Globalization and Global Justice
Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations
Cambridge University Press 2012
Citizens of well-developed liberal democracies enjoy an unprecedented standard of living, while a staggering number of people worldwide live in unbelievable poverty. It seems obvious that the well-off have moral obligations to those who are impoverished. But there’s a question regarding the nature and extent of these obligations. Some hold that well-off societies and their citizens own substantial duties of humanitarian assistance to the global poor. Others claim that our duties are stronger than this; they claim that our duties to the global poor are a matter of justice.
In her new book, Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations (Cambridge University Press, 2012), Nicole Hassoun proposes a new kind of argument for what she calls “serious moral duties to the global poor.” She claims that in our globalized world, people all over the globe are subject to the coercive power of international institutions. She then argues that these coercive institutions are legitimate only if they can win the consent of those subject to them. From this, she concludes that international institutions owe to the global poor whatever is required in order to enable them to exercise a kind of minimal autonomy; and this autonomy requires access to food, shelter, water, and education. Hassoun’s argument, then, is that familiar minimal requirements for legitimate coercion entail more extensive positive duties to the global poor.