In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Global Justice, Western Perspectives

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Rawls’s Law of Peoples
  • The Content of Distributive Justice
  • The Scope of Distributive Justice
  • Global Governance and Sovereignty
  • Justice in War
  • Humanitarian Intervention and Preventive War
  • Terrorism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Nationalism, Cultural Pluralism, and Global Justice
  • Rights to Self-Determination, Secession, and Global Justice
  • Immigration
  • Human Rights
  • Global Poverty and Assistance
  • Distributing Responsibilities for Global Problems
  • Global Gender Justice
  • Global Environmental Justice
  • Global Economic Justice (Trade, Labor, and Globalization)

International Relations Global Justice, Western Perspectives
Gillian Brock
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0114


For many centuries, matters of war and peace dominated the field of ethical issues in international relations. Though these are still issues of major concern, the field of Global Justice has blossomed in the last two decades, and theorizing over other domains has flourished as well. Events in the real world explain much of this: intensification of the effects of globalization; the dramatic increase in global inequality and poverty; a widespread appreciation of our interdependence and interconnectedness as manifest in the spread of contagious diseases; economic disasters, or catastrophic anthropogenic climate change; and the increased influence of powerful international agencies (such as the World Trade Organization [WTO], United Nations [UN], International Monetary Fund [IMF], and World Bank), with consequent perceived erosion of state sovereignty, are just a few relevant factors that account for the increased interest. The publication of Rawls’s seminal work, Law of Peoples, was especially salient in stimulating theorizing about models of global justice and the principles that should guide international action. A number of central questions became prominent: What principles should guide international action? What are we obligated to do for the global poor? What, indeed, are our responsibilities to all in the global sphere? Can we have world justice without a world state? What authorities are there in the global domain that might be able to enforce and implement global justice? Is it ever permissible to engage in coercive, military action for humanitarian purposes, such as to stop genocide or prevent large-scale violations of human rights? What is terrorism and can it ever be justified? Are there defensible forms of nationalism, what does their value consist in, and under what conditions must claims to national self-determination be given substantial weight? