Applying Rawls in a Globalizing World
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In this thesis I seek to answer the question whether a cosmopolitan interpretation of John Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness is a reasonable alternative to the application of The Law of Peoples at the global level in light of the foundational commitments of a political theory of justice. Earlier attempts to construct a cosmopolitan theory of justice along the lines of Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness predate both the idea of political liberalism as well as The Law of Peoples. The argument provided in this thesis paves the way for the construction of a cosmopolitan political theory of justice, which could provide the framework for the operation and evolution of global governance in the age of globalization. In order to answer my question, Rawls’ The Law of Peoples is presented first. Subsequently, I argue against the most controversial elements of and the arguments for this extension of the theory of justice to the global level and its deviations from justice as fairness. In Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Rawls’ explicit rejection of a cosmopolitan application of his theory is apparent in the specification of ‘fundamental ideas’ into ‘particular conceptions’. More specifically, I argue that the limitation of the scope of applicability of justice as fairness is embodied in the specification of the conception of the person as a citizen and of society as a constitutional liberal democratic nation-state. Moreover, I argue that the conception of toleration, on which these specifications of fundamental ideas into particular conceptions ultimately rely, is disanalogous between the domestic and international context and incompatible with the foundational commitments of a political theory of justice in its latter use. Furthermore, I describe how ‘democracy’ can be understood as a ‘fundamental idea’ within a theory of justice, as opposed to merely a circumstance from which other fundamental ideas are derived. Finally, I outline two methods that could serve to specify a cosmopolitan conception of the person for a political theory of justice.