Recent literature in various practical fields calls for a Ã¢ÂÂrelational approachÃ¢ÂÂ to social justice, as a theoretical alternative that transcends limitations with liberal contractarianism to offer more penetrating analysis of social justice. I critically engage literature from radical intellectual-political traditions such as Marxism, feminism, and critical race theory to propose what can Ã¢ÂÂ and can't Ã¢ÂÂ form the basis of a cogent relational critique of liberalism and an alternative positive account. I hone this through dialogue with Rawlsian Ã¢ÂÂjustice as fairnessÃ¢ÂÂ, as well as more recent developments such as relational egalitarianism. The most distinguishing feature of a relational approach is ontological: its social-theoretic account of injustice comprises supra-individual phenomena Ã¢ÂÂ relations, social groups, structure, historical causality Ã¢ÂÂ as opposed to individual locations hosting portions of a distribuend. Moreover, I define an intermediate position in the ideal vs non-ideal theory debate, arguing that a persuasive relational approach would Ã¢ÂÂstart from injusticeÃ¢ÂÂ; it would identify the primary desideratum incumbent on social justice theory as being that it enhances understanding of real injustice and thereby informs counteraction. One upshot is a closer relationship between political philosophy and social theory; in turn this reflects how a relational approach to social justice can enjoy symbiosis with the broader Ã¢ÂÂrelational turnÃ¢ÂÂ in humanities and social sciences. The argument is furthered through exemplificatory reference to the empirical context of Brazil's post-redemocratisation experimentation with participatory democracy in the social assistance sector, as an aspect of the country's putative 'new social contract'.