The article provides a critical analysis of the concept of irony and how it relates to global justice. Taking Richard Rorty as a lead, it is suggested that irony can foreground a sense of doubt over our own most heartfelt beliefs regarding justice. This provides at least one ideal sense in which irony can impact the discussion of global ethics by pitching less as a discourse of grand universals and more as a set of hopeful narratives about how to reduce suffering. The article then extends this notion via the particular – and particularly – ethnocentric case of British Irony. Accepting certain difficulties with any definition of British Irony the article reads the interventions of three protagonists on the subject of global justice – Chris Brown, Banksy and Ricky Gervais. It is argued that their considerations bring to light important nuances in irony relating to the importance of playfulness, tragedy, pain, self-criticism and paradox. The position is then qualified against the (opposing) critiques that irony is either too radical, or, too conservative a quality to make a meaningful impact on the discussion of global justice. Ultimately, irony is defended as a critical and imaginative form, which can (but does not necessarily) foster a greater awareness of the possibilities and limits for thinking/doing global justice.
%‘‘The comic frame, in making a man the student of himself, makes it possible for him to ‘transcend’ occasions when he has been tricked or cheated, since he can readily put such discouragements into his ‘assets’ column, under the heading of ‘experience’. . . . In sum, the comic frame should enable people to be observers of themselves, while acting.
Blackadder: Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?
Baldrick: Yes, it’s like goldy and bronzy only it’s made out of iron.’’