Public Reason: Vol. 4, No. 1-2, June-December 2012
Sustainable Development, Liberty, and Global Social Justice
Kostas Koukouzelis

The paper aims to establish the normative connection between sustainability and global social justice. In order to do so it (a) claims that the concept of sustainability is itself a normative concept, because it refers to our substantive disagreements about ‘what should be sustained’ or ‘what matters for current and future generations’ – it has both an intra-generational and an inter-generational dimension, although the intra-generational dimension will be our only focus here (b) involves equally physical sustainability and the conditions of justice itself. A sustainable society which is unjust can hardly be worth sustaining. A just society that is physically unsustainable is self-defeating. Humanity now has the responsibility to make a deliberate transition to a just and sustainable global society. The effort to provide a connection between sustainability and global social justice should be based on interdependence (which has an economic and an ecological aspect, but cannot be reduced to its being only a fact) and the physical limits of the carrying-capacity of the life-support systems of the planet. Based on an interpretation of Kant’s republicanism and Philip Pettit’s modern republican thought we try to justify sustainability using the notion of common liberty that expands distributional duties across the globe (and generations). Here, Kant’s telling metaphor of the spherical shape of the earth is crucial. Humanity is, under this interpretation, a just and sustainable political community under construction. Climate change provides perhaps the best illustration of such a normative basis.

Key words: sustainable development, Our Common Future, Kant, republicanism, global justice.


Koukouzelis, Kostas. 2012. Sustainable Development, Liberty, and Global Social Justice. Public Reason 4 (1-2): 165-81.