What should our theorizing about social justice aim at? Many political philosophers think that a crucial goal is to identify a perfectly just society. Amartya Sen disagrees. In The Idea of Justice, he argues that the proper goal of an inquiry about justice is to undertake comparative assessments of feasible social scenarios in order to identify reforms that involve justice-enhancement, or injustice-reduction, even if the results fall short of perfect justice. Sen calls this the “comparative approach” to the theory of (...) justice. He urges its adoption on the basis of a sustained critique of the former approach, which he calls “transcendental.” In this paper I pursue two tasks, one critical and the other constructive. First, I argue that Sen’s account of the contrast between the transcendental and the comparative approaches is not convincing, and second, I suggest what I take to be a broader and more plausible account of comparative assessments of justice. The core claim is that political philosophers should not shy away from the pursuit of ambitious theories of justice (including, for example, ideal theories of perfect justice), although they should engage in careful consideration of issues of political feasibility bearing on their practical implementation. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- Acknowledgments -- 1. Introduction: The complexity of the debate on global justice -- Part I: Beyond Global Poverty -- 2. Basic positive duties of justice: A contractualist defense -- 3. Negative duties and the libertarian challenge -- 4. The feasibility of global poverty eradication in nonideal circumstances -- Part II: Toward Global Equality -- 5. Humanist versus associativist accounts of global equality -- 6. A humanist defense of global equality -- 7. The feasibility of global (...) equality -- 8. Conclusion: Exploring responsibilities of global justice -- Bibliography -- Index. (shrink)
To be justifiable, the demands of a conception of human rights and global justice must be such that (a) they focus on the protection of important human interests, and (b) their fulfilment is feasible. I discuss the feasibility condition. I present a general account of the relation between moral desirability, feasibility and obligation within a conception of justice. I analyse feasibility, a complex idea including different types, domains and degrees. It is possible to respond in various ways if the fulfilment (...) of basic socioeconomic human rights against severe poverty seems at first to be infeasible. (shrink)
This essay explores the relation between two perspectives on the nature of human rights. According to the "political" or "practical" perspective, human rights are claims that individuals have against certain institutional structures, in particular modern states, in virtue of interests they have in contexts that include them. According to the more traditional "humanist" or "naturalistic" perspective, human rights are pre-institutional claims that individuals have against all other individuals in virtue of interests characteristic of their common humanity. This essay argues that (...) once we identify the two perspectives in their best light, we can see that they are complementary and that in fact we need both to make good normative sense of the contemporary practice of human rights. It explains how humanist and political considerations can and should work in tandem to account for the concept, content, and justification of human rights. (shrink)
It is common in political theory and practice to challenge normatively ambitious proposals by saying that their fulfillment is not feasible. But there has been insufficient conceptual exploration of what feasibility is, and very little substantive inquiry into why and how it matters for thinking about social justice. This paper provides one of the first systematic treatments of these issues, and proposes a dynamic approach to the relation between justice and feasibility that illuminates the importance of political imagination and dynamic (...) duties to expand agents’ power to fulfill ambitious principles of justice. (shrink)
This paper explores the connections between human rights, human dignity, and power. The idea of human dignity is omnipresent in human rights discourse, but its meaning and point is not always clear. It is standardly used in two ways, to refer to a normative status of persons that makes their treatment in terms of human rights a proper response, and a social condition of persons in which their human rights are fulfilled. This paper pursues three tasks. First, it provides an (...) analysis of the content and an interpretation of the role of the idea of human dignity in current human rights discourse. The interpretation includes a pluralist view of human interests and dignity that avoids a narrow focus on rational agency. Second, this paper characterizes the two aspects of human dignity in terms of capabilities. Certain general human capabilities are among the facts that ground status-dignity, and the presence of certain more specific capabilities constitutes condition-dignity. Finally, this paper explores how the pursuit of human rights and human dignity links to distributions and uses of power. Since capabilities are a form of power, and human rights are in part aimed at respecting and promoting capabilities, human rights involve empowerment. Exploring the connections between human rights, capabilities, and empowerment provides resources to defend controversial human rights such as the right to democratic political participation, and to respond to worries about the feasibility of their fulfillment. This paper also argues that empowerment must be coupled with solidaristic concern in order to respond to unavoidable facts of social dependency and vulnerability. (shrink)
