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Global justice is an issue in political philosophy arising from the concern that the world at large is unjust.
The broader philosophical context of the global justice debate, in both its contemporary and historical forms, is the issue of impartiality. Many people believe they have more important duties to family members, friends and compatriots than to strangers and foreigners. But are they right to endorse such partiality? Cosmopolitans, reportedly including the ancient Greek Diogenes of Sinope, have described themselves as citizens of the world. Thinkers including the utilitarian anarchist William Godwin have argued that everyone has an impartial duty to do the most good he or she can, without preference for any one human being over another.
The broader political context of the debate is the longstanding conflict between more and less local institutions: tribes against states, villages against cities, local communities against empires, nation-states against the UN. The relative strength of the local versus the global has waxed and waned over recorded history. From the early modern period until the twentieth century, the preeminent political institution was the state, which is sovereign, territorial, claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in its territory, and exists in an international system of other sovereign states. Over the same period, and relatedly, political philosophers' interest in justice focused almost exclusively on domestic issues: how should states treat their subjects, and what do fellow-citizens owe one another? Justice in relations between states, and between individuals across state borders, was put aside as a secondary issue or left to international relations theorists.
Since the First World War, however, the state system has been transformed by globalization and by the creation of supranational political and economic institutions such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the World Bank. Over the same period, and especially since the 1970s, global justice became an important issue in political philosophy. In the contemporary global justice debate, the general issue of impartiality centers on the moral significance of borders and of shared citizenship. Realists, particularists, nationalists, members of the society of states tradition, and cosmopolitans take contesting positions in response to these problems.
Three related questions, concerning the scope of justice, justice in the distribution of wealth and other goods, and the institutions responsible for justice, are central to the problem of global justice. When these questions are addressed in non ideal circumstances, they are part of the "ethics of process," a branch of political ethics.
Are there, as the moral universalist argues, objective ethical standards that apply to all humans regardless of culture, race, gender, religion, nationality or other distinguishing features? Or do ethical standards only apply within such limited contexts as cultures, nations, communities, or voluntary associations?
1.1 billion people — 18% of humanity — live below the World Bank's $2/day poverty line while the Canadian government provides farmers with $3/day per animal for cattle feed. So the food we consume, is eating better than the people in developing countries. Is this distribution of wealth and other goods just? What is the root cause of poverty, and are there systemic injustices in the world economy? Do the rich have an obligation to help the poor, or is aid a matter of charity, and therefore admirable but not morally required? If the poor should be helped, how much help is required — just enough that they can meet their basic needs, enough that they can flourish as humans, or until they are no longer worse off than the rich?
What institutions – states, communes, federal entities, global financial institutions like the World Bank, international NGOs, multinational corporations, international courts, a world state – would best achieve the ideal of global justice? How might they gain our support, and whose responsibility is it to create and sustain such institutions? How free should movement between the jurisdictions of different territorial entities be?
Minimum criteria of global justice
Philosopher Nayef Al-Rodhan argues in his 2009 book, Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man: A Philosophy of History and Civilisational Triumph, that human well-being is dependent on the preservation and promotion of human dignity and that human dignity is directly linked to global justice. In order to achieve global justice, eight minimum criteria must be met. These are 1) dialogue, 2) effective and representative multilateral institutions, 3) representative decision-making structures, 4) fair treatment, 5) empathy, 6) accountability, 7) transparency, and 8) adherence to international law. Because interconnectedness between peoples and geo-cultural domains is becoming increasingly common, Al-Rodhan maintains that the fate of one geo-cultural domain will affect the fate of others. Justice is central to human dignity, individual geo-cultural triumph, and the overall well-being of human civilization. Thus, according to Al-Rodhan, meeting the minimum criteria of global justice is a prerequisite to the triumph of human civilization.
Global justice is the paramount to global security, because injustice can lead to feelings of anger, humiliation, and alienation, which can undermine human dignity. Al-Rodhan argues that humans are primarily driven by emotional self-interest and that protecting humans’ emotional needs is fundamental to human well-being and human dignity. When people feel that they have been the victim of unjust decisions, they may try and seek justice by less conventional means such as violence. This, in turn, can promote insecurity. Therefore, justice and not just military power, is essential to maintaining global security. Some obstacles might however arise. Al-Rodhan identifies the disparity in power that exists between states in the current global order as a major obstacle in achieving global justice. Calls for greater global justice are thus likely to continue from disadvantaged societies because they often feel that they are unjustly subjected to the rules set by more powerful players. However, dominant states that benefit from the current status quo are unlikely to want to alter established institutions or governance structures.
