Reimagining a Global Ethic (Lead Article in Symposium)

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 26.1 (Spring 2012)

Photo: Jason S. Samfield ( (CC) CREDIT: Jason S. Samfield (CC)

This is the lead article in the symposium "In Search of a Global Ethic" in Ethics & International Affairs 26.1 (Spring 2012). For the full symposium, click here.

"Reimagining a global ethic" is a project worthy of Andrew Carnegie and of the Carnegie Council's upcoming commemoration of his founding gift in 1914.1 As a collaborative research project stretching forward over the next three years, it ought to be integrative and reconciliatory: that is, it must try to understand the globalization of ethics that has accompanied the globalization of commerce and communications and to figure out what ethical values human beings share across all our differences of race, religion, ethnicity, national identity, and material wealth. When human beings do disagree morally, the search for a global ethic becomes an attempt to elucidate by analysis what exactly people are disagreeing about, so that, after arguing out our differences, we can either agree to disagree or work together to find common ground. Finding common ground on large ethical matters and understanding more deeply why, in some instances, we remain at odds with each other is worthwhile in itself, but it might also further Andrew Carnegie's original goal in founding the Council, which was to reduce the amount of conflict and violence in the world.

Reimagining a global ethic is an important project, but a dauntingly difficult one, especially if we accept the premise that all human beings, and therefore all cultures, religions, and worldviews, have a right to contribute to the discussion. The old exclusions—by race, class, region, nation, or religion—used to confine global ethical discussion to a manageable, largely Western, largely university-educated elite. Thanks in large measure to the global ethical revolution that accompanied decolonization, these old exclusions are discredited, but now we face the challenge of imagining and conducting a global discussion on the premise of equal inclusion. Even when we narrow the field and assume that those who will want to take part will be those who make ethical reflection their business (ethicists, philosophers, psychologists, and scientists, among others), understanding what a global conversation about ethical universals might entail—one that fully includes North and South, East and West, secular and religious—remains more than a little intimidating.

We should be intimidated. All difficult and ambitious enterprises are intimidating. In this essay, however, my ambitions are modest: to fly high over the field of inquiry, taking some snapshots of the ground below, so that we can begin to reconnoiter a few of the challenges that lie ahead. And my initial question is quite simple: Should we be talking about a "global ethic" in the singular or a "global ethics" in the plural?

A global ethic—a perspective that takes all human beings and their habitat as its subject—does exist and is flourishing in philosophy departments around the world. Its function is essentially critical, rather than affirmative. Its purpose is to lay bare the ethical presuppositions that underpin injustice and inequality in a globalized world and to devise ideal distributions of resources and responsibilities that would make our world fairer.

Since the 1960s, philosophers have developed a global ethic in the singular in response to the injustice of contemporary globalization; but unlike Marxism and the ideologies of colonial liberation, this critique was not conducted in the name of oppressed groups or classes, nor have these philosophers sought to map out a strategy of political liberation. Instead, philosophers of the global ethic have sought to use purely philosophical argument to demonstrate that certain forms of injustice and distributions of global wealth are wrong and that those in a position to do something about these wrongs have an obligation to put them right.

The global ethic is therefore a by-product of contemporary globalization, but the philosophical reasoning that it employs rests on much older foundations. For as long as philosophers have used the idea of natural law to criticize positive law and the idea of the rights of mankind to unmask the privileges of men, they have employed universals to criticize all the forms of ethical partiality that are rooted in attachments to class, identity, nation, or religion. While some of the problems posed by globalization feel new, a global ethic is actually as old as philosophy itself.

Thanks again to the European natural law tradition and centuries of work by international lawyers from Hugo Grotius onward, we also have a global ethics in the plural, enshrined in the structure of existing international law: in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and the Refugee Convention, to name only the principal institutional pillars.2 These are legal documents, but they incarnate important ethical principles of universal application: the sovereignty of peoples, the rights of individuals, the rules of civilian immunity in warfare, and the rights of refugees and displaced persons. Here we must speak about ethics in the plural, because each of these domains is purpose-designed to solve specific problems and because their ethical frameworks contradict each other, most obviously in the conflict between state sovereignty and human rights. Since they are political documents, the products of negotiation and compromise, some of their tenets do not square with the abstract premises of a global ethic either.

