Universal Duty and Global Justice

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This paper was discussed at the Global Justice workshop on December 15, 2006.

Excerpt from page four of Sebastiano Maffettone's "Universal Duty and Global Justice":

We could uphold that, as a rule, cosmopolitans subscribe to the global distributive justice model, reducing the socio-economic rights to a corollary of their theorems on justice. Statists, instead, always as a rule, fully reject the idea of a global distributive justice and, sometimes, even the possibility that the socio-economic human rights might have considerable soundness and effectiveness. In short, this third option of mine recognizes that, in this historical time, a comprehensive ideal of global distributive justice - founded on the domestic distributive justice model - is not yet theoretically justifiable, although it entails a lower degree of skepticism that the statist thesis about its progressive establishment. However, my thesis dwells above all on the fact that a broad and convinced interpretation of socio-economic rights may do much to lessen social injustice in today's globalized world, being sufficientist in the way above defined, starting from a reduction of extreme poverty and, over time, enabling peoples to decide their fate. It may be affirmed that this thesis, moving our attention from relative inequality to radical deprivations, is based on a more modest ideal than global equality, an ideal inspired to 'weak global distributive justice.'

In my opinion, this intermediate option meets another requirement of some significance, at least for a political theorist with a liberal background. Cosmopolitans have a propensity for a radical moralization of international politics, whose institutions are considered at the service of their favorite moral ideals. Statists, on the contrary, tend to cut to a minimum the space of morals in international politics. I believe that, for a liberal, both positions should prove scarcely convincing. This is the reason why I have called this third position of mine - based on a weak ideal of global justice and being neither moralistic nor skeptical - 'liberal conception.'

About the Author

Sebastiano Maffettone is professor of political philosophy at Luiss University, Rome. He specializes in political philosophy, ethics, bioethics, business ethics, philosophy of international relations, environmental ethics, metaphysics and epistemology, history of philosophy, and analytic and continental philosophy.

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