• Course Introduction

        • Time: 31 hours
        • Free Certificate
        How do we define, understand, and uphold principles of justice in the global political environment? Some argue we cannot achieve global justice in a world that is increasingly chaotic and diverse. Others say that, by its very nature, justice demands a global context and uniform scope of applicability.

        In this course, we review political philosophy, international and global relations, history, practical reasoning, the tensions between universalism and relativism, and the challenge of creating and maintaining just or fair societies in a global context.

        Can global society be just and fair? Should individuals and states desire convergence on a set of abstract principles or consequent norms? Furthermore, does this type of global convergence (whether required, coerced, or encouraged) necessarily occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, and identities?

        Justice is fundamentally about human rights. We begin this course by reviewing political theories of global justice, followed by an exploration of contemporary global dynamics in applied and distributive justice. In Units 4–7, we study gender and sexuality issues, race and ethnicity, genocide, self-determination, environmental concerns, class, and participatory rights within the context of global justice.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: A Human Rights Context for Global Justice

          In this unit, we review human rights and justice from a global perspective. We discuss the rights vs. needs debate, three principal pairs of categorizations for human rights, and the potential for tensions. We explore three dichotomies or conflicts inherent to the concept of global justice: universal vs. relative rights, individual vs. collective rights, and civil and political rights vs. economic, social, and cultural rights.

          We begin by considering a fundamental question: are human rights universal or relative (particular), in the abstract and practice? Many believe rights and justice are universal; despite cultural and socio-political variants, rights and justice do exist. Next, we turn to individual and collective rights. Finally, we study questions surrounding balance and integrating economic, social, and cultural rights with civil and political rights.

          A conceptual framework for studying global justice emerges from our general understanding of political theory and philosophy. While definitions of justice are often ethnocentric, they can be pejorative and indicate a bifurcation of political thought. As we work through the readings, keep our central question of this course in mind: how do we define, understand, and uphold justice in a global and globalizing world?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 2: Origins of the Contemporary Justice and Rights Discourse

          In this unit, we discuss foundational works for the contemporary debate surrounding concepts of global justice. We explore notions of justice based on an existing and unchanging natural order with justice born out of necessity or utility. We also address justice as an integral part of the progression of human nature. We introduce challenges inherent in establishing the legitimacy and authority of international law. Finally, we address the "state of nature" and the role justice plays in the international order based on state sovereignty.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

        • Unit 3: Political Theory and Global Justice

          In Unit 3, we expand on the general concept of human rights and justice in a global context. What is the scope of ethics and ethical issues? Next, how do we conceptualize principles of justice when designing systems of global justice? Finally, what role does consent play when we follow or create our own established principles of justice?

          How do universalism and relativism support applied political theories, such as nationalism and cosmopolitanism? The readings show that different types of cosmopolitanism exist. Similarly, while most nationalist perspectives oppose global justice, some are sympathetic on ideological grounds. However, they frequently dismiss the concept of global justice in terms of the idea of world citizenry.

          How do we distribute scarce resources on a global scale? Theories of distributive justice typically begin on a domestic scale, as defined by the citizens within a territorial state. However, this delimitation conflicts with the fundamental liberal principle that every human is entitled to equal moral consideration, regardless of morally-arbitrary facts like luck and place of birth. Equality of moral consideration requires a global scope for distributive justice, accompanied by a range of principles, rules, and institutions.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

        • Unit 4: Empowerment, Agency, and Global Justice: Revisiting the Universal-Relative Debate

          Thus far, the material we have studied has assumed individuals are rational actors, capable of making decisions in a societal context. These individuals are empowered and capable of engaging in self-advocacy. However, a significant number of individuals do not live in these conditions. In this unit, we consider questions of global and distributive justice in light of the most disempowered segment of society: children.

          We examine two critical contexts for children: marriage and armed conflict. We can also consider this notion of advocacy, and its converse voicelessness, in light of environmental issues. We explore resource scarcity, environmental degradation, and waste distribution. The nexus of these two seemingly disparate topics – advocacy for children and the environment – is crystallized in the question: how are debates on global justice meaningful in light of those who lack access to any form of justice?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

        • Unit 5: Resolving Conflicting Claims for Justice: Revisiting the Individual-Collective Debate

          What happens when populations disagree about issues of fairness? In this unit, we analyze global justice in terms of resolving these conflicting claims. How can we apply the theories we have discussed to situations where individuals, groups, and communities make competing claims for justice?

          Most societies have conflict resolution mechanisms to mete out justice. Do parallel mechanisms exist for global justice? What do we do when individuals and communities have competing claims of justice? This unit examines two contexts: gender and sexuality (female genital mutilation, FGM, and sexual orientation), and race and ethnicity (self-determination and genocide).

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 6: Participation, Rights, Needs, and Global Justice: Revisiting Civil, Political and Economic, Social, Cultural Rights Debate

          As individuals, groups, and communities engage in political agency, conflicting claims for justice inevitably emerge. The discourse about rights and needs is central to resolving these conflicts.

          We can understand participatory rights as a vehicle for empowerment and conflict resolution. However, how do participatory rights manifest themselves in a global setting, such as the so-called Arab Spring or Wikileaks? Do institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) bring new meaning to claims for justice in global affairs?

          The International Criminal Court and other global institutions, such as the European and Inter-American Courts on Human Rights, raise questions about individual civil rights and the pursuit of justice for victims of human rights violations, in a global setting. The rights-needs debate underscores the significance of socio-economic class and contemporary slavery. This unit ultimately centers on how global justice applies to civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights and needs. Simply stated, does the recognition of needs supersede claims for rights even when the cost is justice?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 7: Final Considerations: Are Global and Justice Compatible In Theory and Practice?

          Now, let's return to one of the most contentious debates that emphasizes the theoretical and practical questions of global justice: Western versus non-Western.

          How should individuals and states converge in terms of abstract principles, consequent norms, and their application? Should this convergence – whether required, coerced, or encouraged – occur at the expense of particular cultures, traditions, or identities?

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

          If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org.

        • Certificate Final Exam

          Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

          To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

          Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.