Archives for posts with tag: Political philosophy

political_world_map_1200The modern state, which was born from the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, gave unrestricted control of the state to its rulers. This was the beginning of the concept of state sovereignty which is still dominant today. The most potent shaping forces in the contemporary world are the interactions of states when enforcing their interests, capabilities and goals. However, during the latter half of the twentieth century the supremacy of the state is under challenge. Global affairs are now dominated by intergovernmental organizations that transcend national boundaries. Global international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union have become independent global actors which implement their own foreign policies. Also groups of people carrying on various enterprises, such as multinational corporations, are examples of nongovernmental organizations which also transcend national boundaries and exert their influence globally.

Post Cold War, the United States has dominated world politics with the political scientist Francis Fukuyama even suggesting that it signaled ‘the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government’. However because of the ascendance of other great powers such as China, Japan, Russia and India others such as the journalist and foreign policy advisor Fareed Zakaria arguing that a ‘post-American’ world has arisen through which many other state and nonstate actors direct and define global society’s responses to global challenges. While the United States remains the greatest military power, other dimensions are emerging industrially, financially, educationally, socially and culturally that are moving the globe away from American dominance.

Although some suggest that competition between states could be renewed as they jostle for power in commercial relations, they also manage their security relations collaboratively which can be seen through their cooperation in fighting terrorism. The danger of the polarization of these states into two antagonistic camps could be managed through newly developed international rules and institutions that can manage these mixed-motive relationships. Rather than a quest for hegemony, these great and emerging powers are active trading partners and the question arises will these commercial relationships reduce the potential for future military competition?

Multilateralism could be the approach that these great powers take to cooperate to achieve global solutions to problems that affect all of their citizens. In an ever shrinking global environment in which all actors are increasingly reliant upon each other, a new global system of power and responsibility is more widely distributed. How these great powers will make their choices about war and peace will affect all people and determine the fate of the humanity.

A new concept of responsible sovereignty is emerging which requires states not to protect only their own people but also to cooperate across borders to protect global resources and address transnational threats. This entails intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) providing a greater role which ‘differs from the traditional interpretation of sovereignty being non-interference in the internal affairs of state’. Global problems require global solutions and an increasingly greater number of non-state actors have arisen on the world stage to engineer adaptive global changes.

The United Nations is the most prominent IGO to have emerged in the last sixty years. Its Charter sets its agenda as the maintenance of peaceful and amicable relations between states based upon humanitarian values and the attainment of common ends through the harmonization of state actors (143). Although it is challenged by persistent financial troubles it is an adaptable and reforming institution that remains the forum of choice for negotiation and promotion of humanitarian concerns. Through its claim to represent ‘the collective will of humanity’ it is in the position to act on issues of global relevance such as shaming human rights violators, combating global pandemics, and promoting conflict-prevention measures.

Increasingly, NGOs are becoming more influential in global politics through their ability to lobby and influence international decision making. This activism is able to transcend the traditional distinctions between what is local and what is global. Five of the most visible types of NGOs are non-state entities that comprise of ethnic or indigenous peoples, transnational religious groups, transnational terrorist groups and multinational corporations. However, while these groups have a strong participation in world affairs some of their influence can often be minimized by differing groups pushing policies in opposing directions.

With the world being far more interdependent than ever before and transactions across state borders increasing through the movement of people, information and trade, non- state actors are becoming more important to the shared concepts of people across the globe. The centrality of the state as an insular actor is declining. Although our constructed images of global politics are resistant to change, change is possible through the reshaping of our insular perceptions. By ridding ourselves of false assumptions about other people we can reshape the future of world politics so that it does not rely on the insular attitudes of singular states but on the basis of a global people. As the philosopher Martin J. Siegel observes: “War for survival is the destiny of all species. In our case, we are courting suicide [by waging war against each other]”. It is the realisation of this by state leaders that will finally lead to the end of the concept of the sovereign state.

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Objections to deliberative democracy state that culturally plural societies are too diverse to be able to enact such a concept, that social groups who are marginalized in these societies would not have the access or ability to participate in such decision-making processes. This essay argues that deliberative democracy is applicable to these societies and may be the only method of addressing historical injustices through the reconciliation process, shared stories and perceptions of a common good.

 

 “First we argue for equality, by appealing to the arbitrariness of the natural lottery. Then we allow departures from equality provided that these are not worse for those who are worst off. This explains why, in Rawls’s phrase, the worst-off have the veto, so that benefits to them should have absolute priority.” Parfit (2000, p.121)

 

Theorists of deliberative democracy assert that democracy relies upon notions of a common good and an egalitarian ideal, and also that democracies should be developed to encourage civic responsibility and self-respect. While many modern societies are culturally plural, as long as a system of government allows for a fair system of bargaining that is representative of all groups, these theorists think that it will be a legitimate system (Cohen, 1997). This essay will look at the different concepts that underpin deliberative democracy and assert that such a democratic process is both applicable to a modern, pluralist society and that collective choice will also lead to better understanding between the different groups that inhabit these societies.