If we already have a global ethic in the singular and in the plural, reimagining a global ethic does not require us to start again and reconstruct its foundations. These foundations may be Western in origin, but their embodiment in international law has been ratified by nations around the world. This gives us a minimum framework to work with, a framework derived from the labor of many minds over many centuries, what the history of philosophy and the evolution of international law have bequeathed to us all. This framework—a global ethic in the singular and international ethics in the plural—provides a starting point for a global dialogue about what we share and do not share as human beings.

It must be admitted, however, that a lot of important people seem to think we lack a common framework and need to start afresh. In 1993 the German theologian Hans Kung compiled a universal declaration of duties because he believed rights talk was too individualistic and failed to capture essential features of the human good.3 Islamic and Asian leaders have also published international declarations of human responsibility.4 The language of duty and responsibility is being pressed into service because the existing language of rights is held to be too Western and fails to capture an individual's responsibility to, and dependence upon, wider communities, whether they be religious, familial, or national.

Rights talk does have notorious limitations as a language of the human good. Who does not suppose, for example, that love is an essential human good, but who believes we all have a "right to love"?5 These problems with rights as a language of the good are well known, but no better language is likely to be found. The difficulty with abandoning rights talk or seeking to convert rights propositions into duty language is that it discards rights' potential for juridical embodiment and enforceability. What rights talk does so well is to correlate specific rights holders and their claims with determinate duty holders. Rights talk will remain an essential component of any global ethic, precisely because the protections it affords can be demanded by actual individuals. If a global ethic cannot empower discrete, identifiable individuals, in all their singularity, with specific claims that they can enforce against those who oppress them, what is it good for?

Religious leaders have also weighed in on the project of reimagining a global ethic for a globalized world, using interfaith gatherings to assemble syncretic compilations of ethical norms from the world's religions, some believing that Christianity may have had too much of a say up to this point or that the language of the contemporary good has abandoned its necessary religious underpinnings.6 But metaphysical underpinnings, whatever their religious source, are essentially contestable.7 What is contestable is not merely whether the Almighty exists in any form, but whether ethical systems depend for their validity on His or Her commands. Many religious and spiritual systems insist that ethical duty takes the form of a divine command, but not all ethical systems do. Indeed, many of the human values that orient and guide human conduct have no divine or metaphysical foundation. Spiritual yearnings are universal features of human experience, yet it is not obvious why an ethic has to be grounded in these yearnings or the spiritual claims that arise from them. An ethic can have secular foundations without making final claims about the truth of these foundations. These secular foundations include indisputable facts about human beings, such as our need for love and our abhorrence of undeserved cruelty.8 Secular grounds for the language of the good are best understood not as secular trumps but as bracketing operations, attempts to find common ethical ground in the absence of agreement on their ultimate metaphysical basis.What the French philosopher Jacques Maritain initially said about human rights in 1946—that we can agree we have them, and even specify what they are, without agreeing on why we have them—is true of a global ethic more generally.9 We know we have universal obligations to other human beings, even if we continue to disagree about why we have them. This intellectual strategy—focusing on where we agree and bracketing infinitely contestable claims—made possible the limited consensus that sustains international human rights conventions. Reimagining a global ethic would have to work on the same basis, reaching out to common ground where such exists, while agreeing to disagree about the claim that ethical conduct must be derived from a spiritual or religious duty.

Another site of discussion of a global ethic is found where science and philosophy meet. Philosophers and scientists have sought through dialogues to uncover the common ground of ethics in human nature or in the latest findings in psychology, genetics, or neurobiology.10 Again, it is of the greatest interest to discover whether our ethical norms have a physical grounding in neurobiology or Darwinian instinct, but again the connection between moral action and physiology is complex, and essentially contestable, and it should be possible to agree what a global ethic commands us to do without having to accept that neuronal or biological principles explain why we behave as we do in our moral lives.

In what follows I am going to bracket these metaphysical, Darwinian, and neurobiological issues and focus on the global ethic we have and the global ethics codified in international law, and argue that the proper work of reimagining a global ethic is to think harder about the conflicts of principle between them. We need to distinguish at least three levels at which these conflicts arise. First, we live in a morally pluralistic world divided into communities of action and belief, each of which acts upon different principles. These communities disagree with each other about the content of the good. Second, people within these communities disagree about what shared principles commit them to do in moral life. Third, even where there is agreement across different moral communities about principles held in common, it will be apparent that the shared principles themselves conflict with each other. It is this last conflict, between the principles themselves, within a global ethic itself, and within the competing ethical systems incarnated in international law, that I want to turn to now.

