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Moral and Political

Cosmopolitanism: Distinction
Without a Difference?

Justice Between Global Democracy and a World State

Pavel Dufek
Loughborough, 6th December 2012

Plan of the presentation

1. Context of Global Justice Theorizing
2. Moral and Political Cosmopolitanism: The
3. Moral Cosmopolitanism Proving Too Little
4. Moral Cosmopolitanism Proving Too Much
5. International Organizations and the EU
6. Towards a Proper Middle Ground

1. Context of Global Justice

Justice What each human being (or collectivity) is due as a

matter of rights, needs, membership etc.

There are certain universal and general moral norms that
should be best understood as norms of justice that is, what
every person or collectivity in the world is due and that the
institutionalisation of political activity on the supra-state level
should reflect these norms
Guidelines for political action
Either extension of existing domestic theories/principles

(esp. Rawlss) or formulating new ones human rights as the

usual proxy
Liberal egalitarianism
Critique of contemporary status quo (poverty, wars, HR
violations, dictatorial regimes state sovereignty, LIEO)

2. Moral & political

cosmopolitanism (about justice)
(A) Moral (MC): all human beings are ultimate units of moral concern;

share certain morally relevant features that should always bear upon
philosophical considerations about justice; at least some of our duties and
obligations somehow concern all human beings and not only our
compatriots; territorial state borders are morally arbitrary; all individuals
are morally equal in some essential respect
=> moral community of mankind
Weak and strong versions - scope or depth of moral considerations, as
regards socioeconomic justice and equality, or the contents of the list of
human rights
(B) Political (PC): realization of requirements of justice, as specified by

moral cosmopolitanism, should be entrusted to global political institutions

with legitimate coercive power, which in turn would rest on a global
system of positive law
=> cosmo-polis (globalised modern state)

Cosmopolitans: (a) and (b) both analytically and practically separate and
Me: it is the very distinction that allows cosmopolitans to claim middle
ground, and the distinction itself carries little difference if one retains
strong MC

2. MC & PC (about justice)

I. Kant Categorical Imperative (corresponds with MC)

as the philosophical embodiment of human dignity

Circumstances of justice: interaction and injury
A duty to enter into a civil condition and defer to the
decision-making and coercive powers of political
Dilemma of global right: Rights and freedoms of both

individuals and states can be secured only through hard

law backed by coercive power of a world republic (state)
It is precisely by granting these unprecedented powers to
the potential government of the state of states, or even
a universal monarchy, that there arises the twin danger
of global despotism (abusing power) and paternalism
(disrespecting peoples right to autonomy, even if led by
good intentions)
League of states
Right to/obligation of hospitality

B. Barry:
Barry there is no inconsistency in counting

the interests of everyone in the world equally

and concluding that those interests will tend to
be best advanced by a state-centered system
with only weak international authority

S. Caney:
Caney cosmopolitan moral claims are

compatible with, or even require, states or some

alternative to global political institutions [thus]
critiques of a world state or global political
authorities do not impugn the moral convictions
that all persons are of equal moral worth and
that everyone has duties to other human beings.

T. Pogge:
Pogge [M.C. is] a requirement that imposes

limits upon our conduct and, in particular, upon our

efforts to construct institutional schemes (...) [This
is] a more abstract, and in this sense weaker [view]
than legal cosmopolitanism.

C. Beitz:
Beitz there is no necessary link between

moral and institutional cosmopolitanism () [moral

cosmopolitans] are not necessarily committed to
the belief that the world should be reorganized as a
unitary or stateless political and legal order () the
widely alleged undesirability of world government
is [therefore] not a good reason to reject the ethical
aspiration it represents

Whats wrong with the disctinction?

(1) MC proving too little
(2) MC proving too much

Label vs. Content: Proving

Too Little
D. Miller:
Miller moral equality = platitudinous element in MC
polite disinterest => set of negative duties plus minimal

positive duties (hospitality, hunger)?