The conditional analysis of ability faces familiar counterexamples involving cases of volitional incapacity. An interesting response to the problem of volitional incapacity is to try to explain away the responses elicited by such counterexamples by distinguishing between what we are able to do and what we are able to bring ourselves to do. We argue that this error-theoretic response fails. Either it succeeds in solving the problem of volitional incapacity at the cost of making the conditional analysis vulnerable to obvious (...) counterexamples to its necessity. Or, it avoids the counterexamples to its necessity but fails to solve the problem of volitional incapacity. (shrink)
Are positive duties to help others in need mere informal duties of virtue or can they also be enforceable duties of justice? In this paper I defend the claim that some positive duties (which I call basic positive duties) can be duties of justice against one of the most important prin- cipled objections to it. This is the libertarian challenge, according to which only negative duties to avoid harming others can be duties of justice, whereas positive duties (basic or nonbasic) (...) must be seen, at best, as informal moral requirements or recommendations. I focus on the contractarian version of the libertarian challenge as recently presented by Jan Narveson. I claim that Narveson’s contractarian construal of libertarianism is not only intuitively weak, but is also subject to decisive internal problems. I argue, in particular, that it does not pro- vide a clear rationale for distinguishing between informal duties of virtue and enforceable duties of justice, that it can neither successfully justify libertarianism’s protection of negative rights nor its denial of positive ones, and that it fails to undermine the claim that basic positive duties are duties of global justice. -/- . (shrink)
What is a duty of justice? And how is it different from a duty of beneficence? We need a clear account of the contrast. Unfortunately, there is no consensus in the philosophical literature as to how to characterize it. Different articulations of it have been provided, but it is hard to identify a common core that is invariant across them. In this paper, I propose an account of how to understand duties of justice, explain how it contrasts with several proposals (...) as to how to distinguish justice and beneficence, respond to some objections and suggest further elaborations of it. The conceptual exploration pursued in this paper has practical stakes. A central aim is to propose and defend a capacious concept of justice that makes a direct discussion of important demands of justice (domestic and global) possible. Duties of justice can be positive besides negative, they can be imperfect as well as perfect, they can range over personal besides institutional contexts, they can include multiple associative reasons such us non-domination, non-exploitation and reciprocity, and they can even go beyond existing national, political, and economic associative frameworks to embrace strictly universal humanist concerns. We should reject ideological abridgments of the concept of justice that render these possibilities, and the important human interests and claims they may foster, invisible. (shrink)
In World Poverty and Human Rights, Thomas Pogge argues that the global rich have a duty to eradicate severe poverty in the world. The novelty of Pogges approach is to present this demand as stemming from basic commands which are negative rather than positive in nature: the global rich have an obligation to eradicate the radical poverty of the global poor not because of a norm of beneficence asking them to help those in need when they can at little cost (...) to themselves, but because of their having violated a principle of justice not to unduly harm others by imposing on them a coercive global order that makes their access to the objects of their human right to subsistence insecure. In this paper, I claim that although Pogge is right in arguing that negative duties are crucial in an account of global justice, he is wrong in saying that they are the only ones that are crucial. Harming the global poor by causing their poverty provides a sufficient but not a necessary condition for the global rich to have a duty of justice to assist them. After engaging in a critical analysis of Pogges argument, I conclude by suggesting the need for a robust conception of cosmopolitan solidarity that includes positive duties of assistance which are not mere duties of charity, but enforceable ones of justice. (shrink)
Michael Blake claims that liberal principles ground egalitarian distribution domestically but not globally. This paper raises some worries about these claims. It challenges the argument for domestic distributive equality based on a concern for autonomy, noting that a broader concern for wellbeing is required. And it suggests that a concern for everyone’s autonomy and wellbeing supports the progressive pursuit of global distributive equality rather than only the pursuit of global sufficiency.