John Dryzek’s “Discursive Democracy” (1990) was the first book written about deliberative democracy. Dryzek states that ‘the final decade of the second millennium saw the theory of democracy take a strong deliberative turn’ (Dryzek, 2000:1).  The opportunity to participate became the imperative in asserting effective deliberation and claims for or advocated by others could be justified in terms that would be acceptable to the participants. For Dryzek (2000), deliberative democracy should not be confined to strict forms of ‘public reason’ but should be able to engage in more tolerant positions that include testimony, humour, emotion, storytelling, argument, rhetoric and even gossip. He contends that this would help deliberation in a non-coercive way and rule out dominant powers manipulating outcomes or attempting to enforce an ideological conformity.

This also explains how deliberative democracy has come to be seen by some as being too chaotic and unmanageable through inclusion, and yet by others as being too restrictive through exclusion. For these objections even the idea of rational argument is elitist and exclusive to those who cannot explain themselves comprehensively (Dryzek, 2000:5). However, Dryzek’s inclusion of story allows those that do not have the same worldview as the dominant group to come to an arena of democracy and show through narrative why their preferences might be the ones that are chosen by the collective. Indigenous people can benefit from democracy in this way, instead of having to rely upon the political representation of someone who has little concept of their worldview or culture.

Jürgen Habermas developed the concept of deliberative democracy, basing its legitimacy in reason. Democracy, asserted Habermas, is supposed to encourage free critical reasoning about common affairs designed to guide the practice of coercive powers (Cohen, 1999:386). Joshua Cohen states that one of the reasons that Habermas contended that democracy should be deliberative, was to ensure the impartial justifiability of outcomes (Cohen, 1999:402). John Rawls (1972) also reflected this in his thinking about political decision-making where his principle of participation required fair political equality. Deliberative democracy relies upon the participants engaging in free deliberation amongst equals as the basis of their legitimacy and Cohen (1999) thinks that in this way deliberative democracy is able to address pluralism within a democratic process. Citizens find resolutions to problems of collective choice through public reasoning and establishing a framework for deliberation. It is a plural and diverse association that is committed to resolving problems through collective choice. This is assisted through each party not reaffirming self-interested or mandatory preferences or ideals.

The first step in collective choice is choosing an agenda, then the proposal of different solutions to that agenda with supportive reasoning, and finally settling upon an agreed solution. While all comprehend the necessity of their own good, in deliberative democratic decision-making they also share a commitment to finding decisions that are acceptable to all, even if it involves revising one’s own preferences and beliefs. Deliberation requires critical reasoning because it is not enough in pluralistic societies for people to provide reasons for decisions being based upon preferences, beliefs or ideals. The notion of autonomy is also important in a deliberative democracy, as preferences should be formed by agency rather than circumstance. Therefore, deliberation consists of assessing the common good from the basis of legitimate public reflection on what is an appropriate claim on public resources, rather than notions of preconceived ideas and interests (Cohen, 1997).

Historical injustice means injustices that have occurred across generations from oppressive social practices and institutions. These social practices legitimise exclusion and oppress certain groups because their features mark them as inferior to others. Through this oppression these social groups are vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence. If this oppression occurs over a long period of time they become historical injustices. Historical oppression is unique in that it formulates identity in terms of conflict and opposition, leaving a stigma even after reparations have been reparations have been attempted. Indigenous cultures that have been conquered by settler colonial powers are an example of historical injustice. In attempting to address the plural dimensions of historical oppression, democratic inclusion must find a way of resolving these issues (Bashir, 2012).

Benjamin Barber (Young, 1989: 256) highlights the opposition between the general interests of the civic polity and the particular interests of private affiliations. Barber states that concepts of the common group are not enforced from a position of authority but agreed upon as part of a common project. Although Barber states that notions of belonging to particular groups are important as well for people, it could be that concepts such as universal citizenship and deliberative democracy may require a degree of impartiality that humans may not be able to practice (Young, 1989). People understand polity from their particular perspective and the narrower their perspective the narrower will be their political view. This occurs in societies where some are privileged while other are oppressed. To recommend that all citizens leave their perspectives and interests behind merely reinforces the privileged position of some and fails to redress the oppression, all the while silencing it by ignoring the perspective of the oppressed. Young (1989) argues that Barber confuses plurality with privatisation, stating that pluralism encourages particular private interest groups to assert their interests over others. She goes on that instead of unified public realm that does not disregard the particular perspectives of individuals but acknowledges the ‘desire to decide together the society’s policies’ (Young, 1989:258). Therefore Young suggests that there should be specific representation of disadvantaged groups in order to enact affirmative action with regard to their participation in the greater group, the greater group already having a strong enough voice (Young, 1989:262).

An objection to deliberative democracy is that its treatment of basic liberties is unacceptable because it is dependent upon a majority decision and restricts the liberty of individuals. Cohen (1997) responds to this objection by stating that deliberative democracy entails informed and autonomous judgements through public deliberations in which free and civil expression is allowed to take place. In this way it includes the individual in decisions for the majority. Another objection is that public deliberation is, in reality, irrelevant to modern political conditions. It is basically an objection that direct democracy cannot occur in modern conditions because the nature of our states is too large and complex in both population and institutions. Especially with regard to the globalization of citizenship in large conglomeration states like the European Union, this objection states that it is difficult to encourage citizens under such conditions of diversity to consider themselves equal participants in acts of cooperative deliberation (Cohen, 1997). By ensuring that institutions engaged in deliberative democracy have arenas through which citizens propose and debate issues for the political agenda, this objection seems nullified. If these institutions can act across communities and states, through the use of social media and online translators people can engage with each other on a local, national and international level.

