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  • International Distributive Justice: Defending Cosmopolitanism

    A Thesis submitted to the University of London through the Department of

    Government in the London School of Economics and Political Science in

    fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Ph.D.

    Charles W.B. Jones 1996

  • UMI Number: U084668

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  • Abstract

    This doctoral thesis investigates contemporary disputes about international distributive justice by first outlining a distinctive human rights approach to the issues and then assessing alternative views of various kinds. The thesis is organized in terms of the dispute between cosmopolitans and communitarians on the question of ethics in international political theory.

    Part One of the thesis, 'Cosmopolitanism,' outlines and evaluates the most significant cosmopolitan theories of international justice. Following an introductory chapter in which the debate is introduced in a general way, Chapter Two focuses on basic human rights. Chapter Three is on utilitarianism, and Chapter Four investigates Onora O'Neill's Kantian approach to international justice. I conclude that the human rights approach, conceptualized in a distinctive form, is the most promising of these alternatives.

    Part Two of the thesis, 'Communitarianism,' investigates various "communitarian" challenges to the universalist ambitions of the arguments defended in Part One. These challenges are designed to prove that the pretensions of cosmopolitans are illusory, incoherent, overridden by some morally more important considerations, or otherwise wrong-headed. Constitutive theorists maintain that, while there are perhaps good grounds for recognizing the claims of human beings qua human beings, cosmopolitans fail to take proper account of the value of what we might call certain intra-species collectivities, most importantly, sovereign states (Chapter Eight). Relativists hold that justice is subject to community-relative standards that make cross-cultural comparisons impossible. Hence, universal claims to justice make no sense (Chapter Seven). Defenders of nationality base their conclusions on the ethical value of the 'nation,' and sometimes claim that distributive justice can be discussed properly only within the context of a given national community (Chapter Six). Patriots emphasize devotion to one's country as a primary moral virtue, and conclude that such devotion, in practice, amounts to legitimate favouritism for compatriots and, therefore, at least potentially, the denial of some of the claims of non-compatriots. If such a view requires the denial of the full force of human rights claims, then patriotism conflicts with cosmopolitanism (Chapter Five).

    The argument of Part Two is that, on the whole, the communitarian challenges do not succeed. Nevertheless, there are significant lessons to be learned from the criticisms in each case. The defence of cosmopolitanism is strengthened by exposure to these objections, even though they do not provide any grounds for rejecting the basic human rights claims of individuals.

  • Acknowledgements

    This thesis has been three years in the making, and I have incurred a number of debts along the way. My first acknowledgement must be to my supervisors, John Charvet and Brian Barry. As co-supervisors, they offered sensible, insightful -- and often conflicting - advice at every stage of the writing process. One benefit of co-supervision is that it creates greater scope for individual judgement, since one is often forced to decide for oneself which way to turn when one's two main critics reach different judgements about the quality of an argument.

    The following individuals were kind enough to offer written comments on various chapter drafts: Daniel Bell (Princeton University), Simon Caney (University of Newcastle), Michael Donelan (London School of Economics), Nigel Dower (University of Aberdeen), Gerard Elfstrom (Auburn University, Alabama), Anthony Ellis (Virginia Commonwealth University), Mike Green (University of California, Berkeley), and Tom Hurka (University of Calgary). Gerard Elfstrom deserves special mention, since he was good enough to point out the embarrassingly large number of weaknesses in my arguments, and provided many helpful comments on several chapters, some of which I have incorporated into my final draft. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this sort of feedback, and I am especially grateful to all of these people because I know how time-consuming a job it can be, especially when it is done well.

    I received helpful advice on various aspects of my work from Joseph Carens (University of Toronto) Gerald Dworkin (University of Chicago), David Lloyd Thomas (King's College London), Richard Noble (University of Winnipeg), Robert Orr (LSE), and Adam Swift (Balliol College, Oxford).

    Chris Brown (University of Southampton), both in his important published work and in some correspondence during the early stages of my research, did much to clarify for me the issues at stake in the international justice debates.

    Audiences at the following conferences heard different parts of this thesis and offered questions and objections that forced me to rework my arguments: the LSE Seminar in International Political Theory, the LSE Ph.D. Workshop in Political Theory, the Tenth International Conference on Social Philosophy (Helsinki, Finland, 1993), and the Political Studies Association Conference (York, England, 1995).

    The facilities provided by the LSE Department of Philosophy and the LSE Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences were instrumental in the progress of my research.

  • The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided funding over three years without which my work would not have been possible. And the Council of European Studies at Columbia University provided assistance which enabled me to attend an important conference on the ethics of nationalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in April, 1994.

    Over many years now, my mother, brothers and sisters have supported me — both financially and morally - and for this I am grateful. My wife, Beth, has been the most important person in my life for some time, and she has supported me, at no small cost to herself, through all of the ups and downs of the writing process. One other person has recently been competing with her for my attention: my son Jonathan. His birth midway through this thesis slowed my work to some extent, but I am thankful for the opportunity he has given me for a kind of intellectual and moral progress that is different from — though no less important than — the sort urged in these pages.

    C.J. London and Cork November 1995

  • 5

    Table of Contents

    Title page 1 Abstract 2 Acknowledgements 3 Table of Contents 5 Extended Table of Contents 6

    Chapter One: Distributive Justice and the International Context 9

    Part One: Cosmopolitanism

    Chapter Two: Basic Human Rights: The Moral Minimum 25 Chapter Three: Utilitarianism and Global Justice 47 Chapter Four: O'Neill and the Obligations of Justice 68

    Part Two: Communitarianism

    Chapter Five: Patriotism and Justice 89 Chapter Six: Miller, Nationalism, and Distributive Justice 121 Chapter Seven: Walzer, Relativism, and Universalism 138 Chapter Eight: Neo-Hegelianism, Sovereignty, and Rights 162





  • 6

    Extended Table of Contents

    Title page 1 Abstract 2 Acknowledgements 3 Table of Contents 5 Extended Table of Contents 6

    Chapter One Distributive Justice and the International Context 9

    1.1. Distributive Justice: The Concept and Its Scope 9 1.2. How to Argue for Principles of International Distributive Justice 14 1.3. The International Context 17

    Part One: Cosmopolitanism

    Chapter Two Basic Human Rights: The Moral Minimum 25

    2.1. Conceptual Preliminaries 26 2.2. Questions of Substance: Rights and Interests 30 2.3. The Human Right to Subsistence 31 2.4. Building a Case: Objections and Replies 35

    The Negative-Positive Rights Distinction 35 Assigning Duties 38 Is Subsistence Sufficiently Important? 43 Side-Constraints 44 Overdemandingness 45

    2.5. Conclusion 46

    Chapter Three Utilitarianism and Global Justice 47

    3.1. What is Utilitarianism? 47 3.2. The Implications of Utilitarianism for Global Justice 51 3.3. Two Objections to Utilitarianism 54

    Is Utilitarianism Too Demanding? 55 Is Utilitarianism Too Permissive?: History and Justice 60

    Chapter Four O'Neill and the Obligations of Justice 68

    4.1. Introduction 68 4.2. Taking Obligations Seriously: O'Neill's Maverick Kantianism 68 4.3. O'Neill's Critique of Rights-based Cosmopolitanism 73 4.4. Critique of O'Ne