This paper offers an exploration of the socialist principle “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” The Abilities/Needs Principle is arguably the ethical heart of socialism but, surprisingly, has received almost no attention by political philosophers. I propose an interpretation of the principle and argue that it involves appealing ideas of solidarity, fair reciprocity, recognition of individual differences, and meaningful work. The paper proceeds as follows. First, I analyze Marx’s formulation of the Abilities/Needs Principle. Second, (...) I identify the principle’s initial plausibility, but show that it faces serious problems that cannot be addressed without developing a fresh interpretation of it. Third, I provide an interpretation of the principle that highlights demands concerning opportunities for self-realization in work, positive duties of solidarity, sensitivity to individual differences, and mechanisms of fair reciprocity. Fourth, I discuss a possible institutional implementation of the Abilities/Needs Principle. Finally, I identify some normative puzzles about the transition from capitalism to socialism, and suggest how the Abilities/Needs Principle might gain motivational traction by mobilizing the powerful idea of human dignity. (shrink)
This paper provides a critical exploration of the capability approach to human rights (CAHR) with the specific aim of developing its potential for achieving a synthesis between “humanist” or “naturalistic” and “political” or “practical” perspectives in the philosophy of human rights. Section II presents a general strategy for achieving such a synthesis. Section III provides an articulation of the key insights of CAHR (its focus on actual realizations given diverse circumstances, its pluralism of grounds, its emphasis on freedom of choice, (...) its demand for public reasoning, its context-sensitive universalism, and its broad view of obligations). These insights go some way toward the achievement of the desired synthesis. But, as explained in IV.1, in its current form CAHR faces two serious objections by the defenders of the political perspective: the Gap Between Capabilities-Interests and Rights Objection and the Disconnect From Practice Objection. Answering these criticisms requires some amendments to CAHR. Section IV.2 suggests a response to the first objection based on the introduction of a contractualist framework of justification. Sections IV.3 and IV.4 tackle the second objection by introducing a re-characterization of the cosmopolitan standard underlying the humanist perspective and by identifying the differences and relations between various dimensions of a conception of human rights and their significance for actual political practice. The paper illustrates the practical implications of CAHR, in its modified form, for the pursuit of some important rights. (shrink)
Human rights are particularly relevant in contexts in which there are significant asymmetries of power, but where these asymmetries exist the human rights project turns out to be especially difficult to realize. The stronger can use their disproportionate power both to threaten others’ human rights and to frustrate attempts to secure their fulfillment. They may even monopolize the international discussion as to what human rights are and how they should be implemented. This paper explores this tension between the normative ideal (...) of human rights and the facts of asymmetric power. It has two objectives. The first, pursued in section 2, is to reconstruct and assess a set of important power-related worries about human rights. These worries are sometimes presented as falsifying the view that human rights exist, or at least as warranting the abandonment of human rights practice. The paper argues that the worries do not support such conclusions. Instead, they motivate the identification of certain desiderata for the amelioration of human rights practice. The paper proceeds to articulate twelve such desiderata. The second objective, pursued in section 3, is to propose a strategy for satisfying the desiderata identified in the previous section. In particular, the paper suggests some ways to build empowerment into the human rights project that reduce the absolute and relative powerlessness of human rights holders, while also identifying an ethics of responsibility and solidarity for contexts in which power asymmetries will not dissolve. Power analysis does not debunk the human rights project. Properly articulated, it is an important tool for those pursuing it. