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Justice, international

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S033-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Although it has been denied (by, for example, F.A. Hayek 1976) that the concept of distributive justice has application within states, it is not controversial that there can be unjust laws and unjust behaviour by individuals and organizations. It has, however, been argued that it makes no sense to speak of justice and injustice beyond the boundaries of states, either because the lack of an international sovereign entails that the conditions for justice do not exist, or because the state constitutes the maximal moral community. Both arguments are flawed. Without them, we are naturally led to ask what are the implications of the widely-held idea of fundamental human equality, the belief that in some sense human beings are of equal value. This cannot be coherently deployed in a way that restricts its application to within-state relations. In either a utilitarian or Kantian form it generates extensive international obligations. An objection that is often made to this conclusion is that the obligations derived are so stringent that compliance cannot reasonably be asked under current political conditions. But this shows (if true) that current political conditions are incompatible with international justice.

Citing this article:
Barry, Brian and Matt Matravers. Justice, international, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S033-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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