I take a global ethic in the singular to mean a morality whose object is "one world" in which all human beings are entitled to equal moral concern and in which we have common responsibilities to our habitat. This starting premise implies a particular vantage point. This could be called the "view from nowhere" or "nowhere in particular."11 A global ethic seeks to defend all human beings and our common habitat against partialities and interests grounded in family, community, ethnicity, economic position, and nation.

The view from nowhere is not an easy one to achieve, but it is the view that we are trying to reach if we say, for example, that we are reasoning from behind "a veil of ignorance" or if we use an imaginative construction like "natural rights" to assess the actual rights of living beings.12 Once embraced, the view from nowhere allows us to expose the partiality of views from somewhere, especially those that shape us in our national communities. Joseph Carens, Michael Walzer, Michael Blake, and Thomas Hurka, just to name a few of the global ethicists I have in mind, have asked why states should have the right to impose visa and immigration quotas on some but not all human beings, why states have the right to expel noncitizens, and why they so grossly favor their own citizens over people living in other countries in the distribution of global resources.13 Thomas Pogge, Henry Shue, and Peter Singer have all argued that allocating global resources to individuals on the basis of the country they happen to have been born in carries moral luck too far.14 Singer and others have used global ethics to figure out a morally rational way to apportion responsibility for action on climate change.15

The one-world perspective that emerges from the work of these philosophers has provided a common moral vocabulary that drives the activism of civil society NGOs everywhere. It is a philosophy in service of a sustained critique of the way power is exercised by states, corporations, and national communities against the common interests of mankind; and thanks to the work of these philosophers, many people have a richer and keener sense of what these common interests should be.

As a politics, however, the one-world perspective is failing to make much headway. States are no closer to a morally rational way of allocating responsibility for action on climate change. Countries still impose immigration quotas, and few countries have met their global justice obligations to the poorest on Earth. A global ethical discourse flourishes in universities and civil society, but it has made limited progress against the ethical practice of states.

Some global ethicists attribute the political failure of a global ethic to selfish national interest. There is no doubt that politicians are partial, and that the political drivers of state action at the domestic level are relentlessly local. The universal barely registers. Yet the problem runs deeper than that. Democratic publics do not actually believe the universal should trump their local interests. They believe, if asked to think about it, that their own interests as a national community ought to prevail over assistance to peoples in other countries, and they do not see why they are required to make sacrifices in relation to such abstract issues as climate change. I would not want to dignify this localism with much moral stature, but neither do I want to dismiss it as mere prejudice. It is a symptom of a conflict, at least in states with popular suffrage, between two principles: between democracy and justice, between the value we attach to self-determination of peoples and the value we attach to abstract justice for all individuals. National communities, in other words, have some good reasons, as well as some not so good ones, to privilege local ahead of universal priorities and interests. Giving moral priority to our own children, families, people, or society is natural and defensible enough. The issue is how much of the inequality that can result is defensible. The strength of a global ethic is to pose that question and to force the local to defend the inequality that results. At a formal level, this is a conflict between what democracy permits and what justice demands.

Isaiah Berlin observed long ago that absolute values such as these conflict absolutely. All good things cannot be had at once.16 Justice versus democracy is only one such conflict. Others, including justice versus mercy, or liberty versus equality, are just as familiar. Given these antinomies, it is not obvious how a global ethic can be an internally consistent noncontradictory rank ordering of moral goods. Instead, a global ethic is better understood not as a series of propositions, but as a site of argument in which the particular is called to the bar of justification before the universal. A global ethic creates the possibility of a process of recurrent adversarial justification. It is not itself immune from the obligation to justify.

We can see what this means in relation to justice and democracy. Democratic communities have the right to balance what they owe to their own members against what they owe to strangers beyond their borders. Because politics everywhere is local, a global ethic, privileging universal rather than proximate duties, may prevail at certain moments but will never trump in practical politics. Democratic choice will be ordered by the preferences of citizens, and free debate among citizens will determine the distribution of scarce resources between domestic and international claims to them. What this means in practice is that democratic peoples have the right to be wrong about justice.17 Not indefinitely so. Like all rights, this right of sovereignty is not unlimited. If the sovereign in question is a constitutional democracy, the right to be wrong about justice will be constrained by the rights guarantees that constrain all constitutional exercises of power. If the sovereign is not constitutionally bound from within, it will have to be constrained from without by international opinion and by the community of states.18

While the present distribution of global resources grossly privileges citizens of rich states at the expense of those of poorer ones, it does not follow that it would be just to privilege poor strangers at the expense of one's fellow citizens. It is all a matter of finding a balance between duties to citizens and strangers and between democratic self-determination and universal justice. Finding that balance is the province of politics.

