What Does Global Justice Require of Us?
One of the central debates in global justice scholarship concerns who we owe obligations of justice to. Some political philosophers (e.g., Rawls or Dworkin) argue that principles of justice only “apply within the boundaries of a sovereign state” (Nagel 2005: 121-2). If correct, this would mean that issues of global poverty, disproportionate global resource distribution, effects of climate change and transnational environmental disasters, civil wars and genocidal violence, the exodus of refugees, and so forth, all fall beyond the purview of justice. While we may have certain weaker responsibilities to foreigners, this perspective implies that we commit no injustice, for instance, by failing to help those in other nations who need our assistance, or by perpetuating some status quo that disadvantages some people in other countries (e.g., contributing to the current global trade in electronic waste).
Those who deny this (e.g., Caney, Nagel, Young) maintain to the contrary that the geopolitical boundaries of nations do not constrain our obligations of justice. According to this “cosmopolitan” perspective, we have duties to foreigners around the globe, and when we fail to show foreigners the regard we owe our fellow citizens, we do them wrong—we commit an injustice. This is to say, for instance, that to help those in other nations who need our assistance, or to eliminate some status quo that disadvantages some people in other countries, is not a matter of charity or benevolence or choice: it is our obligation.
In thinking about this divide in the literature, do you agree with Nagel’s claim that “Justice as ordinarily understood requires more than mere humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need, and injustice can exist without anyone being on the verge of starvation” (Nagel 2005: 118)? Why or why not? What would you say global justice requires of us? In answering this question, you must discuss one real-world example that illustrates your conclusion.
PLEASE NOTE: with these sorts of normative questions that we’ll be engaging throughout the semester, where there is no clear right or wrong answer, you must do more than merely state your opinion. This would fundamentally fail to satisfy the expectations of these thesis-driven and evidence-based writing assignments. Your task is to take a stand on the issue and to defend this position by writing an educated and informed response, incorporating specific ideas from the readings that support your thesis.