Habermas advocated such a communitarian approach to democracy based upon mutual communication. In this way deliberative citizenship can use narratives of shared experience to address thinner concepts of liberal theory and particular interest groups. John Dewey termed this type of deliberative vision as a ‘shared way of life’. For Immanuel Kant, without ‘enlarged thought’ or public engagement in the decision-making process that includes other perspectives there is a failure in the human community to live wisely. If one loses touch with public conversation one becomes sensorily deprived ( Boyte, 1995). Addressing issues in the public sphere that involve marginalised social groups, such as indigenous, disabled, or ethnic minority groups, a necessary part of the political process is allowing those groups to become engaged in decision-making. Approaches to this could be through the convening of town meetings where citizens can be involved in discussing problems, and ensuring that election coverage gives voices to a broad range of citizens, especially those that are marginalised, as well as representatives. Civic journalism also can play a role in revealing conditions that may be hidden from the general civic polity (Sirianni and Friedland).

To ensure that institutions work within the desired parameters of a deliberative democracy, it is necessary to understand that material inequalities usually mean political inequalities. Being from a remote or poor community can mean that you have little chance to engage in the democratic process because of lack of access. Therefore, political parties that are able to be supported through public funding are an important enabling feature of deliberative democracy. In this way material disadvantage in the political arena can be overcome and ensures the manifest equality that is a part of the Rawlsian view. Also, by providing a diverse enough range of issues parties can ensure that debate is not restricted to certain issues and provide more open-ended accounts that can properly inform diverse understanding of the common good (Cohen, 1997).

Objections to deliberative democracy on the grounds that it is either too inclusionary or exclusionary are counteracted by methods of storytelling that include people who might otherwise have their voices silenced. Deliberative democracy can provide a solution to the challenge of pluralism in its insistence that participants are able to engage with each other equally and with liberty of deliberation. Critical reasoning is essential for deliberative democracy because it helps to take the decision-making beyond personal preferences and beliefs. Deliberative democracy should also be viewed as an egalitarian approach. Furthermore, through such a Rawlsian egalitarian approach the difference principle can apply and reconciliation between the general community and disenfranchised groups can occur. This is especially important when it comes to redressing historical injustices.

Deliberative democracy is a way in which those who have suffered from historical injustices can be included in the process of decision-making in an attempt to resolve their issues. Elements of affirmative action are advocated to become part of the arena of deliberative democracy to ensure that those people whose voices are usually silenced, such as the marginalised or oppressed, are included in the decision-making process. Liberty and autonomy are able to be protected in the process of deliberative democracy through public decision-making with all free and civil voices being included.

Finally, although modern states are large and populous, smaller arenas, such as social media, where people can voice their opinions on issues are becoming more popular and varied across the political sphere. Civic journalism and publicly funded political parties are also a good way to make sure that those who have little chance to engage in the democratic process have their material disadvantage addressed. Therefore, if the objections to deliberative democracy are addressed then it should be a successful basis for addressing the claims of marginalised social groups.

REFERENCES:

  1. Bashir, B. (2012), “Reconciling Historical Injustices: Deliberative Democracy and the Politics of Reconciliation”, in Res Publica, 18 (27), 2012, pp. 127-143
  2. Boyte, C.J. (1995), “Beyond Deliberation: Citizenship as Public Work”, Civic Practices Network, viewed on 5 May 2013 on http://www.cpn.org/crm/contemporary/beyond.html
  3. Cohen, J. (1997) “Deliberation and democratic legitimacy” in Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics , Bohman, James; Rehg, William , 1997 , pp. 67-91
  4. Cohen, J.  (1999),”Reflections on Habermas on Democracy”, in Ratio Juris, 12 (4),December 1999, pp. 385-416
  5. Dryzek, J (2000), Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics and Contestations, Oxford University Press Inc. New York
  6. Rawls, J., (1972), A Theory of Justice, Clarendon Press, Oxford
  7. Sirianni, C., & Friedland, L. (n.d.), “Deliberative Democracy”, Civic Practices Network, viewed in 5 May 2013 on http://www.cpn.org/tools/dictionary/deliberate.html emocracy reliescieties. cess ise issues.ther too inclusionary or exclusionary are conteracted by habit these societies. cess is
  8. Young, Iris Marion. “Polity and group difference: A critique of the ideal of universal citizenship” Ethics , 99:2 , 1989 , 250-274

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John Rawls’ “Theory of Justice” (1972) explains how social cooperation needs a system of justice and gives a basic idea of what justice means to the structure of society. Rawls presents the primary concept of justice as being fairness, an abstract extension of the social contract described by such philosophers as Locke, Rousseau and Kant. In Rawls’ theory, however, the social contract is replaced by a concept of an original position which allows for an original agreement on the principles of justice. Rawls contrasts this with the classical utilitarian view (p.3).

