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Global distributive justice? State boundaries as a normative problem

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2012

Norsk senter for menneskerettigheter, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, P.O. Box 6706, St. Olavs plass (Cort Adelersgate 30) N-0130 Oslo


Should state borders matter for claims of distributive justice? The article explores, only to reject, the best reasons for an ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ position which grants some minimum international obligations, including social and economic human rights. At the same time this Anti-Cosmopolitanism rejects distinctly distributive principles of justice, familiar from discussions of justice among compatriots: There are no further limits on permissible global inequalities. ‘Anti-Cosmopolitans’ do not deny that the tangled web of domestic and international institutions has a massive impact on individuals, their life plans and opportunities, albeit often indirectly and surreptitiously. What they deny is that claims to equality or limits to inequality should apply across state borders. The article explores what it is about states that can justify such a disjunct in the normative claims individuals have against each other. Several arguments about such alleged salient aspects of states and their constitutions are considered, but are found lacking. The main conclusion is to challenge the reasons Anti-Cosmopolitans offer against bringing distributive principles to the ‘Global Basic Structure’.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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