Cosmopolitan Regard: Political Membership and Global Justice (Contemporary Political Theory)

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Conceptually, it was an argument that the principle of utility in the tradition of Jeremy Bentham and J. Mill transcends borders, since national borders artificially divide the sites of pleasure and pain that human beings host and that make them ethically relevant. Suffering, that is, is to be remediated wherever it takes place.

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In fact, however, Singer was widely understood to be marshalling utilitarianism for the sake of the most destitute caught up in natural and human disaster. At the opening of the article, he invoked the million dead owing to the cyclone and the secession conflict what had become Bangladesh just before. And just after, in , it gave Singer's call traction that there occurred a disastrous and much-discussed "world food crisis. In the eyes of his contemporaries, Singer's goal was to motivate better philanthropy in the face of the worst calamity and penury - a campaign Singer has never since dropped.

The other tradition scaled up John Rawls's "difference principle," calling for egalitarian distribution to fellow members of a common structure, as if human beings really were fellow citizens of a common political space. Where Rawls had thought of this "basic structure" as occurring in a series of self-sufficient states, young Princeton graduate student Charles Beitz offered a series of arguments - first in an equally classic entry also in Philosophy and Public Affairs - that Rawls had erred and egalitarian justice ought to apply worldwide.

As celebrated philosopher Thomas Nagel immediately observed , where Singer had directed his attention to the worst destitution, "charity is not enough" since "the ethical aspects" of the hunger are - as Beitz had now argued - simply "part of the general problem of global economic inequality. Spiking in prominence precisely in the years of the world food crisis, the NIEO introduced the claim that morality required global egalitarian justice - a kind of worldwide welfare state.

With roots further back in the s, the epoch-making Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order was propounded at a special session of the UN General Assembly in the spring of With the intervening oil shock of late fresh in the mind, the developed world suddenly paid extraordinary attention to the Third World's call for economic self-determination through nationalization of companies extracting natural resources if necessary , fearing a general spike of commodity prices potentially now under the control of the nations to the south.

As for the NIEO's even bolder call to "correct inequalities and redress existing injustices, making it possible to eliminate the widening gap between all the developed and the developing countries," both politicians and academics responded with fascination and worry. Payment Methods accepted by seller. AbeBooks Bookseller Since: February 25, Stock Image.

Published by Cambridge University Press. Save for Later. About this Item About this title Synopsis: Cosmopolitan theory suggests that we should shift our moral attention from the local to the global.

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Store Description Independent Bookstores since Visit Seller's Storefront Association Member. Terms of Sale: All items subject to prior sale. Rawls has not shown that recognizing the liberal rights of all persons would necessarily do great harm to the reasonable self-respect of particular peoples. Rawls considers the objection that, because decent nonliberal societies are not egalitarian, they should not be entitled to equal representation. In response, he maintains, reasonably enough, that this is on its face a non sequitur , given that we treat groups with different organizational patterns churches, say, or universities as equal for certain purposes.

It is worth asking, therefore, whether there might be other, more persuasive arguments which he might understand as providing a more secure foundation for his peoples-based model. I argue both that a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples would not require a world government and that such a government need not, in any case, be objectionable for the reasons Rawls believes it would be. Perhaps a Rawlsian Law of Peoples could achieve legitimacy, while a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could not; I suggest, however, that a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could achieve Rawlsian legitimacy and that its binding character does not depend, in any case, on its Rawlsian legitimacy.

I suggest, by contrast, that a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could, indeed, ground a fair system of global cooperation and that, even if no such system of cooperation existed, Rawls seems to hold views which imply that a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could still bind the actions of governments and individuals. Responding to this fifth argument, I note that resources can be appropriately protected, if necessary, even if all persons are treated as equal and morally basic for purposes of identifying an appropriate global political morality.

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Perhaps in A Theory of Justice Rawls simply takes the equality of states, and the appropriateness of a Rawlsian Law of Peoples, for granted, despite the direct and indirect conflicts between this position and the commitment to the equality of persons that grounds his account of domestic justice. It is also possible, however, that Rawls regards rooting the Law of Peoples in a social contract framed by individual deliberators as implying or necessitating the existence of a putatively undesirable world government.


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Rawls says he. A just world order is [thus] perhaps best seen as a society of peoples, each people maintaining a well-ordered and decent political domestic regime.

