Kant, Rawls and Pogge on Global Justice

Thomas Mertens
Radboud University Nijmegen
Pogge’s writings on international distributive justice, some of them now collected in ‘World Poverty and Human Rights’ (2002),1 exhibit a masterly interplay of moral argumentation and empirical data. In this contribution, I cannot do justice to both and will therefore focus on Pogge’s moral arguments, the origins of which are to be found in the legal philosophies of Kant and Rawls. Contrary to these philosophers, however, Pogge does argue in favor of an institutionalized global order. That is, he argues, what justice demands. On this point, he sharply differs from his predecessors. Although Rawls criticizes Kant because of his adherence to a ‘comprehensive’, metaphysical viewpoint, he follows Kant in distinguishing between several layers of justice, especially between justice on the domestic, national level and justice on the international, global scale (adding local justice as a third layer). In comparison with both Kant’s and Rawls’s views, Pogge pleads for a revolutionary transformation of the ‘law of peoples’, in which the ‘statist’ approach is rejected altogether and a much more utopian stance is adopted. Here, I intend to bring the main arguments together: Kant’s and Rawls’s pleas for international justice on the one hand and Pogge’s arguments for global justice on the other. By doing so, I hope to contribute to answering the question whether Pogge’s views represent an unjustifiable ‘moral doctrine’, unfit for the highly complex international society of societies or an utopian view in need of being endorsed by many. This then sets my agenda: I will first briefly summarize Kant’s and Rawls’s arguments in favor of a layered structure of ‘international’ justice. Second, I will briefly summarize Pogge’s arguments in favor of ‘global’ justice. The contrast between those views will then enable me to raise the most difficult question: if the requirement of global justice is true in theory, why is it so difficult to apply it in practice? Do these difficulties point at the nature of morality itself..
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