Objection: the retreat to negative duties makes ultimately

no difference because upholding even the most basic of

these (such as not physically harming, not exploiting or
stealing, not using others for ones own ends) would
necessarily entail a radical transformation of international
economic and political structures

(A) T. Pogge:
Pogge a negative duty not to participate in upholding

unjust social-economic international order (Art. 28 of the UDHR)

=> we are neither polite nor disinterested but causally
responsible for poverty and suffering
=> causal responsibility
(B) set of unconditional obligations: human rights, equality of


Ad (A): multicausal phenomenon; argument cuts both

ways; difficult empirical calculations

+ problems with counterfactual assessment: Getting
the logic backwards; unintended consequences

Ad (B): stricter observation of existing rules

Fair trade vs. free trade vs. theft (Wenar & resource curse)
Question of social integration, motivation to uphold rules

It is the nature and scope of moral claims that are put

forward on behalf of cosmopolitan justice that count,

not the label
Coercive power will have to be frequently deployed if
MC visions are not to remain empty manifestos
(resistance expected)

Label vs. Content: Proving Too

B. Barry: taxing rich people wherever they lived for the

benefit of the poor whenever they lived

advantages of entering such scheme of international
cooperation and staying in there will be enough to ensure
compliance via some kind of enlightened Hobbesian selfinterested reasoning (although moral motivation has to
come into play as well)
the extensive and even-expanding administrative apparatus of the

modern state however yields at least a reason for doubting that

administration of the global tax-based redistribution scheme would
be possible without the parallel existence of global bureaucracy and
global political authority which would provide both legitimacy and
control for this proposed global authoritative allocation of values
Conceptual link between taxation and sovereign political

Label vs. Content: Proving Too


D. Moellendorf:
Moellendorf (a) global fair equality of opportunity;
(b) globalized difference principle
armed intervention represents a violation of sovereignty
if and only if the intervention will not attempt to advance
the cause of justice either in the basic structure of the
state or in its international policies
mere strengthening of democratic accountability of both
the existing and future multilateral agreements and/or
regimes insufficient, especially with regard to distributive
Centralized yet multi-level system of state, regional and
global institutions subject to mechanisms of democratic
Functional delegation of powers
Delegation of powers ultimately implies dependence
Who is the people who these institutions shall be

accountable to the regional people or the global people?

Label vs. Content: Proving Too


K.-C. Tan:
Tan goals of MC could be best achieved

within the borders of national communities

Comprehensive liberalism: (a) moral autonomy;
(b) rejection of toleration as fundamental
principle; (c) liberal nationalism OK
Current institutional framework + yet undetermined

set of institutional norms and institutions

Circumscription of cultural and moral pluralism, so
that all communities will have acquired,
prospectively, liberal (egalitarian) character
Tobin Tax, Global Resource Tax (Pogge),
Pogge bit tax

Label vs. Content: Proving Too


Re: KC Tan
Tans moral ideal is in fact constituted by a global
extension and application of Rawlss principles of justice
especially the Difference Principle but also the Principle
of Fair Equality of Opportunity
Strong moral conception, weakly changed structure
Retaining political autonomy? Example: Property rights
Interests of great powers not conductive
Sleight of hand?: While moral cosmopolitanism would
cover all the ambitious moral ideals and principles of
justice, which have not yet been realised even on the
domestic (state) level, weak suggestions for
institutional arrangements would seemingly support the
asserted realistic nature of cosmopolitan theory by listing
only moderate and relatively uncontroversial examples

Label vs. Content: Proving Too

S. Caney: (1) disaggregating the concept of sovereignty:

legality supremacy territoriality comprehensiveness

Cosmopolitan political structures: Democratic political
institutions, economic super-organisation for coordinating the
workings of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade
Organisation and the World Bank, global volunteer force
(perhaps under the UN auspices) and international courts of
justice dealing with not only human rights but also corporate
grievances and injustices
Absence of supremacy and comprehensiveness => spectre of
a sovereign world-state is ruled out
(2) no duty to bring about a given moral ideal in its entirety
Above a basic minimum defined by protection of fundamental

interests of human beings, conditions should be secured for

fair mediation among rival ideals of global justice

Label vs. Content: Proving Too


Re: S. Caney

Previous concerns apply here

On the one hand, Caney speaks about international institutions

or a basic minimum of cosmopolitan justice, in order to signal

his opposition to over-ambitious institutional proposals. On the
other, however, he loads his global system of governance with a
plethora of sanctioning and enforcing tasks in all the mentioned
areas, openly conceding that these institutions will have coercive
powers to impose sanctions, levy fines, punish wrongdoers and so
Implausible to assume consensus of all decisive agents on almost
any of the hot issues, as there will always be ruthlessly
instrumental or plainly stupid or irresponsible actors not to
mention those who merely pursue their national interests
The notion of fundamental human interests seems to be
substantively on par with the full contemporary package of
international human rights, and it is difficult to see how this might
be considered a basic minimum of morality