Al-Rodhan therefore recommends that fairness[disambiguation needed] in terms of the participants in dialogue is a prerequisite for the promotion of universal justice. Similarly, he argues that diplomacy must be based on openness to hearing and acknowledging the concerns and positions of others. Empathy and an acknowledgement of the grievances and past pains of others are crucial, as is giving all stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process. Finally, Al-Rodhan argues that all states, no matter how powerful, must be bound by international law and its obligations.
Five main positions — realism, particularism, nationalism, the society of states tradition, and cosmopolitanism (in two forms) — have been taken by contributors to the global justice debate.
Realists, such as Charles Yeo, Hashim Tilab argue that there are no global ethical standards, and that to imagine that there are is a dangerous fantasy. States are the main actors in an international anarchy, and they either will or should always attempt to act rationally in their own interests. So, in response to the three central questions above: moral universalism is either false, or merely says that nothing is forbidden to any state in pursuit of its interests. There is no obligation to help the poor, unless doing so helps to further a state’s strategic aims. And the state system is taken as the fundamental and unchallengeable global institutional arrangement.
Particularists, such as Michael Walzer and James Tully, argue that ethical standards arise out of shared meanings and practices, which are created and sustained by discrete cultures or societies. Moral and social criticism is possible within the boundaries of such groups, but not across them. If a society is egalitarian, for instance, its citizens can be morally wrong, and can meaningfully criticise each other, if they do not live up to their own egalitarian ideals; but they cannot meaningfully criticise another, caste-based society in the name of those ideals. "A given society is just if its substantive life is lived in a certain way — that is, in a way faithful to the shared understandings of [its] members." It is unjust if not. Each society has its own, different standards, and only those inside it are bound by those standards and can properly criticise themselves. So, moral universalism is false, because objective ethical standards vary between cultures or societies. We should not apply the same criteria of distributive justice to strangers as we would to compatriots. Nation-states that express their peoples' shared and distinctive ethical understandings are the proper institutions to enable local and different justices.
Nationalists, such as David Miller and Yael Tamir, argue that demanding mutual obligations are created by a particular kind of valuable association, the nation. We may have humanitarian duties to aid the particularly badly off worldwide, but these are much less stringent and pressing than our duties to our fellow-citizens. Nationalism has traditionally included this assumption of differing moral obligations to those within and those outside the nation, reflected for example in the fact that the benefits of the welfare state are not available to citizens of other countries. So, moral universalism is too simple, because the ethical standards that apply between compatriots differ from those that apply between strangers (although some nationalists argue for the universal ethical standard that nations should have their own states). Distributive justice is an issue within nations but not necessarily between them. And a world-system of nation-states is the appropriate organiser of justice for all, in their distinct associational groups.
Society of states
In the society of states tradition, states are seen as individual entities that can mutually agree on common interests and rules of interaction, including moral rules, in much the same way as human individuals can. Often, this idea of agreement between peers is formalised by a social contract argument.
One prominent exemplar of the tradition is John Rawls. In The Law of Peoples, Rawls extends the method of his A Theory of Justice to the question of global justice. His argument is that we can justify a global regime by showing that it would be chosen by representatives of Peoples in an imagined original position, which prevents them knowing which particular People they represent. This decision-in-ignorance models fairness because it excludes selfish bias. When Rawls applied this method in the case of domestic justice, with parties in the original position representing individual members of a single society, he argued that it supported a redistributive, egalitarian liberal politics. In contrast, Rawls argues that when his method is applied to global justice, it supports a quite traditional, Kantian international ethics: duties of states to obey treaties and strict limits on warmaking, but no global repossession of private property. So, different justices apply to the domestic and international cases. Even if justice requires egalitarianism within states, it does not do so between them. And a system of cooperating but independent states is the just global institutional arrangement. Rawls describes this ideal as a 'realistic utopia'. Apart from Rawls, other notable exponents of this position include Hedley Bull.
Cosmopolitans argue that some form of moral universalism is true, and therefore that all humans, and not merely compatriots or fellow-citizens, fall within the scope of justice. Their arguments typically appeal to consistency, as follows:
- The moral standing of individuals is based on some morally significant characteristics.
- These characteristics are shared by all humans (and not only by the members of some nation, culture, society, or state).