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Unlike Rawls, I believe a stable, democratic world government is a reasonable possibility. He provides no sustained argument for the view that such a government would become a despotism or collapse into anarchy. Kant simply says that. For the wider the sphere of their jurisdiction, the more laws lose in force; and soulless despotism, when it has choked the seeds of good, at last sinks into anarchy. Such a government would, indeed, confront regular challenges to its authority from oppressed regions and minority groups.

Given the scale of its operations, a world government rooted in conquest might well have difficulty maintaining despotic control over the entire planet; breakaways and civil conflicts might well be common. Provided that a global regime was truly democratic and inclusive and that it provided substantial opportunities for participation in decision-making by all citizens, it could evoke sufficient loyalty to remain stable.

Provided that ample opportunities were available for popular oversight of policy-making and implementation and that limits on the concentration of power were institutionalized, a democratic world government need not become a despotism. On a broadly Rawlsian view, the principles of justice for a world government would presumably be those that would be framed by individual deliberators. The creation of a global government committed to justice as fairness strikes me as appealing and worth pursuing. But the appropriateness of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples does not turn on the attractiveness or viability of the goal of a unitary democratic world government committed to justice as fairness.

Suppose Kant and Rawls are right that the idea of a world government is non-viable.

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Nothing follows at all regarding the status of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples. Indeed, the viability of a world government would affect the appropriateness of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples in only two cases: 1 if we assumed that individual deliberators would necessarily opt for a world government, or 2 if the idea of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples were reasonable only on the assumption that a world government existed.

Neither assumption is plausible. No more than their domestic counterparts would individual global deliberators rest content with an unfair concentration of wealth in the hands of some peoples. They would doubtless opt for extensive human rights protections.


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If the sorts of reasons Kant, Rawls, and others have found persuasive convinced global deliberators that such a government was undesirable, they would opt against it; there is no artificial feature of a cosmopolitan original position that would require them to opt for a unitary world government. If such a government proved either non-viable or unattractive, they clearly would not judge that justice required its creation. I believe that there is nothing inherently troubling about the idea of a world government and that there is a great deal that is attractive. But whether I am right or wrong is irrelevant to the appropriateness of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples, which would endorse the existence of separate peoples if expediency or justice so required.

And a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could enjoy public justification and legitimacy and ground a fair system of cooperation in the absence of a world government.

My subsequent analyses of arguments related to public justification and a Society of Peoples as a fair system of cooperation will show why. After completing A Theory of Justice , Rawls came increasingly to focus on stability for the right reasons and related ideas, including the notion of an overlapping consensus and the requirement of public justification , as essential features of a theory of domestic justice. His growing perception of the importance of these ideas may have played a role in motivating his decision to opt against a cosmopolitan original position.

He might seek to argue that a global order grounded in a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples could not be publicly justified and would not enjoy the support of an overlapping consensus of reasonable comprehensive doctrines. It might, indeed, be publicly justified, either because an overlapping consensus already exists or could emerge.

Rawls does not appear, in any case, to regard public justification as essential to the validity of basic norms of political morality like those that would form the core of a cosmopolitan Law of Peoples. It would therefore be difficult for him to claim that lack of public justification deprived such a Law of Peoples of legitimacy. On this basis, he advanced an alternate account of the stability of a society committed to justice as fairness.

A politically liberal society whose institutions are framed in accordance with norms endorsed in the first original position would be stable, for Rawls, for two reasons. First, people raised in a society endorsing such norms would tend to develop, and would have good reason to develop, the sense that institutions consistent with these norms were fair.

Second, a reasonable citizen in a liberal society would tend to support the norms created in the first original position on the basis of the reasonable comprehensive doctrine to which she adhered. Rawls maintains that justice as fairness is not a comprehensive moral vision but only a reasonable political morality. He intends his theory to be compatible with a wide range of alternative comprehensive doctrines. It is not meant to compete with such doctrines for popular allegiance. Justice as fairness can therefore enjoy stable support even within a highly diverse society.

The stability of justice as fairness depends on the existence of an overlapping consensus of comprehensive doctrines. While representatives of diverse comprehensive doctrines might have very different reasons for regarding social institutions shaped by justice as fairness as reasonable, their respective doctrines might give each of them reason to view such institutions as deserving their support.