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Northern European Journal of Philosophy

Editor-in-Chief: Addis, Mark / Hämäläinen, Nora / Pedersen, Esther Oluffa / Westphal, Kenneth R.

Managing Editor: Pedersen, Esther Oluffa

Together with Niknam, Arman Teymouri

CiteScore 2017: 0.07

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.107
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.274

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Volume 13, Issue 2


On Thomas Pogge’s Theory of Global Justice. Why We Are Not Collectively Responsible for the Global Distribution of Benefits and Burdens between Individuals

Søren Flinch Midtgaard
Published Online: 2012-12-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sats-2012-0012


Thomas Pogge’s ingenious and influential Rawlsian theory of global justice asserts that principles of justice such as the difference principle or, alternatively, a universal criterion of human rights consisting of a subset of the principles of social justice apply to the global basic structure or economic order. Individuals that contribute to upholding the latter and benefit from it are, Pogge emphasizes, jointly responsible for its unjust features, not least for the fact that it, foreseeably and avoidably, affects up to 18 million people per year in such a way that they die. The paper mounts an immanent criticism against Pogge revolving around his notion of collective responsibility. Especially, it argues that people cannot plausibly be held responsible for the distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals at the global level addressed by the kind of principles Pogge invokes. They, and their governments, can, and should, however, be held responsible for the unjust features of the existing law of peoples or states.

Keywords: Thomas Pogge; collective responsibility; principles of justice; principles of the law of peoples

About the article

Published Online: 2012-12-18

Published in Print: 2012-12-01

Citation Information: , Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 207–222, ISSN (Online) 1869-7577, ISSN (Print) 1600-1974, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sats-2012-0012.

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