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Associative Duties and Global Justice

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This article examines the conflict between people's associative duties and their wider obligations of global justice. After clarifying the nature of associative duties, it defends the view that such duties may be civic in nature: obtaining between citizens, not just friends and families. Samuel Scheffler's 'distributive objection' to civic associative duties is then presented in the context of global distributive injustice. Three solutions to the objection are considered. One is that the distributive objection is more a philosophical puzzle than a practical problem because of the means by which global justice would be achieved. This is only partially correct. The second reply is that associative duties are additional to citizens' more cosmopolitan duties. This reply loses its purchase if global justice is conceived of in comparative terms. The third reply claims that associative duties are justified by genuine values and do not disappear even when over-ridden by more weighty moral concerns. While in practice, our duties to engineer global justice are likely to over-ride our associative duties in the near future, in ideal circumstances the two kinds of duties can co-exist.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway University of London, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK;, Email:


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