Rawls first considers the role of justice. He states that while society is seen as the cooperation of people for mutual advantage it also produces conflict through competing interests. Although social cooperation is the best way for people to better their lives there is a conflict of interests because people dispute inequalities of distribution of the products of society, or the goods produced through such cooperation. People tend to prefer a larger share to a lesser share. Therefore a set of just principles are needed to assign the rights and duties within societal institutions and define how benefits and burdens of societal cooperation are best distributed (p.4)

A just society is one where all know and accept the same principles of justice and the social institutions reflect these principles. Rawls maintains that human society needs a just charter to establish the limits of the pursuit of other ends and bring people with different aims and purposes together. Existing societies are usually in dispute about questions of justice. Rawls states that despite this they still have a concept of justice as being a set of principles that assign rights and duties and determine distribution of societal goods (p.5). For Rawls, the principles of justice should first identify the similarities and differences between people when establishing such assignments and distributions. Rawls states that individuals need to interact positively with each other so that their activities are compatible with each other and their plans can be carried through without infringing unjustly upon the rights of others. The outcomes of their plans should be compatible with justice. When justice is the priority of a social system it can be said that one notion of justice is preferable to another when its wider consequences are more beneficial (p.6).

Rawls next considers how best justice can serve a social system. He states that a just society’s institutions protect freedom of thought and conscience, free markets, private property, and the monogamous family. However, Rawls contends that such institutions are arbitrary in that there are inequalities within society that can affect an individual’s chances in life. Therefore, Rawls states that it is necessary for the principle of social justice to attend to these inequalities first in order to regulate the just economic and social system (p.7). Rawls goes onto say that it might be an idealistic theory but it provides the basis for the understanding of civil disobedience and allows an analysis of ‘the nature and aims of a perfectly just society’ (p.9).

Rawls puts forward the notion of an original agreement which posits that free and rational persons concerned with furthering their own interests would accept an initial position of equality (p.11). It is stated by Rawls that just as rational thinking determines what is in a person’s best interests so too can it also be extended to a group of people deciding what is just and unjust. So, Rawls describes a hypothetical original position which argues that there is no way of knowing where one’s place in society will be, what natural assets or liabilities they may have, or their intelligence or strength. Because of this, Rawls maintains that ‘the principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance’. In that way no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles of justice through inequalities of social circumstance (p.12). For Rawls the original position ensures ‘that the principles of justice are agreed to in an initial situation that is fair’. Therefore, Rawls states, when the social system enacts such principles of justice people will be able to cooperate with one another ensuring that their relationship is a fair one (p.13).

Rawls finally concludes that it would be questionable whether once these principles of justice, based upon an original agreement of equality, were in place that a principle of utility would be allowed. Rawls thinks that it is unlikely that people who consider themselves equal would allow a principle of justice that would require some to suffer inferior life prospects so that a greater utility could be enjoyed by a majority. In this regard utilitarianism seems incompatible with the notion of ‘social cooperation amongst equals for mutual advantage’. Instead of the principle of utility, Rawls contends that the person in a position of equality under the original agreement would choose two defining principles:

1)      that there is equality in the assignment of rights and duties;

2)      that inequalities of wealth and authority are only allowed if they result in compensating everyone, and especially the least advantaged.

Therefore, Rawls thinks that these principles rule out the utilitarian concept of allowing hardships for some if they are offset by a greater good for the many (p.14).

For the sake of survival rational people do not wish to be violated by others and they rely upon a system of justice to protect them from such violations. For Rawls, each person possesses such an inviolability based upon justice and the welfare of society as a whole cannot impinge upon these individual rights. For what if members of the majority were in the position of the minority, they would also want such a right to inviolability to be respected. Rawls argues that justice does not allow the loss of freedom for some to be made right by the greater good of the many. The accident of birth should not determine one’s liberties and for it to do so would be arbitrary rather than just. Under the veil of ignorance and the original position Rawls contends that each person would choose a society where they would respected with dignity even if they are a minority group. Rawls concludes that utilitarianism contradicts these basic precepts of justice, particularly those that concern liberty and rights. A utilitarian society is simply regarded as an efficient means through which the spreading of benefits can occur, and does not take into account the difference between persons. “Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests” (p.3).

  • Rawls, J., (1972), Theory of Justice, Clarendon Press, Oxford

 

Nicholas Georgouras, 2006, The Landlord, marble

Inclosure came and trampled on the grave / Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave … And birds and trees and flowers without a name / All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came.”

       John Clare, The Mores (1821-24)[1]

During the Industrial Revolution in Britain, vast tracts of land were enclosed and the people who lived off them were completely disenfranchised[2]. This situation was much like circumstances the world over for indigenous peoples under colonialism. With this understanding of the enclosure of land through the acquisition of property, this essay will explore the theories of justice by two philosophers, Robert Nozick and John Rawls. Robert Nozick firmly believes in the rights of private property. Contrastingly, John Rawls argues that justice is based upon cooperation rather than competition. I will argue that Nozick’s theory is problematic through its assertion of property rights being based on the rights of the individual, and that a stable, secure society can only exist through people’s voluntary cooperation.

