Justice without Borders: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Patriotism / Edition 1

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This book offers a defense of cosmopolitan justice against the charge that it denies the values that ordinarily matter to people, and a defense of nationalism and patriotism against the charge that these morally partial ideals are fundamentally inconsistent with the obligations of global justice. This book will have broad appeal to political theorists and moral philosophers.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This clear and highly convincing book articulates and defends a plausible version of cosmopolitanism while providing an excellent overview of recent debates."
The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Michael W. Howard, University of Maine

"On the whole, this is a solid introduction to cosmopolitanism and its apparent tensions with patriotism and nationalism."
Mind, Thomas W. Pogge, Professorial Research Fellow, ANU Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, and Professor II, University in Oslo

"This is an excellent book. Not only does Kok-Chor Tan provide a strong argument for cosmopolitan justice in the face of various defenders of nationalism and patriotism who see their claims at odds with cosmopolitanism, but in doing so he offers a cogent overview of the relevant literature and provides order to discussions surrounding cosmopolitanism where there has been a great deal of confusion." - Rebecca E. Kingston, University of Toronto

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521542326
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2004
  • Series: Contemporary Political Theory Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Kok-Chor Tan is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Toleration, Diversity, and Global Justice (2000), which was a joint runner-up for the 2003 Canadian Philosophical Association Book Prize.

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Cambridge University Press
0521834546 - Justice without Borders - Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Patriotism - by Kok-Chor Tan

1 Introduction

The problem

Cosmopolitanism, as a normative idea, takes the individual to be the ultimate unit of moral concern and to be entitled to equal consideration regardless of nationality and citizenship. From the cosmopolitan perspective, principles of justice ought to transcend nationality and citizenship, and ought to apply equally to all individuals of the world as a whole. In short, cosmopolitan justice is justice without borders.

On one cosmopolitan interpretation, this impartiality with respect to nationality and citizenship applies also to distributive justice in that a person's legitimate material entitlements are to be determined independently of her national and state membership (e.g., Beitz 1999a; Pogge 1989, part III). But, as some cosmopolitans themselves have come to recognize, one serious weakness of the cosmopolitan position is its perceived inability to acknowledge and properly account for the special ties and commitments that characterize the lives of ordinary men and women (Beitz 1999b, p. 291). Among the special ties and local attachments typical to most people's lives are those of nationality and patriotism.1 While the process of globalization in recent decades seems to lend some credence to the cosmopolitan ideal, the last decade has also witnessed the rise of nationalism which seems to contradict the aspirations of cosmopolitan justice. Thus Samuel Scheffler observes that "[b]oth the particularist and globalist ideas have become increasingly influential in contemporary politics, and one of the most important tasks for contemporary liberal theory is to address the twin challenges posed by particularist and globalist thinking" (2001, p. 67; also Shapiro and Brilmayer 1999, pp. 1-2). In this regard, Andrew Vincent concludes his study on nationalism wondering if the universalist aspirations of contemporary political philosophy can properly account for the particularist attachments that are basic to any meaningful human life (Vincent 2002, pp. 240-1). While Vincent advises due vigilance against nationalism and other forms of group-based allegiances, he also rightly worries that universalist political philosophies tend too quickly to "dismiss groups [and group-based claims] as irrelevant or incoherent" (Vincent 2002, p. 2).

A satisfactory defense of cosmopolitan justice must, therefore, be able to define certain principled limitations on nationalism and patriotism without, however, denigrating these particularist ideals. To borrow the form of a remark by W. K. Frankena, we want a cosmopolitan justice made for humanity, not humanity for cosmopolitan justice.2 Conversely, and importantly, a satisfactory cosmopolitan defense must be able to accommodate these special attachments without surrendering its basic commitment to global equality - a defense of cosmopolitanism would be a pyrrhic victory otherwise, for it would abandon what is commonly believed to be the raison d'être of the cosmopolitan ideal.

Obviously, cosmopolitan theories do not claim to be compatible with all classes of nationalist and patriotic demands. Illiberal forms of nationalism, like Nazism to take an extreme case, will certainly be ruled out by cosmopolitan justice, and the claim can hardly be made that it counts against cosmopolitan justice that it cannot accommodate these illiberal nationalist and patriotic demands. What is challenging for cosmopolitan justice is that there are supposedly liberal forms of nationalism and patriotism that have come to receive growing support in the current literature, and that seem to ground special commitments that can be reasonably endorsed and expressed by individuals. The problem for cosmopolitan justice is that it seems to also rule out these more reasonable kinds of nationalism and patriotism, and hence seems to be an idea of justice that is morally rigoristic and out of touch with what is of value to ordinary human beings. It is these liberal forms of nationalism and patriotism that this book is concerned with. My aim is to assess the demands of cosmopolitan justice against the demands of liberal nationalism and patriotism.

