Topic outline

  • Course Introduction

    How might you define, understand, and uphold justice in a global and globalizing world?  That question forms the focal point of this course.  It leads to an examination of whether or not global justice is impossible because of a chaotic and extremely diverse world, or to varying degrees, whether or not justice by its very nature demands a global context and scope of applicability.  Justice, whether considered in abstraction or applied contexts, is fundamentally about human rights.  We will begin this course with an exploration of human rights, a subject that grounds the entire course.  Embedded in the human rights context is an analysis of the political theories of justice-through a cursory review of some of the seminal texts on global justice-along with an examination of applied and distributive justice focusing on specific issues or problems that have arisen in contemporary global dynamics.  Thus, gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, genocide, self-determination, environmental concerns, class, and participatory rights become the concrete realities to be explored in light of the theoretical material on global justice.

    Stepping stones on the path through this course include political philosophy, international and global relations, and history.  Such an interdisciplinary approach gives rise to a rigorous examination that includes practical reasoning, the tensions between universalism and relativism, as well as the very real issues and problems of creating and maintaining 'just' or 'fair' societies in a global context.  To extend this line of thought further, the course will consider the following question: can global society itselfbe 'just' or 'fair' (assuming that such an all-encompassing society, in fact, exists)?  Reflecting on the degree to which, if at all, individuals or states should desire convergence upon a set of abstract principles and consequent norms underscores the dual theoretical and applied nature of this course.  Further, does such a convergence (whether required, coerced, or encouraged) necessarily occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, or identities?

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  • Unit 1: A Human Rights Context For Global Justice

    The purpose of this unit is to review some of the human rights discourse relevant for the study of global justice, or more to the point, justice in a global setting.  This unit includes a brief overview of the 'rights' v. 'needs' discourse.  In addition, you will examine three principal pairs of categorizations for human rights and the potential for tensions among them (subunit 1.2). 

    First, this unit will consider the most fundamental question to ask: are human rights universal or relative (particular) in the abstract and/or in practice?  The idea of rights itself, and thereby justice, is universal; despite cultural and socio-political variants, rights and justice do exist.  Second, your inquiry will turn to the pairing of individual and collective rights.  Finally, you will study questions surrounding balancing and/or integrating economic, social, and cultural rights with civil and political rights.  Another conceptual framework for exploring global justice emerges from the general understanding of political theory and philosophy being either western or non-western in nature.  While these terms are a bit ethnocentric--perhaps even pejorative--they nonetheless indicate the bifurcation of political thought as it pertains to human rights and associated matters of justice.  Recognizing and examining this framework at the outset of the course is critical given that 'global' justice is our focal point of this course.  As you work though the readings, keep in mind the central question of this course: how might you define, understand, and uphold justice in a global and globalizing world?

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  • Unit 2: Some Origins Of The Contemporary Justice & Rights Discourse

    First, this unit will introduce you to works that have provided a foundation for the contemporary debate surrounding conceptions of global justice.  The notions of justice, as based in an existing and unchanging natural order, will be contrasted with justice (and the scope of justice) as born out of necessity or utility.  This unit will also address the notion of justice as an integral part of the continual progression of human nature in coming to realize its potential.  Second, you will be introduced to the inherent challenges that come with attempts to establish the legitimacy and authority of international law.  Third, this unit will address the subject of a "state of nature” between states with an eye toward the place of justice within an international order based upon state sovereignty.    
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  • Unit 3: Political Theory And Global Justice

    This unit will expand upon general human rights and the theoretical material on justice in Units 1 and 2 in two ways.  In the first subunit, you will learn to distinguish between the Universalist and Relativist accounts of reasoning about action.  Generally speaking, Universalists orient ethical reasoning with an appeal to common principles that are presumed to hold--or should hold--for all lives and across all situations.  Relativists, on the other hand, orient ethical reasoning with appeal to the practices, traditions, or patterns of judgment of particular communities.  Through addressing these two perspectives, you will be introduced to three distinct but associated ideas regarding human rights and justice in a global context.  First, with constructivism and practical reasoning--how do we think about, and what is, the scope of ethics and ethical issues?  Second, how do we then conceptualize principles of justice when trying to design systems of global justice?  Finally, what is the role of consent in following principles of justice?  In the second subunit, you will beexposed to how Universalism and Relativism underlie more applied political theories, specifically nationalist and cosmopolitan political theories.  The readings will show that although a cosmopolitan political perspective is necessarily aligned with a conception of global justice, there are different types of cosmopolitanism.  In a similar fashion, although many nationalist perspectives are opposed to a conception of global justice, some are sympathetic on ideological grounds, while being dismissive in terms of how a conception of global justice could gain traction among something akin to a world citizenry. This unit also places focus on global distributive justice, which can be defined as the distribution of scarce resources across a scope of global scale.  Typically, theories of distributive justice begin with a scope of domestic scale, meaning a scope defined by the citizenship of a territorial state.  This delimitation, however, comes in conflict with the fundamental liberal principle that all humans are entitled to equal moral consideration regardless of morally arbitrary facts or matters of luck, such as place of birth.  It is argued, on the one hand, that equality of moral consideration seems to require a global scope when considering issues of distributive justice.  On the other hand, it is argued that distributive justice can only have meaning--and is only feasible--within a delimited area accompanied by a range of accompanying principles, rules, and institutions.  
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  • Unit 4: Empowerment, Agency, And Global Justice: Revisiting The Universal-Relative Debate

