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Global Justice: Between Leviathan and Cosmopolis




A comprehensive ideal of global justice is not yet theoretically justifiable: nonetheless, it does not deserve the scepticism :(commonly expressed by) many statists express towards it. To create a kind of continuity between global justice –‘Cosmopolis’– and interstate justice –‘Leviathan’– a third, ‘Liberal’ option is proposed. The statist argument is presented through a discussion of Thomas Nagel’s position on global justice. The cosmopolitan argument is presented through a discussion of Amartya Sen’s overall vision of justice. The liberal view, modeled on Rawls’ political philosophy, “proposes” that the right cannot consist in a mere realization of the good. Liberals that respect the ‘priority of right’ believe that morality has to be different from politics. By bypassing institutionalism through moralism, cosmopolitans contradict the priority of the right. Contrary to cosmopolitans, the author maintains that the only moral source of global justice compatible with the priority of the right consists in a duty to protect life in case of ‘urgency’. This duty is not purely humanitarian – as statists would have it – and captures the ethical appeal of cosmopolitanism.

Policy Implications

  •  The core problem of global justice is the lack of basic rights to security and subsistence. As such, obligations derived from the duty of justice based on urgency are binding.
  •  The duty of justice can be interpreted through the positions of statism or cosmopolitanism.
  •  The distinction between cosmopolitanism and statism is not only interesting from the point of view of political philosophy but also has a significant tradition within the context of international law and the interpretation of its main sources. While the UN Charter has a generally statist approach, (starting with) Article 2 (that strongly defends) the territorial integrity of states is strongly depended the discipline compromising humanitarian law as introduced in and human rights is largely inspired by cosmopolitanism.
  •  Taking the middle ground between statism and cosmopolitanism into account, based on Rawls’ central idea of the ‘priority of right’, global politics requires more demanding norms than those dictated by humanitarianism. However, global politics of a less demanding type than the ones recommended by a cosmopolitan egalitarian approach.
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