Robert Nozick favours libertarian principles which assert that a person who legally acquires, either directly or through transfer, some form of property is entitled to that holding[3]. This entitlement can be said to be directly related to the circumstances in which one is born or one finds oneself; for it is fortunate circumstances that allows one to secure an entitlement to the property that is transferred. They are fortunate because under entitlement theory no one is entitled to any holding unless they have legally acquired it[4], which alienates and excludes people who are too poor or powerless to own or hold a claim to land. Nozick does not believe that justice is about patterns of distribution of property but about entitlement to property[5]. He objects to patterns of distribution, such as the egalitarian principles of the equal distribution of societal goods, because of a lack of central distribution[6]. He states that there is no person or group entitled to control all resources or to decide how they should be allocated[7]. Further, Nozick contends that patterns of just distribution cannot be realised without there being an unreasonable amount of interference in a person’s life[8].

Nozick’s main principle of distribution is that is it legally and justly acquired. This condition is a problem for Nozick’s argument as, historically, much of the land that has been acquired upon the Earth has been through invasion, colonisation, war or oppression, not through any legal or just means. This assertion prioritises the rights of colonisers over indigenous peoples and undermines Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which the civil and human rights of all people are equal[9]. Nozick’s libertarian view of property rights relies upon John Locke’s assertion that property is a moral right by virtue of human labour[10]. However, an objection to this assertion could be the question: Whose labour? Is the labour of colonisers more important than thousands of generations of indigenous people’s labour? In Theory of Social Democracy[11], Thomas Meyer and Lewis Hinchman argue that Locke’s linking of freedom to property was problematic because there are people whose existence depends upon the property of others which negates their access to a moral right to liberty. Michael Thompson, in his review of Meyer and Hinchman, states that ownership, which is the province of the minority, gives inequitable access to positive liberty, thereby creating a material inequality which perpetuates into inequity at the level of human and civil rights[12].

Nozick’s objection to distributive justice can be addressed through looking at the Athenian economic crisis of 594 BCE. Civil unrest occurred because of the enslavement of farmers and their families, who defaulted upon their mortgages. The civil administrator, Solon, was chosen to mediate the dispute and he enacted social, legal and moral reforms that served as the foundation for later Athenian democracy. Through his law reforms, Solon implicitly subordinated wealth to an ethical code[13]. His authority stemmed from an agreement by both sides that he administrate the dispute, and also his reasoning that the whole society would suffer if the imbalance was allowed to continue to occur[14]. Solon’s political reforms established the basis of a moral and legal framework in which individuals could pursue wealth in a social context[15]. For Solon, it was necessary to see beyond short-term gain to long-term success through the use of reason. Reason becomes the authority that legitimises a government to control and allocate resources so that there is enough equity in society to enable it to be stable. Reason also makes it acceptable for citizens to comply with the demands of society without undue interference. In contemporary society social democracy theory reflects the ideals of Solon’s reforms. It reconciles the contradiction in libertarian appeals to civil and human rights by providing a framework for the government to provide the necessary means to enable these rights to become concrete[16].

John Rawls holds a contrasting egalitarian perspective of distributive justice to Nozick. He sees society as ‘a cooperative venture for mutual advantage’[17]. According to Rawls, people are not indifferent as to how the resources, on which society depends, are distributed. Conflicts of interests arise when there are marked inequalities between individuals or groups within the system. So Rawls advocates that we should look at distributive justice with the notion of an ‘original position of equality’[18]. The main idea of an original position is that life is a lottery, with no one having knowledge of what their place in society will be when they are born. Nor do they have knowledge of how they will be allotted natural assets or abilities, or whether they will be subject to liabilities, such as being born in a refugee camp, in wartime, in slavery or servitude, or with some form of disability. In choosing the principles of justice to which we would desire to be subjected if we were placed in the original position, Rawls contends that we would make our choice through a ‘veil of ignorance’[19]. This ‘veil of ignorance’ will ensure that, as we cannot know what advantages or disadvantages we will be placed under, we will choose principles that will be of the most benefit to the least advantaged.

Considering that, in the modern world, the production of goods and services relies upon a vast network of workers and consumers; Rawls has a strong argument that society is a cooperative effort that should result in mutual benefits. The companies that produce these items or services rely upon systems of utilities, education, health, transport and communication. Even if one of these systems fails, such as when a strike or natural disaster happens, many of the other systems may also fail with the effect upon a company or community sometimes being ruinous. Therefore, we all benefit from these systems being cooperative. Nozick rejects Rawls’ theory by stating that there is no guarantee that people would be motivated to adhere to his difference principle if they emerged from the ‘veil of ignorance’ being naturally well-endowed[20]. As far as Nozick is concerned, a government has no right to interfere with a person’s liberty in order to enact the distribution of social goods, and its only role is to protect the property of persons[21]. Just as the civil strife affected Athens in 594 BCE and no estate could be cordoned off for its own protection, under Nozick’s theory the government would have an onerous task trying to protect one person’s property from the many who do not have any property. Therefore, the motivating factor to adhere to the difference principle may be that the naturally well-endowed could not be guaranteed of keeping their position if they unfairly took advantage of their situation.

Nozick’s person does not live in a vacuum, relying upon the cooperation of others to make sure that he or she is protected. As John Stuart Mill stated:  “…everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest”[22]. Nozick’s theory results in an unequal society that is insecure and tenuous. Under such conditions, a person’s ability to maintain their hold upon property is also tenuous. Rawls’ theory of distributive justice recognises the benefits that people should enjoy when they cooperate for mutual advantage, and is based upon principles under which there is a balance of equality, liberty and productivity and so encourages all to adhere to it.

