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Subsidies, Relocations, and Social Justice

  • Sylvie Loriaux EMAIL logo


This article examines Risse and Wollner’s discussion and rejection of several strategies a) in favour of developed countries subsidising their producers, and b) against the relocation of firms operating on their territory. It argues that their critical review of these strategies remains incomplete and therefore not decisive. It starts by bringing into relief two blind spots in their moral assessment of subsidies. The first concerns the imperfect nature of the general duties of global justice they focus on; the second concerns their understanding of the relation between these duties and duties of social justice. While addressing these two difficulties, it presents another possible strategy in support of subsidies, which Risse and Wollner fail to examine: the ‘equal citizenship’ strategy. This strategy is mobilised again in an assessment of Risse and Wollner’s treatment of relocations. In this context, some doubts are raised about the remedy Risse and Wollner prescribe to overcome both social injustices and exploitative relocations ― namely, the domestic redistribution by governments of the gains of international trade. It is argued that such a redistribution is both insufficient to combat social exclusion and threatened by the very practice of trade liberalisation that Risse and Wollner seek to defend.

Corresponding author: Sylvie Loriaux, Laval University, Pavillon De Koninck, 1030 Avenue des Sciences Humaines, Office 4423, Quebec, QC, G1V 0A6, Canada, E-mail:


I would like to thank the guest editors of this special issue and the two anonymous referees for extremely helpful comments. I would also like to thank François Blais, Patrick Turmel and students in my autumn 2020 graduate seminar on ethics and international relations for enlightening and thought-provoking discussion.


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Published Online: 2021-10-19
Published in Print: 2022-04-26

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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