Beyond cosmopolitanism: towards a non-ideal account of transnational justice

Cosmopolitanism in normative theory of transnational justice is often characterized by the thesis that the moral and legal status of states must be entirely derived from the moral status of the individuals who constitute them. Although the thesis itself is rather indeterminate in substantive and analytical content, it is generally understood as the claim that states should not be granted the status of moral and legal agents sui generis. This article argues that such a view is analytically and methodologically misleading, and that any fruitful approach towards a liberal theory of transnational justice must face the challenge of coming up with a more complex concept of statehood, and acknowledge that in international relations and international law states are collective moral agents in their own right that can be addressees of genuinely collective forms responsibility. The argument starts with a critical examinations of two common interpretations of the cosmopolitan thesis, a reductivist reading, which suggests that we can reduce the moral and legal status of states to the rights and duties of the individuals (section I), and a methodological reading, which suggests that the moral status of individuals must based on the acknowledgment of “universal” individual rights (section II). For different reasons, both readings are argued to fail. Section III then presents an outline of how to conceive of states as agents that possess moral and legal status sui generis and be addressees of collective responsibility. Keywords : cosmopolitanism, statism, ethical individualism, methodological individualism, collective agents, collective responsibility (Published online: 25 August, 2008) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics 2008. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v1i3.1859
Keywords Collective agents  Ethical individualism  Statism  Methodological individualism  Collective responsibility  Cosmopolitanism
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DOI 10.3402/egp.v1i3.1859
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