It is a fact of politics that the interests of democratic citizens will be shaped primarily, though not exclusively, by the view from where they sit, and only secondarily, if at all, by the view from nowhere. Changing this will take time. Global ethicists have sought to respond to the claims of national self-interest by casting their arguments in terms of what John Stuart Mill called "self-interest properly understood." What has to be properly understood by democratic electorates, the philosophers argue, is that in relation to climate change, for example, there will be no "somewhere" to defend unless they elect governments that factor in, to an important degree, the universal interests of our habitat.19

This may be true, but the main political obstacle to climate change action is no longer public disbelief as to whether adverse climate change is occurring or even disagreement as to whether states have a duty to do something about it, but rather how to solve the problem of the penalties—in economic competitiveness—that first-mover states believe they will incur. So an appropriate further task for a global ethic in the singular will be to reason out the incentives necessary to solve these first-mover problems. A global ethic will have to pass from philosophy to policy.

There are no trump cards of justice to play in policy or politics, but the entry of a global ethic into political debate will subject all particularistic claims to a demand of justification. Hopefully, this will set in motion a process by which national policy becomes more globally justifiable over time. The view from nowhere has put everyone's self-justifications to the test; and if the powerful sleep less well at night, so much the better.

A second function of a global ethic is to criticize the value systems of different faiths and groups and oblige them to justify themselves. Religious, ethnic, and linguistic differences help constitute our moral loyalties, and these loyalties are bound to be partial: we privilege the claims of those who are like us over those who are not like us. The issue then becomes how a global ethic negotiates with the moral partiality that is constitutive of human attachments.

What status do we give a global ethic in a pluralistic world that, as a matter of fact, is composed, ethically speaking, of competing moral universes? Once you discard, as a global ethic must, the idea that certain moral values trump others by virtue of their association with religious authority—indeed, if we discard the idea that any one value trumps another by virtue of its association with any kind of authority—then we are left with the need for justification and persuasion by reason. All those who reason are equal, since we are all human beings, but some reasons turn out to be better than others. The test of which are better depends on how persuasive they are in argument. On this rough-and-ready model of adversarial justification, the particular faces off against the universal—but neither plays as trumps; neither is privileged with any authority other than reason and both are obliged to justify themselves.

In a globalized world, the fact of adversarial justification is unavoidable because the particular and the universal do not live in disconnected bell jars. The reality is constant permeation between the membranes of one body. The particular and the universal, the local and the national, the rural and the metropolitan, are all in constant interaction. Ethical systems, whether local or global, are also heavily competitive, since they are constantly bidding for adherents, seeking to hold on to doubters and to ward off attacks. Moral universes are no longer closed to each other, if they ever were, and each is in justificatory dialogue with the other.

Let us look more closely at how a global ethic interacts with local practice in a specific case, female genital cutting (FGC). Western NGOs promoting health and voice rights in developing societies have learned over time that local "buy-in" is crucial if this practice is to be eliminated. We can contrast "buy-in" with conversion. Missionaries seek conversion. They seek the soul. Buy-in is not about the soul. It is an exchange in which one side offers to change a practice in return for the respect of others. Buy-in requires lengthy negotiation between the particular and the universal, community by community, and power on the ground lies more with the former than with the latter. The universal takes the form, often enough, of a humanitarian aid worker or public health nurse. The local takes the form of a village political system in which power is held by elders and where women may not have voice or influence.

Female genital cutting will not stop simply because Western health workers point out the septicemia statistics. It has not been stopped by top-down legislative bans. The tradition stops when village women decide they can substitute alternative initiation rituals that safeguard their girls' health without lowering their value to the families as brides.20 When there is successful buy-in, the particular practice changes, and fewer girls die of septicemia. But the universal changes, too: women's rights advocates acknowledge the importance for women of supporting local marriage customs, even when these fall short of Western standards of gender equality. Buy-in implies trade-offs on both sides. Female mortality declines, while polygamy and patriarchy may endure. Yet that is not the end of the story. Once the dialogue between the particular and universal has been joined, more buy-in may occur and more change may happen in subsequent iterations.

