Bringing Theory to Life in Social Justice Research


  • Marianne S. Ulriksen University of Southern Denmark
  • Sophie Plagerson Independent Researcher



social justice, theory, research, social assistance, social development


This article is written in honour of Professor Tessa Hochfeld’s life and work, as part of the special issue on social and gender justice. In the article, we seek to show that Hochfeld positioned herself within the social justice research tradition but was not satisfied with normative ideas of utopian societies; rather theory was only useful in its ability to present solutions to and highlight gaps in states’ efforts to create just societies. We propose several characteristics of theory within social justice-oriented research aiming towards positive change, which Hochfeld through her methodological approach and empirical investigations contributed to. These characteristics of social justice theory are that it is instrumental, emancipatory, incomplete, paradox-sensitive, and relational. We end by bringing these characteristics together to discuss implications for the epistemology of social justice research, for the nature of the state and for the nature of social policy solutions.


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How to Cite

Ulriksen, Marianne S., and Sophie Plagerson. 2022. “Bringing Theory to Life in Social Justice Research”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 34 (1):17 pages.
Received 2020-11-09
Accepted 2021-04-28
Published 2021-07-30