- Therefore, all humans have moral standing (and the boundaries between nations, cultures, societies and states are morally irrelevant).
Cosmopolitans differ, however, over which shared human characteristics are morally significant.
Consequentialist cosmopolitans, amongst whom Peter Singer is prominent, argue that the proper standard of moral judgement for actions, practices or institutions is their consequences, and that the measure of consequences is the welfare of humans (or even of all sentient creatures). The capacity to experience welfare and suffering is therefore the shared basis for moral standing. This means that the fact that some people are suffering terrible deprivations of welfare, caused by poverty, creates a moral demand that anyone who is able to help them do so. Neither the physical distance between the rich and the poor, nor the fact that they are typically citizens of different countries, has any moral relevance.
Human rights defenders of cosmopolitanism, such as Thomas Pogge and Simon Caney, argue that all humans have rights, perhaps those set out in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It may be argued that these rights create a positive duty of the rich to provide what they guarantee (security, a livelihood, etc.); or, alternatively, it may be argued that the rich are currently violating their negative duty not to impose a global order that systematically violates rights of the poor.
Others defend neoconservative interventionist foreign policy from a view of cosmopolitanism for the added benefits to human rights that such intervention could bring. Some defended the 2003 invasion of Iraq from this motive due to the human rights abuses Saddam had inflicted on countless members of the Kurdish and Shiite communities.
Individual cosmopolitans also differ considerably in how they understand the requirements of distributive justice and the legitimacy of global institutions. Some, for instance Kai Nielsen, endorse world government; others, such as Simon Caney, do not. The extent to which cosmopolitans advocate global redistribution of resources also varies. All cosmopolitans, however, believe that individuals, and not states, nations, or other groups, are the ultimate focus of universal moral standards.
Demands of global justice
None of the five main positions described above imply complete satisfaction with the current world order. Realists complain that states that pursue utopian moral visions through intervention and humanitarian aid, instead of minding their own strategic interests, do their subjects harm and destabilise the international system. Particularists object to the destruction of traditional cultures by cultural colonialism, whether under the guise of economic liberalism or defence of human rights. Nationalists deplore the fact that so many people are stateless or live under inefficient and tyrannical regimes. Advocates of the society of states are concerned about rogue states and about the imperial ambitions of the powerful. Cosmopolitans believe that the contemporary world badly fails to live up to their standards, and that doing so would require considerable changes in the actions of wealthy individuals and states. It might, for instance, require them to transfer most of their wealth to the poor. It might require the building of international institutions able to limit, or even replace, the self-interested action of powerful states and corporations. It might require each of us to do much more than most now do.
- Democratic globalization
- Democratic World Federalists
- European Social Forum | World Social Forum
- Global civics
- Global citizenship
- Global Justice (organization)
- Global justice movement
- Human rights defender
- Just War
- Movement of Movements
- Rule According to Higher Law
- Rule of law
- Diogenes Laertius, 'Life of Diogenes' in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers trans. C.D. Yonge. , accessed 8 August 2006.
- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice ed. Isaac Kramnick. London: Penguin, 1976 .
- Martin Van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State. Cambridge: CUP, 1999.
- Simon Caney, Justice Beyond Borders. Oxford: OUP, 2006. p. 1.
- David Held, 'The Transformation of Political Community' in Ian Shapiro ed., Democracy's Edges. Cambridge: CUP, 1999: 84-111.
- Onora O'Neill, 'Transnational Economic Justice' in Bounds of Justice. Cambridge: CUP, 2000: 115-42.
- Xavier Sala-i-martin, nber.org
- Al-Rodhan, Nayef R.F., Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man: A Philosophy of History and Civilisational Triumph, LIT, 2009.
- Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books, 1983. p. 313.
- "Social Science Research Network (SSRN)". Papers.ssrn.com. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- David Miller, On Nationality. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
- John Rawls, The Law of Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. p. 4.
- Caney, Justice Beyond Borders, Chapter 2.
- Peter Singer ‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1(1972): 229-243. Online version listed under External links.
- Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights.
- for instance E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis 1919-1939. London: Macmillan, 1961.
- for instance James Tully, Strange Multiplicity. Cambridge: CUP, 1995.
- for instance Miller, On Nationality.
- for instance Rawls, The Law of Peoples.
- for instance Caney, Justice Beyond Borders.
- Brian Barry, Culture and Equality. Cambridge: Polity, 2001. ISBN 0-7456-2227-5.
