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Political Liberalism, Constructivism, and Global Justice

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

In The Law of Peoples, John Rawls develops a theory of global justice whose scope and ambitions are quite modest. Far from justifying a global resource distribution principle modeled on the difference principle, Rawls’s theory does not argue for significant redistribution among peoples. This paper focuses on Rawls’s claim that the character and scope of his account of global justice are determined by the constructivist method that he employs to extend political liberalism’s project from the domestic to the global sphere. The principles of an acceptable law of peoples, he argues, are simply those principles that would be selected by rational representatives of peoples from the standpoint of a suitably characterized fair choice position. This paper argues that Rawls’s constructivist method in fact provides support for an account of global justice of greater scope and ambition than Rawls’s Law of Peoples.

Affiliations: 1: University of Georgia,


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