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World society analysis explains change in terms of dissemination of ideas. However, many have insisted that Western ideas have played an outsized role and therefore current world society is illegitimate. To avoid this conclusion, we must show that world society analysis offers resources to find that role reasonably palatable. We can offer three responses: the Western tradition contains a plethora of approaches; the recent predominance of Western ideas is embedded into a human web that has unfolded for much longer; Western ideas are not alien elements infringing upon other traditions, but responses to earlier stages. The most important response is that ideas whose transmission involves coercion can be authentically appropriated. With this understanding of world society, we can formulate the conception of the political philosopher as a global discussant. However, some of the theoretical machinery to formulate a global public reason standpoint can only be developed in Part III.
This chapter discusses the remaining three conceptions of the political philosopher, and adopts a version of the Rawlsian view organized around a notion of public reason. Political philosophy has four distinct tasks. The first is to help create societies that decide about constitutional essentials and justice from a standpoint of public reason. The second task involves making substantive proposals. This might involve anything from proposing principles of justice to commenting on policy. Most philosophical writing aimed at the public is part of this task. The third task is to ponder concepts such as common good, rights, and justice. This task involves philosophical background work concerning the merits of different conceptions of justice. The fourth task occurs within comprehensive doctrines. Full justification requires integration of a conception of justice within a doctrine. How, and whether, this is possible requires philosophical debate. Combining the first three roles, philosophers emerge as theory-providing citizen-discussants.
The desire to produce theory that affects practice makes political philosophy self-reflective. What kinds of insights do political philosophers aim to communicate, and to whom? What kinds of work should we do? What can we sensibly hope to achieve? Or, in short, what sort of vocation is political philosophy? Answers vary enormously. They include one derived from Max Weber (the political philosopher as “guidance counselor”); a Platonic one (“guide to knowledge”); a Marxist one (“obstetrician of the revolution”); a Habermasian view (“conservator of the discourse”); the view of the later Rawls (“theory-providing citizen-discussant”); the realist view developed by Raymond Guess (“historically-minded Ideologiekritiker”); as well as another type of realist view according to which the political philosopher (“seeker for moral truth”) plainly searches for the moral truth in their domain. This chapter discusses the first four of these conceptions.
This chapter develops a “big history” account of the place of justice in the great tale of humanity. The “human web” is spun across the earth as a result of our cooperative capacities. It is the point of justice to reflect on what it means for each individual to have a proper place in that web. We explore how it would be legitimate to enroll authors from vastly different periods in a unified story. The evolutionary account of justice in the “conversation of mankind” provides an answer. My account is “quasi”-historical. I recount the history of the notion in a way that develops it in an era of global interconnectedness. Over time, both scope and reach have expanded until we arrive at a contemporary notion that is global in scope and whose reach is rather extensive. The grounds-of-justice view is a way of accounting for the concept of justice today.
Part I investigates the role of the philosopher. The political philosopher is a contributor to an extensive discussion, a theory-providing citizen-discussant domestically, or in the global context a proposal-making global discussant. This view contrasts with traditional understandings. To explain how there can be a global intellectual context, I enlist an approach to understanding political change that emphasizes the mutual adoption of ideas and successful scripts across boundaries: world society analysis. But the global sphere is no neutral place where ideas or scripts are judged purely on merit. Our current global cultural reality has arisen from Western expansionism. What is crucial, however, is that this expansionism is embedded into the human web within which the great tale of humanity unfolds. Moreover, we must understand our current cultural reality from within. We must acknowledge the power dynamics that gave rise to it while also qualifying the intellectual significance of Western expansionism.
Chapter 3 formulated the philosopher’s role in terms of shared citizenship. Chapters 4–6 develop a global version of this view, according to which the philosopher is a theory-providing global discussant. Some view about the impact of ideas at the global level must be in place for there to be reflection on anything like a genuinely global philosophy or to make good on the implicit assumption that ideas make a difference somehow. The account that I enlist emerges from world society analysis. According to that stance, ideas are causally efficacious, in contrast, say, with materialist understandings in the Marxist tradition. Also, world society analysis seeks to understand the efficacy of ideas in a global context, by way of contrast, for instance, with international relations realists who believe it is mostly interests backed by power that explain change in the international domain. World society analysis has illuminating implications for political philosophy.
Christianity saw the world as a kosmos created by God. In Augustine’s appropriation, the polis became the worldly political domain. The kosmopolis became a spiritual sphere where people may become “fellow-citizens with the saints.” Once such an otherworldly dimension is added, the quest for one’s proper share of human accomplishments assumes new complexities. This chapter also talks about Ancient China, a location where thinking about justice did not start in city structures. The Chinese intellectual context was from the beginning imperial and potentially global. Moving back to the Western context, material well-being, and so a concern with poverty, is essential to the contemporary conception of social justice. That concern was absent among Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. Another point of orientation, however, does offer this perspective: the principle, or right, of necessity. Gradually, reflection on the global becomes more vivid in Europe, and increasingly also ideas about equality become operative.
My proposal for an account of global justice that meets the conditions of Globality, Complexity, Stringency, and Reasonableness is pluralist internationalism. There are several grounds of justice: some are global and some not, some are relational and some not, and one is shared membership in a state; and these grounds are associated with different principles of distributive justice. The grounds discussed are shared membership in a state, common humanity, shared membership in the world society, shared involvement with the global trading system, and collective ownership of the earth. I recognize individuals as human beings, members of states, co-owners of the earth, members of the world society, and subject to a global trading system. An overall theory of global justice arises from exploring these grounds and assessing how they apply to the various agents with responsibility for global justice. This theory spells out a contemporary, global understanding of suum cuique.
