• 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 be exposed 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.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.