Label vs. Content: Proving Too


J. Habermas:
Habermas constitutionalisation of global politics

Avoids strong normative claims on the global level; also employs a multi-

layered conception of political agency, dispersing political decision-making

among the supranational, transnational and national levels
Functional distribution of decision-making powers, tied to the ideal of

deliberative democratic structures and processes

W. Scheuerman: JH appears to want to have the cake and eat it as

well - even if the reformed UN would be charged only with maintaining

peace and securing human rights and would be refused formal monopoly
of legitimate use of force, it would need substantial political and military
muscle to bring uncooperative states into line
Issues of socioeconomic justice which are ordinarily cast in substantive

and comparative terms (relative inequalities among countries and/or

How can the power of powerful, unjust, instrumental actors be dispersed,

and power of the weak and vulnerable strengthened, unless one

possesses even greater power?
Kantian paradox of global right rides again

5. International Organizations
M. Barnett,
Barnett M. Finnemore (2004): IOs are bureaucracies of a

necessarily hierarchical nature

They acquire agency, i.e. become partially autonomous actors. As

agents possessing legitimate authority and capable of defining

problems and mobilizing resources for their solution, IOs wield
power (e.g. creating and enforcing obligatory rules regarding HR, or
humanitarian intervention ).
Power of constitution (echo of their largely constructivist approach to

international relations), but also power of domination, i.e. the ability

to force other actors behave in a way they otherwise would not
If we set huge, aspirational tasks for global political structures, as

strong MC unambiguously and consciously does, then these

structures stand in need of much greater power than is presently the
case with IOs
Problem of legitimacy and political accountability: by definition

irrelevant to bureaucracies
Organizational pathologies who is to take blame?
what use of a world legislative body and global bureaucracy

without a world executive body?

The European Union

The example of an emerging postsovereign stateless polity with

a cosmopolitan vision?
strong and centralized executive body, i.e. the Commission,

which at the same time has a de facto monopoly over

legislative initiative
EU law, as interpreted by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), is
based on principles of supremacy and direct effect, meaning
that if certain procedural conditions are met, European laws
take priority over member states legislation
promoting and enforcing ambitious principles of justice, such as
those proposed by moral cosmopolitans would require the
given policy arenas (such as fiscal, social, or immigration policy)
to be moved to the group of EUs exclusive competence
It is controversial to take the EU as a model case of
transnational democratic polity issues of input legitimacy

6. Towards a Proper Middle


Dilemma of cosmopolitan justice:

justice Either bite the bullet, retain strong

MC and admit that the institutional solution points to a centralised global

political authority, or back off from deep moral demands in the first place
and keep flirting with the idea of a multilayered system of global
governance with states as still the principal actors

It precisely the overblown moral requirements of moral cosmopolitanism that

lead to uncomfortable feelings of a dead end
the existing interstate system of governance should be supplemented, not

subverted or supplanted by whatever institutional design comes with

international (weak cosmopolitan) morality
The morality to be sanctioned and enforced by the system of international

institutions should be decidedly weak or thin

Core subset of human rights (Walzer, Rawls, Miller)
Legislative and judicial globalization vs. legal polycentrism/pluralism: Only

the former available for MC

Extra-statal sources and scope of law: stability and legitimacy depends on

whether they conform to the actors expectations and normative


Towards a Proper Middle

My argument dopes not imply that a move towards
some kind of transnational political authority backed
by a system of law is intrinsically wrong
The promise of constructivism: the theoretical bridge
between normative reasoning and empirical
too easily leads one to endorse strong forms of moral

cosmopolitanism =>checks from both outside (logic of

consequences) and inside (awareness of dilemmas)
Mutual interdependence of politics and morality
English School in IR: balancing justice and order
Epistemological scepticism + (Hartian) rules of respect for life,

property, truth, keeping promises etc.

Problem of normative (public) justification

Diverting attention from substantive issues to

sterile metatheoretical debates?

If there is no thick normative consensus among the key
actors of international or global politics, it seems prima
facie reasonable to work our way up from some kind of
minimal normative foundations rather than trying to
ram demanding moral principles down the throats of
global humanity. Substantively weaker moral claims
about the nature of a cosmopolitan political community
are a more promising departure point when looking for
an institutional middle road between the spectre of
the status quo and the spectre of the world-state.