Influential alternative accounts conceive of justice either as broadly applicable but not as stringent as I do or as similarly stringent but not as broadly applicable as I do. Ernst Tugendhat exemplifies the former approach, Immanuel Kant the latter. Their approaches generate an objection to mine: either distributive justice can be defined, as Tugendhat does, in terms of the kind of situation to which it applies and then plausibly applied to a broader range of contexts than my theory proposes, or distributive justice can be defined in terms of its stringency, as Kant does. I argue that it is sensible to limit justice to a narrower range of situations than Tugendhat allows, while thinking of the stringency of justice in such a way that a broader class of cases is covered than Kant allows. This takes us to something like my view.
The proposal I make in this book is that the perennial quest for justice is about making sure each individual has an appropriate place in what our uniquely human capacities permit us to build, produce, and maintain, and that each individual is respected appropriately for their capacities to hold such a place to begin with. Following a distinction that goes back to Aristotle, under this umbrella we later distinguish commutative from distributive justice. The former maintains and restores an earlier status quo that set the stage for the interaction or otherwise responds to violations. The latter is concerned with sharing out whatever a community holds in common.
This chapter elaborates on the notion of a ground of justice, more specifically its ontology. We explore in what sense different principles or grounds of justice may be of the same rank even though they capture rather different domains. (One might say that something like trade justice is not as important as human rights protection.) While these concerns may well not be equally important, they are on a par from the standpoint of the universe. Moreover, we deal with the overall untidy ontological picture generated by the grounds-of-justice view and explore some features of the interconnectedness among them. We supplement that picture by exploring in historical perspective how different grounds have become instantiated. We can then also put the grounds-of-justice approach to work in engagements with other thinkers, in this chapter especially Rainer Forst.
Kant developed an understanding of justice to enable free and equal citizens to coexist in ways that respected the moral status of each. Individuals owe each other the founding of states to coexist under public law that protects safety and integrity. An account of distributive justice is part of what we need to explain what sort of entity the state ought to be. But even though the modern concept had become available in the late eighteenth century, important intellectual movements organized around alternative responses to the social question arose roughly at that time. Rawls’s theory is a response to them that offers a substantial elaboration of the notion of social justice. Rawls does not merely defend one idea as central to distributive justice but integrates various approaches. Recognizing the breadth of the domain to which considerations of distributive justice apply makes it doubtful that a unitary criterion could guide distribution.
We explore the motivation for a public reason standpoint that comes from what Rawls calls the “burdens of judgment,” challenges in interpreting our moral lives that generate a plurality of interpretations. These burdens and the implied fact of reasonable pluralism motivate a public reason view. Defenders of comprehensive doctrines are not asked to abandon talk about truth or correctness, but to realize that competent reasoners invariably embrace different doctrines. This approach suits an era of global interconnectedness in the face of diversity but also faces stiff resistance. We then connect the Rawlsian account of public reason for the domestic case to the grounds-of-justice approach. The key idea is that the grounds can be understood as being included in an overlapping consensus. Then, Rawls’s construction for public reason carries over to the global level. This development of global public reason also completes the account of the political philosopher from Part I.
Though much attention has been paid to different principles of justice, far less has been done reflecting on what the larger concern behind the notion is. In this work, Mathias Risse proposes that the perennial quest for justice is about ensuring that each individual has an appropriate place in what our uniquely human capacities permit us to build, produce, and maintain, and is appropriately respected for the capacity to hold such a place to begin with. Risse begins by investigating the role of political philosophers and exploring how to think about the global context where philosophical inquiry occurs. Next, he offers a quasi-historical narrative about how the notion of distributive justice identifies a genuinely human concern that arises independently of cultural context and has developed into the one we should adopt now. Finally, he investigates the core terms of this view, including stringency, moral value, ground and duties of justice.
Rawls’s conceptualization is the culmination of reflection on the social question over 200 years. The grounds-of-justice approach unifies a broad range of thinking about justice at the global level as it has unfolded over millennia, reflecting the current stage of the great tale of humanity. The animating concern behind human rights is protection of personal inviolability and subsistence from patterns of societal organization that might threaten them. Human rights focus on the status and well-being of any one person rather than an overall distributive picture. The global dimensions of the social question have long gone unappreciated. The global can no longer be an afterthought but is imminent in reflection on justice also in more confined spaces. The default contemporary understanding of justice is global in scope, complex in structure, stringent in demandingness, and extensive in its reach in a manner that is best understood in a public reason sense.
Arguably, the best way of grasping the notion of justice is to understand it in a historical context. Part II offers a quasi-historical narrative about how the notion of justice identifies a genuinely human concern independently of cultural context. Over time, that concern has been captured by a number of notions of justice that have developed into the one we should take ourselves as having now, with the properties of Globality, Complexity, Stringency, and Reasonableness. Our contemporary notion is informed and fixed by major philosophical moves in the past to advance inquiry. These milestones I call points of orientation about justice. I take a global stance, but I develop it in a way that recognizes that we find ourselves with a global culture that to a large extent results from Western expansionism. Accordingly, Part II is organized around Western reflection on justice and reaches out from there.
“Justice” is a big word. One response to such words is to defer to the common-sense wisdom that lies in running together a range of themes and do as good a job as possible of tracing the common concern. Thereby, we would make as much sense as possible of a big word. This approach is what we try to do here for justice. But this is an uphill struggle. The centrality of distributive or social justice to political philosophy is a historical anomaly. It is a challenge to integrate ideas about the global properly with considerations of social justice. To talk about the coloniality of the concept of social justice means to draw attention to the built-in disregard for the concerns of many people on this planet. So, as we make a case for the importance of social justice, we must also integrate ideas of the global in appropriate ways.