The central claim of this work is that cosmopolitan justice, properly understood, can provide the limiting conditions for nationalist aspirations and patriotic commitments, and that it can do so without denying the moral significance of such particular ties and obligations. Specifically, I hope to show (i) that cosmopolitan justice is compatible with liberal forms of nationalism, once we get clear on the built-in limitations of liberal nationalism and the exact demands of cosmopolitan justice, and (ii) that the patriotic ideal that people have special obligations to their compatriots can be taken seriously without threatening the global egalitarian commitments of cosmopolitan justice.

The claim that cosmopolitans can accommodate certain forms of nationalism and patriotic concern has been made before. Some cosmopolitans deem these special ties and commitments to be worthy only because they provide an efficient strategy for meeting global obligations. But these attempts have often been criticized for being "reductionist." That is to say, these attempts fail to give any independent moral value to the ties and feelings of nationality and patriotism. Yet most nationalist theorists hold that attaching independent moral value to nationality and patriotism is inherent to any meaningful account of nationalism and patriotism, and it is this irreducible value of nationality and patriotic concern that is seen to pose a serious challenge to cosmopolitan justice. One of my aims in this book is to take up this challenge. I want to show that cosmopolitanism can in fact recognize the moral independence of nationalism and patriotism, albeit setting limits on these ideals at the same time.

This work is thus limited in its objective. Its primary aim is not to offer new positive arguments in support of cosmopolitan justice, but to show how cosmopolitan justice can accommodate, in a non-trivial way, the claims of nationalism and patriotism while maintaining its global egalitarian commitments. It hopes to offer a systematic way of reconciling cosmopolitan justice with the demands of nationalism and patriotism that satisfies the conditions stated above. By clarifying the boundaries of the demands of cosmopolitanism, nationalism, and patriotism, I hope to provide a clearer and perhaps distinctive way of understanding the cosmopolitan position. Given the criticisms and even controversies the cosmopolitan position has generated in the contemporary debate on global justice, I believe that clearing the ground of some of the confusions surrounding the cosmopolitan idea in this well-worked but untidy area is an important first step for moving the debate forward. If successful, my arguments will not only provide a defense of cosmopolitanism against nationalist and patriotic theorists, who reject the cosmopolitan view on account of its alleged inability to recognize particularist commitments, but it will also provide a response to those cosmopolitans who think that the cosmopolitan ideal of justice cannot include global equal concern because of the moral significance of such particularist commitments.

The challenge that has been issued is that cosmopolitanism cannot take seriously liberal nationalist and patriotic demands. In accepting this challenge, I have thus largely taken for granted the liberal nationalist and patriotic positions. But to the extent that the doctrine of liberal nationalism is sometimes rejected as an oxymoron on the ground that nationalism compromises the universal egalitarian commitments of liberalism, a successful reconciliation of liberal nationalism and cosmopolitanism will provide a defense of liberal nationalism against this serious objection. Similarly, to the extent that the patriotic ideal is sometimes rejected on the ground that it contradicts the idea of equal concern for individuals, a successful reconciliation of patriotism and cosmopolitan justice will remove this source of concern against patriotism. So although my motivating goal is to defend cosmopolitanism, the success of my project will provide a partial defense of the nationalist and patriotic ideals. For this reason, I believe that the discussion in this book will be of interest not just to cosmopolitans, but also to theorists seeking morally defensible forms of nationalism and patriotism.

