Public Reason: Vol. 4, No. 1-2, June-December 2012
Global or National Justice? An Analysis of Pogge’s and Buchanan’s Reply to Rawls’s Law of Peoples
Valentin Stoian

The paper discusses Thomas Pogge’s and Allan Buchanan’s criticisms of Rawls’ Law of Peoples. Rawls argues for the exclusion of distributive justice from the global arena. Pogge and Buchanan attack Rawls starting from the premise that if there is a global basic structure, then there should be global distributive justice. The paper accepts the existence of a global system which resembles the domestic basic structure, but argues that the Rawlsian argument is still tenable. Rawls argues that because the basic structure, made up by social and political institutions, deeply affects the lives of individuals, it must be considered the primary subject of justice. However, in the Law of Peoples, Rawls refuses to establish principles of distributive justice at the global level by arguing that no basic structure exists. He uses a two-step model of the original position to establish principles of justice at the global level. In Realizing Rawls, Pogge disapproves of Rawls not using a one-time global original position model in order to arrive at the global definition of justice. Pogge attacks the two-step model and defends a single global original position. Buchanan, in “Rawls’ Law of Peoples: Rules for a Vanished Westphalian World,” accepts the two-step model, but argues that a global original position with peoples as represented parties would lead to more stringent demands of global distributive justice. The paper incorporates Laura Valentini’s distinction between interactional coercion and systemic coercion, but argues that even if the global system is systemically coercive it dot not need to be subjected to Rawls’ principles of justice for domestic societies. Rather, it can be reformed to become less coercive. Then the paper argues that in this non-coercive system of internally just states, Pogge and Buchanan would not have an argument against Rawls. Key words: global justice, Pogge, Buchanan, Rawls, coercion.


Stoian, Valentin. 2012. Global or National Justice? An Analysis of Pogge’s and Buchanan’s Reply to Rawls’s Law of Peoples.Public Reason 4 (1-2): 139-47.