Justice and Sovereignty

in Theoria
Author: Mervyn Frost
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In Cosmopolitan Justice Darrel Moellendorf sets out to develop a Rawlsian theory of justice applicable to the sphere of international relations broadly conceived.1 He develops his ethical theory through an exploration of the tensions which he perceives between the early work of John Rawls found in A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, and his later work, The Law of Peoples.2 Moellendorf’s central claim is that in the latter work Rawls, in fundamental ways, betrays crucial cosmopolitan commitments of the theory of justice as set out in the earlier corpus. Rawls’s original project was directed towards the production of a theory which would provide us with criteria for judging the justness of the basic structure of states. That work did not deal with issues of justice within the international realm. Later, in The Law of Peoples, Rawls set out to extend his theory of justice to the international sphere. Moellendorf finds fault with Rawls’s attempt to execute this. The central problem he identifies is that Rawls failed fully to realize the implications which a liberal commitment to human rights places on what morally can be claimed by states making use of the notion of sovereignty.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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