The scope and focus

A complete account of justice has to cover two aspects of justice - "political" justice and "economic" justice (Beitz 1999b).3 Political justice is concerned with protecting the political and civil liberties of persons. On a cosmopolitan conception of political justice, individuals are entitled to an equal range of political and civil rights regardless of where they happen to live. Economic justice is concerned with the equal distribution of material goods such as wealth, income, resources, and so on in a social scheme. On the cosmopolitan view, or at any rate on the interpretation of the cosmopolitan view that I will defend, principles of distributive justice ought to apply equally and impartially to all persons and ought not to be constrained by the borders of countries. It is worth noting that neither cosmopolitan political justice nor economic justice necessitates a world state or government. What cosmopolitan justice calls for fundamentally is the creation of the necessary forms of global institutions in which the basic rights and liberties of persons can be equally protected and secured and in which persons are treated with equal concern. But, as I will argue later (in chapters 4 and 5), the cosmopolitan commitments to protecting individual rights and liberties and to treating all individuals with equal concern do not depend on the existence of a world state. While cosmopolitan justice will require that we assess and evaluate our global institutions, it is ultimately a normative claim about how individuals are to be regarded and is not tied to the ideas of a world state and global citizenship.

The subject of this book is economic justice. This particular concern with economic justice does not imply that political justice is irrelevant for economic justice, nor does it mean that political justice is secondary to economic justice. On the contrary, the fact of frequent violations of basic political and civil rights in our world shows that it is hard to overstate the importance of defending and protecting these basic human rights. Moreover, given the interdependency of these two aspects of justice, a concern for one must involve a concern for the other. Yet much of the public concern with global justice in the West has tended to focus narrowly on political justice, and relatively little attention has been given to the question of social and economic justice. For instance, violations by nonliberal regimes of the civil and political rights of their own citizens receive more attention from the media, human rights groups and the general public in Western democracies than the persistent problem of global poverty.4 Indeed, given that poverty afflicts many nonliberal countries, the lopsided focus of the West on political and civil rights to the relative neglect of economic and social rights has prompted leaders and even erstwhile local critics in many nonliberal countries to question the sincerity of the West's efforts to defend and promote human rights globally. Kishore Mahbubani, an outspoken critic of the idea of universal human rights, protests as follows:

[F]rom the point of view of many Third World citizens, human rights campaigns often have a bizarre quality. For many of them it looks something like this: They are hungry and diseased passengers on a leaky, overcrowded boat that is about to perish. The captain of the boat is often harsh, sometimes fairly and sometimes not. On the river banks stand a group of affluent, well-fed and well-intentioned onlookers. As soon as those onlookers witness a passenger being flogged or imprisoned or even deprived of his right to speak, they board the ship to intervene, protecting the passengers from the captain. But those passengers remain hungry and diseased. As soon as they try to swim to the banks into the arms of their benefactors, they are firmly returned to the boat, their primary sufferings unabated (Mahbubani 1998, p. 52).5

Thus, as important as political justice is, a sincere commitment to a more just world must also seriously address the issue of global economic justice. This book hopes to contribute to the discussion on this aspect of global justice, though, of course, where political justice is relevant, it will be addressed (see, e.g., chapter 4). "Justice" henceforth, unless otherwise specified, will refer specifically to economic or distributive justice.6

It is a common view that any plausible political philosophy, as Ronald Dworkin has pointed out, must begin from the premise that citizens are entitled to equal respect and concern (e.g., Dworkin 1977, chap. 12). What equal respect and concern entails is, of course, open to contest, and different political philosophies may provide different answers to this question. But any defensible political philosophy must endorse this so-called "egalitarian plateau" (Dworkin 1977; also Kymlicka 1990a). Yet it is also a basic assumption of most political philosophies that principles of justice apply primarily to individuals in the context of a "closed society" (i.e., to citizens) rather than to individuals taken as such (e.g., Rawls 1971). The cosmopolitan ideal makes the stronger and more controversial (though defensible, as I hope to show) claim that the ideal of equal respect and concern applies globally to all individuals and not just to citizens within bounded groups.

But just as there are different interpretations of what it would mean to treat citizens with equal respect and concern, so will there be different cosmopolitan interpretations as to what it would mean to treat individuals as such with equal respect and concern. Depending on which conception of justice we begin with, we can arrive at different conceptions of cosmopolitan justice. Presumably, a cosmopolitan position derived from a Marxist perspective will be quite different from a cosmopolitan position with a libertarian starting point. But I will not be arguing for a particular starting point, i.e., a particular conception of justice, in this work. This will be outside the scope of the book. Rather, taking for granted a given conception of justice, I want to show why that understanding of justice has to take a cosmopolitan form, and must apply to individuals and not only to citizens in a single society. The theory of justice I assume here is that of egalitarian liberalism which holds that to treat persons with equal respect and concern involves going beyond respecting their basic liberties, and includes ensuring that they have equal access to resources or goods with which to exercise these liberties (Rawls 1971; 1999b, p. 49). For the purpose of discussion, I will adopt John Rawls's egalitarian principle - that resulting social and economic inequalities between persons are acceptable only against a background of equal opportunity and a social arrangement in which the worst-off representative person is best off - as the distributive principle that we would want to apply globally. But accepting Rawls's principle is not necessary to the discussion to come. With minor adjustments in the appropriate areas, one could replace my Rawlsian model with other egalitarian liberal models, e.g., Ronald Dworkin's equality of resource model, without undermining my substantive arguments (Dworkin 2000, chap. 2). My starting claim is that if one accepts egalitarian liberalism in its general form, one ought also to be a cosmopolitan liberal.

