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Boundaries of Justice: Beitz‘s Global Justice

Presentation for a Master Seminar in Political Sciences “Theories of Justice and Distributive Conflict in Capitalist Democracies” on University of Zurich, based on text:

BEITZ, Charles (1999). Political Theory and International Relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 127-176.


Beitz suggest that Rawl’s Theory of Justice should be used on international level. He argues, that under the veil of ignorance “the parties of the international original position would view the natural distribution of resources as morally arbitrary. … Therefore, the parties would think that resources (or the benefits derived from them) should be subject to redistribution under a resource redistribution principle.” (Beitz 1999: 138).

He further writes that cooperation in the current situation of international relations (globalisation) denies the presumption of nation-state self-sufficiency and creates benefits and costs, which would not exist in the absence of international cooperation. Therefore international relations resemble domestic society in aspects relevant to justification of domestic social justice and “the role of a principle of [global] distributive justice, then, would be to specify what a fair distribution of those benefits and burdens would be like.” (Beitz 1999: 152, text in brackets mine).

Finally, Beitz writes about application on our non-ideal world: “distributive justice must apply in the first instance to the world as a whole, and derivately to nation-states. The appropriate global principle is Rawl’s difference principle,” (Beitz 1999: 170). He suggests that least advantaged person position is to be maximised (not the least advantaged state). He thinks, that “in countries where extreme poverty is partially a result of large domestic income inequalities, pressure should be brought if possible for changes in policy or structural reforms aimed at reducing internal inequalities.” (Beitz 1999: 173). Beitz denies an objection, that implementing global difference principle involves a violation of state autonomy. He is aware that his “Ideal theory prescribes standards that serve as goals of political change in the nonideal world, assuming that a just society can, in due course, be achieved.” (Beitz 1999: 156).


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