ancient conceptions of justice in order to lend a degree of moral and conceptual clarity to the question of justice.

Based on your reading of the Kirk text, and other relevant sources you may wish to draw from, what is social justice? Is social justice, as it has been conceived of and practiced, just? How is the conservative to conceive of justice?


  1. 1st Place: $5,000
  2. 2nd Place: $3,000
  3. 3rd Place: $1,000
  4. Honorable Mentions: Complimentary access to ISI's Library of Liberty and a free Kindle pre-loaded with some of our favorite conservative books.

Registration and Submission

Registration is required prior to submitting an essay and  is open to any undergraduate residing in the United States. Essays must be in Microsoft Word format and sent to Essays are to be roughly 2,000 words long and will be judged on the basis of scholarship, imagination, and quality of writing.


Each entrant will receive a complimentary copy of Donald T. Critchlow & W. J. Rorabauch's book, Takeover: How the Left's Quest for Social Justice Corrupted Liberalism.


Essays are to be submitted by email by December 15, 2013.

Questions? Contact