To avoid misunderstanding, it is worth stressing, then, that a defense of global egalitarianism need not be understood as a defense of the view that all persons are to be equal in well-being or a defense of equality of outcome. Global egalitarianism, as a general ideal, holds that social and economic inequalities between persons across borders pose a moral concern; but different egalitarian theories will offer different approaches with respect to these inequalities. On the Rawlsian view that I am beginning with, the egalitarian requirement is that inequalities are permitted on the condition that there is fair equality of opportunity and that the worst-off persons benefit most under this arrangement, in spite of the inequalities, compared to alternative social arrangements. One of the aims of this work is to see how this ideal of equality can be globalized in light of nationalistic and patriotic claims. References to global equality in this work should be understood to refer to forms of social arrangements (i.e., institutions) under which resulting inequalities are mitigated and justified, rather than to an equality of outcome as such. The reader may wish to keep the Rawlsian "institutional" egalitarian approach in mind when references to global equality are made.

My focus on liberal justice may appear to some to be unhelpfully narrow, on the one hand, and too straightforward, on the other. It might be seen as narrow because most countries in the world today are not (even purportedly) liberal, and so an attempt to derive a global justice on liberal terms seems to leave too many countries out of the global dialogue on justice altogether. But this worry is somewhat misplaced. Given our special concern with global economic justice, paying special attention to what liberals should be committed to will in fact address the main protagonists to the debate. It is an empirical fact of our world that most of the affluent countries, the countries that would be asked to assume the burdens of distributive justice, and from whom resistance to attempts at equalizing resource and wealth distribution globally is most likely to come, are liberal countries. On the contrary, nonliberal countries, which tend to be less well-off economically, have historically been the advocates for greater global redistribution of wealth and resources.7 So while the demands of political justice are directed primarily at nonliberal countries, the demands of economic justice are directed primarily at liberal countries.8 A dialogue on the implications of liberal principles for global equality is thus not one which nonliberal developing countries would necessarily find exclusive, but is in fact one which they would actively encourage.

To be sure, nonliberal countries could resist the imposition of liberal political values on them even if they are amenable to the liberal egalitarian distributive ideal. While the failure on the part of liberal countries to take economic justice seriously has the effect of making the universal enforcement of liberal political values seem hypocritical at best and hostile at worst, correcting this failure need not necessarily have the effect of making liberal political values more acceptable to all nonliberal countries which might benefit from the increased global redistribution of wealth. They may still resent the global imposition of liberal values even as they stand to economically benefit from the global implementation of liberal distributive principles. Indeed, I will later suggest that globalizing liberal distributive principles can involve reforming traditional modes of redistributive practices and political practices within nonliberal countries. Nonliberal countries may thus raise the charge of cultural imperialism against attempts to globalize liberal ideas of justice, political or economic. For this reason, some liberals worry about extending liberal values beyond the borders of liberal states. I have tried to argue elsewhere that this concern can be assuaged (Tan 2000, chaps. 6 and 8); and I will argue later in this work (chapter 4) that it is consistent with the ideal of toleration to extend liberal commitments beyond liberal borders. What I am suggesting here is only that the criticism that liberal countries are hypocritical and inconsistent in implementing liberal values (as illustrated in the quote from Mahbubani) can be assuaged if liberals take global economic justice as seriously as they take political justice.9

