• 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.

    • 3.1: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism

      Nationalism refers to the political ideology that a nation – a population bound by shared history and culture in a geographic region – is the ideal political unit. It argues that people have a particular affinity for members of their nation, and that this affinity makes governance easier and better. 

       However, nationalism has also always had explicitly exclusionary connotations. Who gets to be viewed as a legitimate member of the nation? Who is seen as foreign, or as not belonging? Who is entitled to justice? A nationalist sense of identity is often developed along ethnic lines, meaning that people who do not fall into the majority or dominant ethnic group can be subject to discrimination and violence.

      In the United States and Europe, white nationalism has been on the rise in recent years, and threatens the rights and safety of non-white people in those countries. Cosmopolitanism, in contrast, argues for a globally-engaged political consciousness. These theories present differing views on how we can best advance the cause of human rights.

    • 3.2: Obligation and the Relevance of Global Distributive Justice

      While many of the sources we have reviewed have considered how human rights pertain to individuals, distributive justice requires us to think about how inequality among states can affect the human rights of entire populations. If human rights are more difficult to achieve in poorer countries, how do we promote their citizens' human rights? If these countries are poor due to a history of colonization and exploitation from wealthier countries, what obligations do more prosperous nations have to help them?

    • 3.3: Ethics and the Economic Aspects of Global Distributive Justice

      This section digs deeper. The theorists introduce new ways of thinking about this issue and consider how economic development plays into human rights and global justice.

    • Unit 3 Assessment

      • Receive a grade