Global Justice: How Should It Be Designed?

This article will attempt to outline a possible political framework of global justice, starting from the proposals written by Nancy Fraser (1947) and Thomas Pogge (1953). In what follows, in addition to comparing the ideas presented by both authors and going beyond a mere opposition of strong points, the areas of consensus will be elucidated. The common aspects that these theorists share in the conceptual field will be analysed and, thus, a proposal of global justice will be announced. To this end, one must begin by clarifying the basis of each of the proposals, in order to later be able to articulate their common nuances and thus draw the possible end scenario..

Figure 1: Black’s lives matter demonstration


On the one hand, Fraser criticizes traditional theories of justice, arguing that they take their fields of application for granted. For instance, the what and the who, or, in other words, they understood beforehand that the object of justice (what) was the common good for the subjects of national citizenship (who). Thus, her proposal stems from the reformulation of the very concept of justice, that is, she proposes to begin to study the how, rethinking the grammar of the term and advocating a post-territorial mode of political differentiation. In short, Fraser argues that justice must be democratic both in its origin and in its formulation and not only in its application. Therefore, it is through the principle of all the affected that must be ensured parity of participation in the very design of the idea of justice. Hence, the political community will be that formed by all the subjects affected by the actions of the social and governmental system, whether or not they belong to the same state or society. In addition, it will be the group of these political agents that will intervene in the metapolitical dimension of justice. That way, they will be the ones to determine the framework within which justice should act. This is what she calls the "transformative approach of framing", a trend that leads to greater justice for all throughout the world.


Broadly speaking, Fraser focuses her analysis on egalitarian and deterritorialized participation in the hope that it is through dialogue that the new challenges of global justice will be met. The novelty of her proposal lies in that she goes further than others and demands the active involvement of the whole population, understanding it as the only way to achieve an adequate representation of the individuals of collective citizenship and thus be able to reformulate the objectives of justice in a comprehensive manner.

Figure 2: Nancy Fraser


Pogge, on the other hand, undertakes a somewhat different review in which his critique focuses on actions rather than theories. Namely, he begins by saying that, although contemporary Westernized societies congratulate themselves for responding to the Declaration of Human Rights, in reality, they do no such thing. They violate the "negative duties", that is to say: they maintain oppressive orders by omitting actions in response to the non-compliance of such rights; they forget, turn a deaf ear and disconnect from reality. Faced with such a situation of non-observance, the author makes a proposal that differs from Fraser's in its practicality, as he offers the steps to follow to reach a desirable scenario of global justice. Thus, Pogge gives rise to a series of reconfigurations of the existing political units, through a vertical stratification of sovereignty that ensures a global order that contemplates equal opportunity for political participation and active respect for human rights. In a way, he proposes that the political community starts from both individuals and institutions at the same time, through an interactional cosmopolitanism. In this way, citizens would govern themselves in a broad field of consecutive political units in consonance with one another. This is where he frames the idea of "moral and institutional cosmopolitanism": moral in that it considers each human being as the basic unit of ethical concern, and institutional since it envisages a hierarchy of political units that should be responsible for ensuring the dignity of each person. Therefore, the author makes a practical approach towards a new global and pluralist regime. This political order must start from the already existing arrangements to try to build from this basis new relations of dependence between peoples and, what is even more important, to recognize those that already exist but to which, however, attention is not usually paid.

Figure 3: Thomas Pogge


As it can be seen, both authors advocate a pluralistic world order in which the subjects of justice are the very ones who make the political decisions that affect them. However, while Pogge proposes a gradual restructuring of the models already rooted in our societies, Fraser opts for a reformulation of the very concept of justice, starting from its basis. Thus, under the premise of a plurality of opinions and a parity of political participation, the two theorists consecrate themselves as standard-bearers of real and effective social and global justice. But what would happen if Pogge's vertical stratification of sovereignty were to be carried out from the outset with the main objective of responding to the transformative approach of Fraser? Individuals would then be faced with a massive political reconfiguration, while at the same time the very ideals of the concept of justice would also be changing.


According to Pogge, the successive change in political units must occur by means of supermajoritarian procedures and, once established, must be ratified by the "burden of proof" (Pogge, 2002). This means that the new division: (a) makes it possible for people to govern themselves in consonance among the different units and (b) also favours the decision making of the subjects of justice. This being so, Fraser's (2008) "principle of all affected" could be applied here, since, effectively, there is equal opportunity for political participation, which facilitates that those individuals who are involved in political actions are the same ones on whom the affirmative weight of justice will fall. What is not very clear is where intervention at the metapolitical level enters into this whole mess. For, if it has been started from a democratic reconfiguration of the existing political orders, would it not be an exercise of excess of power to impose that these changes take place on the basis of a transformative approach to framing? Here it should be argued that, rather than an imposition, the application and implementation of this approach advocated by Fraser should be voluntary among the participating members of the political community. Since they themselves are the ones "affected", they will presumably want to change the framework of justice that, undoubtedly, left out many members of the group in the past.


Perhaps it is in this way, through trust in and from oppressed collectivities, jointly and symbiotically, that the new scenario of global justice must be built. Rosi Braidotti may be right in saying that the very articulation of hope in a better world is the only thing capable of ensuring the dignity of life and thus answering to the demands of existence of millions of affected people (Braidotti, 2009).



Image references


Bibliographic references

  • Braidotti, Rosi (2009). “Afirmación, dolor y capacitación”. In Rosi Braidotti. Ideas recibidas. Un vocabulario para la cultura artística contemporánea. Barcelona: Macba.

  • Fraser, Nancy (2008). Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Pogge, Thomas (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Author Photo

Alicia Macías Recio

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