On the other hand, this focus on liberalism may be seen to be too straightforward or a case of preaching to the converted because it is commonly thought that liberalism naturally entails the cosmopolitan perspective. After all, contemporary liberalism is an egalitarian political morality that takes individuals to be "self-originating sources of valid claims" (Rawls 1980, p. 543), and hence is thought to be consistent with the cosmopolitan principle that individuals are the ultimate units of moral worth and are entitled to equal consideration regardless of nationality or citizenship. Indeed, as I will recall later on, many contemporary liberal theorists have argued for the cosmopolitan idea (e.g., Beitz, Nussbaum, Pogge, Shue). But, in recent years, there has been an increased opposition from liberal theorists themselves to the cosmopolitan view. John Rawls himself has famously expressed a reluctance to endorse the cosmopolitan approach in his recent writings on international justice (1999a). More to the central concern of this book, among other liberals, this opposition is prompted in part by their endorsement of the doctrine of liberal nationalism. Besides increasing theoretical opposition to cosmopolitanism among liberals, there is also, in practice, widespread opposition to the demands of cosmopolitan justice on the part of many liberal states. Historically, many affluent liberal regimes in the real world have tended to resist proposals for greater global equality (by way of increased development assistance to developing countries, fairer trade laws, etc.).10 So a special focus on the cosmopolitan commitments of liberals is neither too narrow nor too easy: it addresses the group we most urgently need to convince of the cosmopolitan ideal.

The cosmopolitan position has a rich philosophical history, and has been variously argued for by the Greeks, the Stoics, and the Enlightenment philosophers.11 Although I shall make glancing references to some of these historical views, I am concerned primarily with the cosmopolitan position as it is understood and defended in contemporary political philosophy. My goal is to see what contemporary political philosophy can tell us about the problem of justice, nationalism, and patriotism in our current world.

Preliminary distinctions: types of cosmopolitanism

To anticipate the cosmopolitan position I shall be defending, it might be helpful to identify some common classifications of the cosmopolitan ideal in the contemporary literature, and then try to situate my account relative to these classifications. We can identify four overlapping cosmopolitan distinctions in recent writings on the subject. These distinctions will have to be further elaborated on in the chapters to follow, but let me make preliminary remarks about them here.

First is the distinction offered by Charles Beitz between cosmopolitanism as a moral ideal and cosmopolitanism as an institutional claim (1999b, p. 287). Second is the distinction introduced by Samuel Scheffler between cosmopolitanism as a claim about justice and cosmopolitanism as a claim about culture and individual social identity (2001, pp. 112-13). The first distinction, between cosmopolitanism as a moral ideal and cosmopolitanism as an institutional ideal, distinguishes, respectively, cosmopolitanism as a set of moral commitments that (morally) justifies the kinds of institutions we may impose on individuals, on the one hand, and, on the other, cosmopolitanism as a system of global institutions and organization that represents a world state of some sort. This is an important distinction because cosmopolitanism is commonly associated with a world state and thus often rejected on that basis. But, as a moral ideal, cosmopolitanism is not necessarily committed to the notion of a world state and global citizenship; rather it is premised on an account of the equal moral status of individuals, and the kinds of reasons, consequently, that must be given to them for the global arrangement that we expect them to share. To be sure, one might think that taking the cosmopolitan moral ideal seriously would require the creation of a world state, perhaps because any global institutional order short of a world state would fail to treat individuals as the ultimate units of equal moral worth irrespective of their particular nationality or citizenship. But this must be argued for, and indeed I will support the contrary view in the pages to follow. What is important to note now, however, is that a defense of cosmopolitanism is not straightaway a defense of world statism.

On the second distinction, cosmopolitanism as a claim about culture or identity denies that membership in a particular cultural community is constitutive of a person's social identity and a condition of her individual autonomy. Cosmopolitanism about justice, however, is concerned with quite a different subject, namely, the scope of justice. Cosmopolitanism about justice holds that social boundaries (for example, the boundary of nationality) do not impose "principled restrictions on the scope of an adequate conception of justice" (Scheffler 2001, p. 112). It rejects the view that principles of justice may be fundamentally limited by boundaries such as those defined by nationality or citizenship. In short, cosmopolitanism about culture is a thesis about the irrelevance of membership in particular cultures for personal identity formation and individual autonomy, whereas cosmopolitanism about justice is a thesis about the irrelevance of boundaries for the scope of justice considered at the fundamental level.

© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The need for cosmopolitan justice 19
3 Conceptions of cosmopolitan justice : a survey 40
4 Liberalism and cosmpolitan justice 62
5 Nationalism and cosmopolitanism 85
6 Equality among nations 107
7 The limits of patriotism 135
8 Citizenship and special obligations 163
9 Nationality and justice 180
10 Conclusion 198
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