Nozick’s entitlement theory is weak because the legal right to property can be seen to be contentious, especially with regard to land obtained by invasion and the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples. Rawls’ theory, that we should consider our position in society from the ‘original position’, is based upon a real understanding of the unreliability of existence, as we have no concept of our potential societal or physical position before we are born. If we can cooperate to form principles of justice based upon mutual long-term self-interest, these will have more possibility of being upheld because we all benefit from them, rather than just a select few. Therefore, for the establishment of secure, stable and cohesive communities, Rawls’ argument has the most strength.

Bibliography

  1. Clare, J., The Mores, comp. 1821-24; publ. 1935, viewed 10 July 2012, http://orion.it.luc.edu/~sjones1/mores.htm
  2. Lamont, J & Favor, C, 2007, “Distributive Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Viewed on 1 July 2012, URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/justice-distributive/ .
  3. Lewis, J.D, 2008, ‘Solon of Athens and the Ethics of Good Business’ in Journal of Business Ethics, (2009), 89, Springer, pp. 123-138, viewed on 13 July 2012, DOI. 10.1007/s10551-008-9989-4
  4. Mill, JS, 1869, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual”, Ch.4 in On Liberty,1869, Viewed on 8 July 2012, http://www.bartleby.com/130/4.html
  5. Monbiot, G., 2012, ‘John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis- 200 years ago’ guardian.co.uk, 9 July 2012, viewed 9 July 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/09/john-clare-poetry
  6. Rawls, J. 1972, ‘An Egalitarian Theory of Justice’, extracts from A Theory of Justice, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001), pp. 649-656.
  7. Shaw, WH & Barry, V,1995, ‘Justice and Economic Distribution’, Ch. 3 of Shaw & Barry (eds.) Moral Issues in Business, 6th edition, (Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 1995), pp. 101-126.
  8. Thompson, M, 2009, ‘Theorising Social Democracy’ in Studies in the Culture and Politics of Antiurbanism, Autumn 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, viewed on 14 July 2012, http://dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d16Thompson.pdf
  9. Townley C, J 2012, Justice, Markets and Capitalism, Lecture notes distributed in unit, PHI230, Business and Professional Ethics, Macquarie University, Sydney on 2 July 2012
  10. United Nations, 1948, ‘Universal Declaration Of Human Rights’, viewed on 15 July 2012, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ .

 


[1] Clare J. The Mores, (1821-24)

[2] Monbiot, G., 2012, ‘John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis- 200 years ago’ guardian.co.uk, 9 July 2012.

[3] Nozick, 1974, ‘The Entitlement Theory’, extracts from Anarchy, State and Utopia, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001).

[4] Nozick, 1974, p.658

[5] Nozick, 1974,  p. 658

[6] Nozick, 1974, p.657

[7] Nozick, 1974, p.657

[8] Nozick, 1974, p.660

[9] United Nations, 1948, Universal Declarations of Human Rights

[10] Nozick, 1974, p. 660

[11]  Thompson, M, 2009, ‘Theorising Social Democracy’ in Studies in the Culture and Politics of Antiurbanism, Autumn 2009, Palgrave Macmillan, p.96

[12] Thompson, M, 2009, p.96

[13] Lewis, J.D, 2008, ‘Solon of Athens and the Ethics of Good Business’ in Journal of Business Ethics, (2009), 89, Springer, p.124

[14] Lewis, J.D, 2008, p.129

[15] Lewis, J.D, 2008, p.131

[16] Thompson, M, 2009, p.96

[17] Rawls, J. 1972, ‘An Egalitarian Theory of Justice’, extracts from A Theory of Justice, reprinted in Tom Beauchamp & Norman Bowie (eds.). Ethical Theory and Business, 6th edition, (Prentice Hall, 2001), p.4.

[18] Rawls, 1972, p. 12

[19] Rawls, 1972, p.12

[20] Townley C, 2012, Justice, Markets and Capitalism, Lecture notes distributed in unit, PHI230, Business and Professional Ethics, Macquarie University, Sydney.

[21] Townley, C, 2012

[22] Mill, J, S 1869, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual”, Ch.4 in On Liberty,1869.

The global environment is connected to the security, economic prosperity and social well-being of both states and individuals. Until recently, the concept of security has only been associated with national security which emphasised armed conflict as the means to attain security through state power. The concept of environmental security broadens this definition by focussing on the transnational nature of the global environment which disregards human-constructed borders . Because of this the environment should replace the traditional realist idea of security as the key issue in global contemporary politics.

All people are in reality transnational actors who can make choices which contribute to the directions of global politics. The American anthropologist Margaret Mead states: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. Realist theorists believe that all decision makers are alike in their approach, that they are unitary actors with no essential differences and make their choices through rational calculations. To make a rational choice one must recognise a problem and define it objectively through access to a complete set of facts. The next step is to select the desired goal and then identify all of the alternatives. Finally, a choice must be made which includes a cost-benefit analysis based upon an accurate prediction of success.

