Assessing the Cosmopolitan Ideal

Claus Nielsen

in Justice in a Globalized World

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199593859
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731457 | DOI:
Assessing the Cosmopolitan Ideal

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This chapter explores the practical implications of the cosmopolitan ideal of a just world order, and discusses ‘the guidance critique’ of this ideal: the claim that cosmopolitan theories are too idealistic to guide action in real-world circumstances. It argues that proponents of this critique either misapply cosmopolitan principles, or have unreasonable expectations regarding the sort of guidance a theory of justice can plausibly deliver. Theories of justice do not answer questions such as: ‘What specific actions ought we to take, here and now?’ Instead, they offer normative frameworks for guiding our thinking with respect to such questions. Because cosmopolitanism does provide a distinctive normative framework – that is, it insists that our international distributive duties are grounded in justice, as opposed to humanitarian assistance – it fulfils the guidance requirements that can plausibly be placed on a theory of justice.

Keywords: cosmopolitanism; guidance; ideal theory; G.A. Cohen; John Rawls; realistic utopia; feasibility; global despotism; moral motivation; institutional design

Chapter.  9824 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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