Human Rights, Coercive Power, and the Idea of Global Justice

Feb 4, 2015 | 12:00 PM

Tan Ankui (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Eric Beerbohm (Frederick S. Danzinger Associate Professor of Government and Social Studies, Harvard University)

The contemporary idea of global justice represents a radical theoretical development of social justice. Based on an institutional conception of human rights and the causal impacts of today’s global order on poverty and inequality, Thomas Pogge and some other philosophers argue that Rawlsian egalitarian justice should be extended from the domestic realm to the global. This presentation attempts to debunk this idea in a systematic way. The argument will focus on four closely related points. First, the institutional conception of human rights is not justifiable. Second, the deduction from causal impacts to moral responsibilities is both intellectually and morally invalid. Third, the egalitarian justification for a national order is based on its coercive character which is absent in the global order. Fourth, national borders, although empirically contingent, will not be morally arbitrary any more when the state power is legitimized by domestic egalitarian justice.