The challenges to the global environment in the century ahead include global warming, ozone depletion, and the loss of tropical rainforests and marine habitats. These challenges are as much a threat to humanity as the threat of nuclear warfare. However, because the threat of nuclear warfare focuses on mutually assured destruction more focus is given to this threat because of its perceived and tangible reality. On the other hand the threats to the global environment are more difficult to perceive because one cannot see ozone depletion or see the immediate effects of global warming. Rainforest destruction happens far away from the major cities in which much of the global population, and so does the loss of marine habitats.

To counter this disassociation from these real challenges, imagery is effective in trying to enlighten global citizens of the inherent ordeals that they and their descendents face in the near future. Through the mass media, the world is defined by images. Many of the perceptions derived from this imagery can distort or intensify our experience of the world’s political realities. Our assumptions or interpretations of these realities can affect the way we act upon them. Environmental NGOs and IGOs such as Greenpeace and the UN Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) use imagery effectively to try and make humans act in a global effort to protect the environment on which they rely from degradation and loss.

The challenges that have arisen out of environmental problems will in effect bring about the ‘politics of scarcity’. This concept emphasizes that resource scarcity brought about by restricted access to food, water and oil will be a more likely cause future international conflict than any military challenge. Human life depends upon what ecologists term ‘the global commons’ which emphasizes the interdependence of humanity with the planet’s ability to sustain it. Lester R. Brown argues: “In ecology, as in economics, we can consume principle along with interest in the short run, but, for the long term, that practice leads to bankruptcy”. The goal that these challenges present to us is one of sustainable development.

In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development authored a report called Our Common Future. It concluded that the world cannot sustain the growth that is required to meet the aspirations of the world’s growing population unless it can adopt a new approach to economic development, equity, resource management and energy efficiency. It defined a ‘sustainable society as one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The alternatives to action on achieving such goals as a sustainable society have diminished since 1987, as the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged in 2009 at the Copenhagen Climate Conference: “We must harness the political will to seal the deal on an ambitious new climate agreement…If we get it wrong we face catastrophic damage to people, to the planet”.

Data from the World Meteorological Organisation that monitors the global surface temperatures show that global warming is not a myth. NASA and the IPCC both predict that global temperatures will rise by up to 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. This will cause sea levels to rise, heat waves and droughts, increase storm damage, extinctions of ecosystems, increase prevalence of diseases and increase hunger and water shortages.  Deforestation causes threats to biodiversity, desertification and exacerbates the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the cause of global warming. The demand and consumption of fossil fuels has caused global warming but is also a threat in the fact that its depletion will cause instability in global economic and political systems, as advisor on peace and security Michael Klare asserts: “We are nearing the end of the Petroleum Age and have entered the Age of Insufficiency”.

Through neglect, environmental security will compromise human security. With effort and recognition of the impending threats solutions can be achieved, with conversion to renewable sources of energy, adherence to international treaties, sustainable development and independent state and local solutions. The potential of these threats is as pronounced as any threats of armed aggression and in fact, neglect may exacerbate armed conflict between people. Therefore, the imperative to rationally manage global environmental security must replace the traditional realist theory of military security as the key issue in contemporary global politics.

The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 was crafted to preserve the great powers at the time so that they could serve their self-interest in staying in their prime position at the top of the global pyramid. It left the contemporary global system being a socially constructed reality which does not reflect the inherent resemblance of all nations as being made up of human beings. The post-colonial reality allows that hierarchy to continue with Western governments benefiting from centuries of seizures of territory and resources and its legacy to persist through ethnic conflict derived from colonially-imposed borders and unequal exploitative relationships. It is this legacy which creates the imperative for the notion of universal human rights to be an overriding issue of global politics.

Most wars now occur in the Global South, a circumstance which is derived from their colonial origins. The Global South has the highest number of states with the largest populations on the least income and with the most unstable governments. These factors lead to failed states which lead to mass emigrations of refugees, disease and famine. The armed conflict which happens within these failed states happens more frequently than armed conflict between states with 2009 seeing 36 armed intrastate conflicts in 26 locations. These civil wars have a high cost of life, have child soldiers as participants and perpetrate genocide, an example being the slaughter of eight hundred thousand Tutsi and moderate Hutu people during a few weeks in Rwanda.

Under current international law state sovereignty is supreme, meaning that no authority is above the state. In fact international law actually protects a state by giving it ‘a complete freedom of action to do whatever it takes to preserve its sovereign independence’. Even though in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by many states to protect individuals, states still have the right to perform within their territories in any which way they choose. Up until 1952, ‘a citizen was not protected against the state’s abuse of human rights or crimes against humanity’. International law, being fashioned by realist thinkers, does not protect humans but protects the instrument of humans being the state. This goes against liberalist thinking of not using humans as a means to an end.   

This liberal view that the individual is the seat of moral value is fundamental to the notion of universal human rights. One of the corollary concepts of liberal theory stresses the unity of humankind, the importance of the dignity and equality of individuals, and the need for the promotion of human rights and liberty. Rather than being a ‘subject’ of the state, the general consensus in contemporary global politics is that people are important and have worth and therefore ethical and moral issues belong in the realm of international relations. However, the accuracy remains of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s observation that ‘man is born free, and everywhere is in chains’. Globally, a select few of the total population are prospering while there are many who can barely survive.