    One of the assumptions underlying much of the preceding material is that the individuals subject to considerations of justice are rational actors capable of decision-making in a societal context. Implicit in this assumption is that the individuals in question are either empowered or are capable of seeking empowerment; that is, they are capable of engaging in self-advocacy.  However, in reality a significant number of individuals do not find themselves in such circumstances.  It is incumbent upon us to consider questions of global justice, in particular distributive justice, in light of the most disempowered segment of any society: children.  This unit, the first in the course to address issues of applied global justice, examines two key contexts for children: marriage and armed conflict.  Concurrently, the notion of advocacy, more importantly its converse--voicelessness--can be considered in light of environmental issues as well.  Therefore, this unit will also consider distributive justice with respect to resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and waste distribution.  The nexus of these two apparently disparate topics (advocacy for children and for the environment) is crystallized in the question: how meaningful are the debates surrounding global justice in light of the realities of those who lack access to any form of justice?
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  • Unit 5: Resolving Conflictive Claims For Justice: Revisiting The Individual -Collective Debate

    Among the myriad of issues of applied global justice are questions that pertain to conflicting claims of fairness.  Having explored empowerment, agency, and distributive justice in the previous unit, this unit turns to an analysis of global justice and resolving conflictive claims.  Specifically, how might you apply the theoretical material to situations that arise when various individuals, groups, or communities make apparently competing claims for justice?  While particular societies may have conflict resolution mechanisms to mete out justice, are there parallel effective mechanisms when the discussion shifts to global justice?  Of singular significance are two scenarios: conflicts between individuals' claims of justice vs. those claims of a community and conflictive claims made by different communities.  Such questions are examined in two specific contexts: gender/sexuality and race/ethnicity. For the former context, this unit will focus on female genital cutting (FGC) and sexual orientation; for the latter context, this unit will discuss self-determination and genocide.
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  • Unit 6: Participation, 'Rights,' 'Needs' And Global Justice: Revisiting Civil/Political And Economic/Social/Cultural Rights Debate

    As individuals, groups, and communities become empowered and engage in political agency (see Unit 4), perhaps it is inevitable that conflictive claims for justice will emerge (see Unit 5).  The discourse about rights and needs is central to resolving such conflicts.  Thus, the rights-needs discourse logically emerges from the previous two units and is the focal point of this unit.  Participatory rights can be understood as a vehicle for both empowerment and conflict resolution.  However, how do participatory rights manifest themselves in a global setting (social and other media phenomena such as the 'Arab Spring' or Wikileaks)?  More importantly, in a globalizing world, do institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) bring new meaning to claims for justice in global affairs?  The ICC and similar institutions (European and Interamerican Courts on Human Rights) raise questions about civil/political rights of individuals as justice for victims of human rights violations is pursued in a global setting.  Similarly, the rights-needs debate underscores the significance of socio-economic class and contemporary slavery when we attempt to apply theories of global justice to the realities of our world.  This unit ultimately centers on global justice as it applies, or does not apply, to civil/political and economic/social/cultural rights and needs.  Simply stated, does the recognition of needs supersede claims for rights even if the cost is justice?
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  • Unit 7: Final Considerations: Are 'Global' And 'Justice' Compatible In Theory And Practice?

    Having thoroughly examined a wide range of issues pertaining to global justice, you will now return to one of the most contentious debates regarding applied global justice.  Often referred to as the western-non-western debate, these two apparently competing sets of perspectives emphasize both the theoretical and practical questions of global justice. Therefore, this final unit reconsiders this discourse with a particular emphasis on the question posed at the outset of the course.  To what degree, if at all, should individuals or states desire convergence upon a set of abstract principles, consequent norms, and their application?  Further, should such a convergence (whether required, coerced, or encouraged) occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, or identities? 
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  • Optional Course Evaluation Survey

    Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

    Link: Optional Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)

    Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to and/or our Discourse forums.

  • Final Exam

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