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International law and the limits of global justice


There are two central theses to this article, the first is that a special kind of governance authority is needed for principles of distributive social justice (‘social justice’ from now on) to be applicable to any sphere of human action. The second is that international law does not and cannot represent that kind of governance authority. It is not ‘social justice-apt’, in my terminology. This is due to the limits inherent in the statist character of international law, a character that underlies the point and purpose of international law in the first place. Putting these together, one can conclude that international law cannot be used to govern the global order according to those principles of social justice that liberal theorists typically defend in the domestic context. This shows that if the cosmopolitan project of extending social justice to the global arena does not find an alternative form of governance for the international order (the problem of ‘cosmopolitan coordination’) it ceases to be a viable project.

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S. Meckled-Garcia ‘Do transnational economic effects violate human rights?’, Ethics and Global Politics, 2:3 (2009), pp. 259276

S. Meckled-Garcia ‘On the very idea of cosmopolitan justice: constructivism and international agency’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 16:3 (2008), p. 245

Arnold N. Pronto , ‘Some thoughts on the making of international law’, European Journal of International Law, 19 (2008), pp. 601616, 606 ff

Andrew Kuper , ‘Rawlsian Global Justice: Beyond the Law of Peoples to a Cosmopolitan Law of Persons’, Political Theory, 28:5 (2000), pp. 640674 esp. 646 ff

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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