|Abstract||Critical response to John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples has been surprisingly harsh.1 Most of the complaints center upon Rawls’ claim that there are no obligations of distributive justice among nations. Many of Rawls’s critics evidently had been hoping for a global application of the difference principle, so that wealthier nations would be bound to assign lexical priority to the development of the poorest nations, or perhaps the primary goods endowment of the poorest citizens of any nation. Their subsequent disappointment reveals that, while the reception of Rawls’s political philosophy has been very broad, it has not been especially deep. Rawls has very good reason for denying that there are obligations of distributive justice in an international context. A global application of the difference principle would have been in tension with a number of very central features of his political philosophy. There is a sense in which Rawls’s claims about distributive justice, in The Law of Peoples, are under-argued. But this is primarily because they follow almost immediately from more fundamental commitments that he has adopted over the years: the idea of the basic structure as subject, the requirement that conceptions of justice be freestanding, the status that is assigned to the principle of efficiency, not to mention the overall pragmatism that informs his project. By drawing upon these themes in Rawls’ work, I will try to show that one cannot deny the view of international relations outlined in The Law of Peoples without rejecting Rawls’s approach to political philosophy as a whole (in all contexts, including the domestic one).|
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