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to propose a model for understanding the relation between substance and procedure in discourse ethics and deliberative democracy capable of answering the common charge that they involve an ‘empty formalism’. The expressive-elaboration model introduced here answers this concern by arguing that the deliberative practical rationality presupposed by discourse ethics and deliberative democracy involves the creation of a practical medium in which certain general basic ideas of solidarity, equality and freedom are expressed and elaborated in (...) the context of widespread moral disagreement. In the course of this paper I propose an elucidation of these ideas and argue for the thesis that they are internally related to the endorsement of deliberative practical rationality. The three basic substantive ideas contribute to the determination of the existence, the form, the topics and intended outcomes, and the effects of the practice of public deliberation. This amounts to an elucidatory defense of deliberative practical rationality by explicating its substantive significance or point. Key Words: critical theory • deliberative democracy • discourse ethics • equality • freedom • Jürgen Habermas • practical reason • John Rawls • solidarity • substance and procedure. (shrink)
Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable; that such relationships give rise to “underived” special responsibilities; that there is a genuine tension between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities; and that we must consequently strike a balance between the two. We argue that there is no such tension and propose an alternative approach to the relation between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities. First, while some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable, no relationship is unconditionally valuable. Second, whether such relationships (...) give rise to special responsibilities is conditional on those relationships not violating certain moral constraints. Third, these moral constraints arise from within cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. Thus the value of relationships and the special responsibilities to which they give rise arise within the parameters of cosmopolitan egalitarianism itself. The real tension is not between cosmopolitan equality and special responsibilities, but between special responsibilities and the various general duties that arise from the recognition, demanded by cosmopolitan egalitarianism, of a multiplicity of other basic goods. Indeed, even the recognition of special relationships itself gives rise to general duties that may condition and/or weigh against putative special responsibilities. (shrink)
This paper presents a substantivist construal of discourse ethics, which claims that we should see our engagement in public deliberation as expressing and elaborating a substantive commitment to basic moral ideas of solidarity, equality, and freedom. This view is different from Habermas's standard formalist defence of discourse ethics, which attempts to derive the principle of discursive moral justification from primarily non-moral presuppositions of rational argumentation as such. After explicating the difference between the substantivist and the formalist construal, I defend the (...) former by showing that it is not only intuitively compelling, but also particularly well equipped for addressing four important objections recently levelled against discourse ethics and its political applications. I conclude by pointing out some consequences of the previous discussion for the future of Critical Theory. (shrink)
The current legal and political practice of human rights invokes entitlements to freely chosen work, to decent working conditions, and to form and join labor unions. Despite the importance of these rights, they remain under-explored in the philosophical literature on human rights. This article offers a systematic and constructive discussion of them. First, it surveys the content and current relevance of the labor rights stated in the most important documents of the human rights practice. Second, it gives a moral defense (...) of these rights arguing that their support involves an appropriate response to important human interests and to the human dignity of workers. Finally, it explores central normative issues about the relation between labor rights and human dignity. It responds to some objections about the importance of work, explains why labor human rights may not exhaust the demands of dignity regarding labor and arbitrates a common tension between independence and solidarity within our practical affirmation of human dignity. (shrink)
This paper presents a reconstruction of and some constructive comments on Thomas Pogge’s conception of global justice. Using Imre Lakatos’s notion of a research program, the paper identifies Pogge’s “hard core” and “protective belt” claims regarding the scope of fundamental principles of justice, the object and structure of duties of global justice, the explanation of world poverty, and the appropriate reforms to the existing global order. The paper recommends some amendments to Pogge’s program in each of the four areas.
