Global Justice or Global Legitimacy

Two recent articles, one by Thomas Pogge, the other by David Held, highlight the distinction between globalization theorists who have principled repugnance for the structure of international markets, and those who see globalization as a challenge to statist theories of regimes. It’s no surprise, then, that Pogge proceeds as Rawlsian concerned primarily with rights, and Held as a Habermasian concerned with governance.

Just look how they conclude. Pogge ends with a supplication:

The analysis shows that the problem of world poverty is both amazingly small and amazingly large. It is amazingly small in economic terms: The aggregate shortfall from the World Bank’s $2/day poverty line of all those 40 percent of human beings who now live below this line is barely $300 billion annually, much less than what the United States spends on its military. This amounts to only 0.7 percent of the global product or less than 1 percent of the combined GNIs of the high-income countries. On the other hand, the problem of world poverty is amazingly large in human terms, accounting for a third of all human deaths and the majority of human deprivation, morbidity, and suffering worldwide.

Most of the massive severe poverty persisting in the world today is avoidable through more equitable institutions that would entail minuscule opportunity costs for the affluent.

While Held concludes with a warning:

It is highly improbable that the multilateral order can survive for very much longer in its current form. […] Instead, the test of deliberative generalisability needs to be built into reflections on “ways forward” in order to help ensure a focus on global solutions to global challenges – not just American, French, British, German, European Union, Chinese solutions. In other words, we require a multi-perspectival mode of forming, defending and defining political preferences – a mode that is in fact, other- and future-regarding.

The plight of the global poor is disheartening, even enraging… but arguments from injustice do not appear to serve as an efficacious ‘reason to act,’ certainly not ones that can motivate states to make even ‘minuscule sacrifices.’ Whereas the regime-theorist can encompass justice issues within the larger question of legitimacy, demonstrate not our moral responsibility but our mutual interdependence and the potential dangers large-scale inequalities bring to bear on our common world, and show the necessity, rather than the desirability, of solutions to address them.

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