Constructivists make humans the primary level of analysis, with human ideas defining the identities that impart meaning to the behaviour of others. This contemporary thinking has shaped a consensus that claims that all humans have the same moral status and that ‘to accept human rights [is to make on the state] the moral demand to respect the life, integrity, well-being and flourishing of…all human beings’. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted many civil and political rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of thought and expression, the right to participate in government, and indispensable social and economic rights. The Declaration also asserts that ‘if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law’. This is the essential argument of why human rights are integral to global politics.  

Although the Declaration and the further multilateral treaties which enumerate these rights are legally binding on states, there have been many who have not ratified these agreements or have objected to specific provisions. For instance, the United States ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with reservations, but did not ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Considering that the US is the most powerful state in the liberal democratic world, this is an indictment against the moral values purported to be so important to this global group. Human rights abuses continue with 350 million indigenous peoples being without a homeland or political representation and subject to persecution and genocide; with women in the world continuing to be disadvantaged in comparison to men; with up to 4 million people subjected to slavery and human-trafficking; and with children being subjected to neglect and abuse through slavery, hunger, conscription and sexual exploitation.

With so many people of the world being the target of oppression and violence by states, the global community is morally challenged as to whether international treaties can go on being blatantly disregarded by the states that have ratified them or have some consensus with them. In principle, international law now provides protections for all people everywhere to live in freedom and security. So that these protections can finally apply to all people, traditional notions of sovereignty must be transcended. Global politics must now recognise and respect these laws so that the assertion of the Declaration of common interests of all citizens in all states is recognized and upheld.

The modern state, which was born from the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, gave unrestricted control of the state to its rulers. This was the beginning of the concept of state sovereignty which is still dominant today. The most potent shaping forces in the contemporary world are the interactions of states when enforcing their interests, capabilities and goals. However, during the latter half of the twentieth century the supremacy of the state is under challenge. Global affairs are now dominated by intergovernmental organizations that transcend national boundaries. Global international organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union have become independent global actors which implement their own foreign policies. Also groups of people carrying on various enterprises, such as multinational corporations, are examples of nongovernmental organizations which also transcend national boundaries and exert their influence globally.

Post Cold War, the United States has dominated world politics with the political scientist Francis Fukuyama even suggesting that it signalled ‘the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of government’. However because of the ascendance of other great powers such as China, Japan, Russia and India others, such as the journalist and foreign policy advisor Fareed Zakaria, argue that a ‘post-American’ world has arisen through which many other state and nonstate actors direct and define global society’s responses to global challenges. While the United States remains the greatest military power, other dimensions are emerging industrially, financially, educationally, socially and culturally that are moving the globe away from American dominance.

Although some suggest that competition between states could be renewed as they jostle for power in commercial relations, they also manage their security relations collaboratively which can be seen through their cooperation in fighting terrorism. The danger of the polarization of these states into two antagonistic camps could be managed through newly developed international rules and institutions that can manage these mixed-motive relationships. Rather than a quest for hegemony, these great and emerging powers are active trading partners and the question arises will these commercial relationships reduce the potential for future military competition?

Multilateralism could be the approach that these great powers take to cooperate to achieve global solutions to problems that affect all of their citizens. In an ever shrinking global environment in which all actors are increasingly reliant upon each other, a new global system of power and responsibility is more widely distributed. How these great powers will make their choices about war and peace will affect all people and determine the fate of the world.

A new concept of responsible sovereignty is emerging which requires states not to protect only their own people but also to cooperate across borders to protect global resources and address transnational threats. This entails intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) providing a greater role which ‘differs from the traditional interpretation of sovereignty being non-interference in the internal affairs of state’. Global problems require global solutions and an increasingly greater number of non-state actors have arisen on the world stage to engineer adaptive global changes.

The United Nations is the most prominent IGO to have emerged in the last sixty years. Its Charter sets its agenda as the maintenance of peaceful and amicable relations between states based upon humanitarian values and the attainment of common ends through the harmonization of state actors. Although it is challenged by persistent financial troubles it is an adaptable and reforming institution that remains the forum of choice for negotiation and promotion of humanitarian concerns. Through its claim to represent ‘the collective will of humanity’ it is in the position to act on issues of global relevance such as shaming human rights violators, combating global pandemics, and promoting conflict-prevention measures.

Increasingly, NGOs are becoming more influential in global politics through their ability to lobby and influence international decision making. This activism is able to transcend the traditional distinctions between what is local and what is global. Five of the most visible types of NGOs are non-state entities that comprise of ethnic or indigenous peoples, transnational religious groups, transnational terrorist groups and multinational corporations. However, while these groups have a strong participation in world affairs some of their influence can often be minimised by differing groups pushing policies in opposing directions.

With the world being far more interdependent than ever before and transactions across state borders increasing through the movement of people, information and trade, non- state actors are becoming more important to the shared concepts of people across the globe. The centrality of the state as an insular actor is declining. Although our constructed images of global politics are resistant to change, change is possible through the reshaping of our insular perceptions. By ridding ourselves of false assumptions about other people we can reshape the future of world politics so that it does not rely on the insular attitudes of singular states but on the basis of a global people. As the philosopher Martin J. Siegel observes: “War for survival is the destiny of all species. In our case, we are courting suicide [by waging war against each other]”. It is the realisation of this by state leaders that will finally lead to the end of the concept of the sovereign state.