In his important new book National responsibility and global justice, David Miller presents a systematic challenge to existing theories of global justice. In particular, he argues that cosmopolitan egalitarianism must be rejected. Such views, Miller maintains, would place unacceptable burdens on the most productive political communities, undermine national self-determination, and disincentivize political communities from taking responsibility for their fate. They are also impracticable and quite unrealistic, at least under present conditions. Miller offers an alternative account that conceives global justice in (...) terms of a minimum set of basic rights that belong to human beings everywhere. Primary responsibility for securing such rights for an individual lies with his or her state, but in so far as these rights go unprotected, responsibilities for fulfilling them may fall on outsiders. While less ambitious that cosmopolitan egalitarian justice, Miller argues that his own view would nevertheless enable us to articulate what is most morally objectionable about our current world. In this article it is argued that none of Miller's critiques of cosmopolitan egalitarianism is effective, and that while certainly preferable to the status quo, a world governed by Miller's principles is not an attractive ideal. (shrink)
This article discusses Pettit’s views of social justice and political legitimacy in On the People’s Terms. Although Pettit’s book presents a powerful account of the ideal of nondomination, this article probes some deficiencies regarding important questions about solidarity, equality, and feasibility.
In this article, I will reflect on Lea Ypi’s methodological contribution in her wonderful book Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency. Ypi addresses the important and underexplored issue of the relation between normative principles and political agency. She proposes a ‘dialectical approach’ to normative political theory, which she contrasts with ‘ideal’ and ‘non-ideal’ approaches, arguing that the first does a better job in articulating progressive guidelines for political agents seeking to achieve justice. Ypi presents a general framework that applies, but (...) is not restricted to, global justice. In what follows, I first reconstruct what I take to be Ypi’s key conceptual and substantive moves and then raise some critical observations and questions. The central polemical contentions are that Ypi’s arguments do not succeed at defeating the importance of ideal theory for activist political theory and practice, and that we need an account of normative political reasoning that articulates more explicitly the relation between considerations of moral desirability and political feasibility. (shrink)
In what follows I will consider Kant's and Habermas's conceptions of moral validity in a comparative and critical way. First, I will reconstruct Habermas's discursive or deliberative reformulation of Kant's moral theory (sec.1). And, second, I will introduce some comparative critical considerations (2). I will contend that, though much is gained with Habermas's intersubjectivist reformulation of Kant's moral philosophy, some problems emerge that could be treated with the help of certain Kantian insights. I will focus on Kant's and Habermas's strictly (...) moral writings. The issue of political validity or legitimacy (i.e., of the validity of norms that are to be enforced by a coercive state apparatus) is of course of great importance, but I will not address it here. (shrink)
Pablo Gilabert,Aude Bandini | : Cet article s’intéresse au lien entre deux perspectives qui concernent la nature des droits humains. Selon la perspective « politique » ou « pratique », les droits humains sont des revendications que les individus entretiennent face à un certain nombre de structures institutionnelles, dans certains États modernes, en vertu des intérêts qui sont les leurs selon les contextes qui les mettent en jeu. Selon la perspective « humaniste » ou « naturaliste », plus traditionnelle, les (...) droits humains sont des revendications pré-institutionnelles que les individus entretiennent face à tous les autres individus, en vertu d’intérêts propres à l’humanité qu’ils ont tous en partage. Cet article soutient qu’une fois qu’on identifie ces deux perspectives sous leur meilleur jour, on peut voir qu’elles sont complémentaires et qu’on a en réalité besoin de chacune d’elles pour donner sens, sur le plan normatif, à la pratique contemporaine des droits humains. J’y explique comment des considérations humanistes et politiques peuvent et même doivent travailler main dans la main si on veut rendre compte du concept, du contenu et de la justification des droits humains. | : This essay explores the relation between two perspectives on the nature of human rights. According to the « political » or « practical » perspective, human rights are claims that individuals have against certain institutional structures, in particular modern states, in virtue of interests they have in contexts that include them. According to the more traditional « humanist » or « naturalistic » perspective, human rights are pre-institutional claims that individuals have against all other individuals in virtue of interests characteristic of their com mon humanity. This essay argues that once we identify the two perspectives in their best light, we can see that they are complementary and that in fact we need both to make good normative sense of the contemporary practice of human rights. It explains how humanist and political considerations can and should work in tandem to account for the concept, content, and justification of human rights. (shrink)