- Gad Barzilai, Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-11315-1
- Charles Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations. Revised edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-691-00915-5.
- Duncan Bell (ed.) 2010. Ethics and World Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Michael Blake. 2001. “Distributive Justice, State Coercion, and Autonomy.” Philosophy and Public Affairs. Vol. 30, No. 3. 257-296.
- Charles Blattberg. 2012. "We Are All Compatriots," in Will Kymlicka and Kathryn Walker, eds., Rooted Cosmopolitanism. Vancouver: UBC Press.
- Gillian Brock. 2005. “Egalitarianism, Ideals, and Cosmopolitan Justice.” The Philosophical Forum. Vol. 36, No. 1: 1-30.
- Allen Buchanan. 2004. Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-determination: Moral Foundations for International Law. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
- Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society. London: Macmillan, 1977. ISBN 0-333-19914-6.
- Simon Caney, Justice Beyond Borders. Oxford: OUP, 2005. ISBN 0-19-829350-X.
- Stephen M. Gardiner. 2004. “Ethics and Global Climate Change.” Ethics. Vol. 114: 555–600.
- Nicole Hassoun. 2008a. “World Poverty and Individual Freedom.” American Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. 45, No. 2: 191-198.
- Andrew Hurrell. 2001. “Global Inequality and International Institutions.” Global Justice. Thomas Pogge ed. Meta-philosophy Series in Philosophy A.T. Maroobian and Brian Huschle eds. Blackwell Publishing: Oxford.
- Dale Jamieson. 2005. “Adaptation, Mitigation, and Justice.” Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, Ethics. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Richard Howarth eds. Advances in the Economics of Environmental Resources. Vol. 5. Elsevier: New York.
- Chandran Kukathas. 2003. The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
- Hans Köchler, Global Justice or Global Revenge? International Criminal Justice at the Crossroads. Vienna / New York: 2003. ISBN 3-211-00795-4.
- Darrell Moellendorf. 2005. “World Trade Organization and Egalitarian Justice.” Metaphilosophy. Vol. 36, Nos. 1/2: 0026-1068.*
- David Miller, On Nationality. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995. ISBN 0-19-828047-5.
- Richard Miller. 1998. “Cosmopolitan Respect and Patriotic Concern.” Philosophy and Public Affairs. Vol. 27, No. 3. 202-224.
- Gelder, Melinda, Meeting the Enemy, Becoming a Friend. Boulder: Bauu Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9721349-5-6.
- Terry Nardin, Law, Morality and the Relations of States. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.
- Terry Nardin & David Mapel, Traditions of International Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
- Martha Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-674-01917-2.
- Onora O'Neill, Bounds of Justice. Cambridge: CUP, 2000. ISBN 0-521-44232-X.
- Geoffrey Pleyers, Alter-Globalization. Becoming Actors in the Global Age. Cambridge: Polity, 2011. ISBN 0-7456-4675-6
- Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity, 2002. ISBN 0-7456-2994-6.
- John Rawls, The Law of Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-674-00079-X.
- Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom. Oxford: OUP, 1999. ISBN 0-19-829758-0.
- Peter Singer, One World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09686-0.
- Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-691-07893-9.
- Dennis F. Thompson, "Democratic Theory and Global Society," Journal of Political Philosophy 7:2 (June 1999), 111-125.
- James Tully, Strange Multiplicity. Cambridge: CUP, 1995. ISBN 0-521-47117-6.
- Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979. ISBN 0-201-08349-3.
- Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books, 1983. ISBN 0-465-08190-8.
- Botiagne Marc Essis (2010) (in German), Die deutsche Afrikapolitik seit 1990 im Lichte des Kosmopolitismus. Unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Elfenbeinküste, Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovac, ISBN 978-3-8300-4898-5
- Global Justice Academy University of Edinburgh
- What Is Global Justice? by Jay Milbrandt
- Global Justice Program at Pepperdine University School of Law
- Www.GlobalYouthJustice.org Global Justice Website on Teen Court, Youth Court, Peer Court and Student Court.
- The Problem of Global Justice by Thomas Nagel (pdf)
- Justice for the World - Human Rights Awareness
- Global Justice: Beyond International Equity by Amartya Sen
- Famine, Affluence, and Morality by Peter Singer
- Global Justice and Ideals by Janna Thompson (pdf)
- MIT global justice reading list and lecture notes
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on international justice by Michael Blake