There are many examples of this dialogue between the particular and the universal. For instance, since the Soviet invasion in 1979, and now with the more recent NATO presence, Afghan traditional society has come face-to-face with moral universalism and female equality via the National Solidarity Program and other Western attempts to promote female education, political participation, and reduced female mortality rates.21 What these encounters reveal is that female subordination is not just one value among many in a local patriarchal culture; rather, it is held to be the very condition for the survival of these communities as such, since their members, even female ones, cannot conceive of the community apart from its patriarchal structure. All the same, despite the deeply rooted local attachment to female subordination, change does occur. Women do begin to participate in village councils, young girls do go to school, female mortality does decline.

What we need to understand better is how universalist claims to advance women are negotiated, case by specific case, in conditions of inequality. We need an anthropology of this buy-in process between local and universal ethics on the ground in order to understand how better to promote a global ethic, especially in relation to women's rights, that is freely chosen by those affected and that follows from a process of reciprocal justification and exchange. Reimagining a global ethic means understanding the anthropology of this encounter, in society after society, between the local and the global, between the tribal/familial and the universal.

To summarize: a global ethic defends the universal interests of mankind and the planet; its purpose is to engage all forms of ethical particularism in adversarial justification; and the rules of these encounters, flowing as they do from the starting premise of human equality, preclude coercion and mandate tolerance.

If the first two functions of a global ethic are to interrogate particularism in the nation-state and at the community level, its third function is to interrogate the universalism of international law itself.

The universal is embodied in four basic pillars of international law, erected between 1945 and 1952:

  • The UN Charter, guaranteeing the inviolability and equality of sovereign states.
  • The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) and the ensuing system of covenants, including the Genocide Convention, guaranteeing the rights of individuals.
  • The Geneva Conventions, guaranteeing civilian immunity in time of war.
  • The Refugee Convention, protecting persons with a well-founded fear of persecution.

Thus, when we say we do not have to rebuild the foundations of global ethics, we mean that there already exists this legally codified fabric of ethical conventions that has been ratified by peoples around the world and that to some degree constrains the behavior of states.

While it is conventional to think of this structure of international law as a mutually reinforcing and interlocking structure of obligation, it is important to notice how each of these self-contained ethical systems conflicts with the others:

  • The Charter prioritizes state sovereignty, which contradicts the UDHR's prioritizing of human rights.
  • The Geneva Conventions prioritize civilian protection in war, while the UDHR prioritizes the pacific principle of a universal right to life.
  • Refugee conventions balance protection for refugees while conceding the moral priority of citizens' rights. The privilege accorded by states to the rights of their own citizens is not easy to reconcile with the idea of the universality of human rights, and hence the equality of human beings regardless of citizenship.

Each purpose of these conventions—to protect sovereignty, to promote human rights, to civilize war, to save refugees—defines a particular ethical framework. So we have a global ethics in the plural as a matter of institutional and legal practice, while in philosophy departments we have a global ethic in the singular.

There are contradictions at the heart of the ethical systems institutionalized in international law. The most obvious is between state sovereignty and human rights. Sovereignty itself incarnates an important moral principle: the equality of peoples and the right of the weak to defend themselves against the strong in a world of unequal state power. If we want a world in which strong states do not have the right to dictate to the weak, we have to guarantee the inviolability of states in law, and if we do this, we have to accept the likelihood that some will exploit sovereignty to oppress their own people. Our international legal structure values two competing ethical goals, and a morally adequate international system has to seek reconciliation between principles at variance with each other.

What we can do—and what the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty has in fact done—is to propose that sovereignty be made conditional on two basic responsibilities: respect for the sovereignty of other states and responsibility to provide basic security for one's own citizens—that is, to refrain from subjecting them to massacre, genocide, or ethnic cleansing. This sets the bar of responsibility low, but it also defines the moral conditions that would justify intervention by another state.22 Sovereignty as responsibility, in other words, can be understood as a conceptual bridge between two competing ethical systems: the UN Charter system of sovereignty and the human rights conventions. Yet the contradictions between the two will endure and will force hard choices on all actors in the international system. Ethicists can elucidate these choices, but they cannot eliminate the burden of decision that necessarily falls on political actors.

This high-altitude view of the field tells us there is a global ethic as a discourse on the one hand and a global ethics as institutional practice on the other. The former exists in part to criticize the latter. We do not need to invent a new global ethic so much as understand the deeper contradictions within the ethical systems that already guide the action of states, individuals, and leaders. Professional ethicists have a job to do: to understand the contradictions between democracy and justice, the self-determination of peoples versus survival of the planet, and the value of sovereign equality versus human rights. Understanding these contradictions will help us to negotiate them in practical politics. My key point is that the real function of a global ethic is to force such contradictions out into the open light of public debate and to force political excuses for injustice to justify themselves.

