A Poggean passport for fairness? Why Rawls' theory of justice did not become global

Shmuel Nili*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Thomas Pogge has been challenging liberal thinking on global politics, often through critical engagement with John Rawls' work. Pogge presents both normative and empirical arguments against Rawls: normatively, Rawls' domestic Theory of Justice (TJ) and global Law of Peoples (LP) are incompatible ideal theories; empirically, LP is too removed from the actual world to guide the foreign policy of liberal societies. My main purpose here is to contest the first, ideal theory criticism in order to direct more attention to the second, non-ideal objection. I argue against Pogge that TJ and LP can be read as coherent, once one employs a Rousseauian rather than Pogge's economic Kantian reading of TJ. The first two sections present Pogge's view of TJ and contrast it with a Rousseauian alternative that is less cosmopolitan and economic and much more focused on the democratic and sovereign context of justice as fairness. The third section seeks to refute Pogge's incoherence arguments, which encompass the identity of the parties to the international original position, their motivations and their decisions. Instead of a conclusion, the last section emphasizes LP's non-ideal problems, and suggests that insofar as LP is the most robust liberal ideal theory of global politics, its empirical failure indicates the need to shift global justice theorizing even more to the non-ideal realm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-301
Number of pages25
JournalEthics and Global Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Democracy
  • Global justice
  • Ideal theory
  • Kant
  • Non-ideal theory
  • Pogge
  • Rawls
  • Rousseau
  • Statism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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