Moral life is a process of justification—giving reasons for opinions, reasons for opinions and our conduct when we discover our justifications failing us. The essence of moral life is this process of recurrent, repeated, behavior-changing justification. The process needs standards—a global ethic provides the view from nowhere, global ethics provides a view from somewhere. And if sides in dispute accept the standard, they argue with each other, not past each other; and if they accept the standard, they are more likely to accept the obligation to change when justification fails.

It is vital for philosophers and others working in this field to elaborate further the view from nowhere. Without it, the view from somewhere will not be faced with the burden of justification. And without this burden, without the test of argument, we will not change, and it is change that matters.


1. This essay began life as a lecture to the Global Ethics Fellows, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, New York, November 10, 2011. For the original lecture (transcript, audio, and video), click here. In revising it for publication, I am grateful to Joel Rosenthal and the Ethics Fellows for their criticism and suggestions. The Council's project on reimagining a global ethic is an initiative to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the Council in 1914 by Andrew Carnegie.

2. Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, with the notes of J. Barbeyrac (London, Printed for W. Innys et al., 1738); and Samuel Pufendorf, Of the Law of Nature and Nations, with Mr. Barbeyrac's prefatory discourse (London, 1729). On international law as a social practice, see Charles Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

3. Hans Kung and Helmut Schmidt, A Global Ethic and Global Responsibilities (London: SCM Press, 1998); and Hans Kung, A Global Ethic for Global Politics and Economics (London: SCM Press, 1997). See also

4. Henry Steiner and Philip Alston, International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

5. Michael Ignatieff, The Needs of Strangers (New York: Viking, 1984).

6. See, e.g., Taha Abderrahman, A Global Ethic: Its Scope and Limits (Tabah Foundation Paper Series 1, 2008).

7. W.B. Gallie, "Essentially Contested Concepts," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 56, (1955–1956), pp. 167–98.

8. Judith Shklar, "Putting Cruelty First," Daedalus 111, no. 3 (Summer 1982); and Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Henry Hardy, ed., (London: John Murray, 1990), pp. 203–204.

9. Jacques Maritain, The Rights of Man and Natural Law (New York: G. Bles, the Centenary Press, 1943); on Maritain, see Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2010).

10. Robert Wright, The Moral Animal (New York: Random House, 1994); Patricia Churchland, Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011); Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York, Penguin Books, 2002); and Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).

11. Thomas Nagel, The View From Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

12. The veil of ignorance, of course, refers to the famous heuristic employed by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1972). For the global application of his theory of justice, see his The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999).

13. Thomas Hurka, "The Justification of National Partiality," in Robert McKim and Jeff McMahan, eds., The Morality of Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 139–57; Joseph Carens, "Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders," Review of Politics 49, no. 2 (1987), pp. 251–73; Michael Blake, "Distributive Justice, State Coercion and Autonomy," Philosophy and Public Affairs 30, no. 3 (2001), pp. 257–96; and Michael Walzer, "The Distribution of Membership," in Peter Brown and Henry Shue, eds., Boundaries (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1981), pp. 1–35.

14. Henry Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980); Thomas Pogge, "Assisting the Global Poor," in D. K. Chatterjee, The Ethics of Assistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 260–88; and Peter Singer, "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, no. 3 (1972), pp. 229–43.

15. Peter Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002).

16. Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty," in Henry Hardy and Roger Hausheer, eds., The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays (London: Chatto and Windus, 1997), pp. 191–243. For a disagreement with Berlin, see Ronald Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011).

17. Brad R. Roth, Sovereign Equality and Moral Disagreement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

18. On the doctrine of sovereign responsibility, see Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001).

19. Singer, One World, chap. 2.

20. FGC Files Online. Harvard KSG ISP 224 reading list for Mamouna Traore and FGC Abolition in Senegal, 2004. See the International Women's Health Program at and at

21. Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failed States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus, Can Intervention Work? (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011); Antonio Donini, "Afghanistan: Humanitarianism under Threat," Feinstein Center Briefing Paper, Tufts University, March 2009; Andrew Beath, Fotini Christia, and Ruben Enikolopov, "Winning Hearts and Minds through Development: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan," MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011–14, October 25, 2011.

22. International Commission on Sovereignty and Intervention (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 2001).

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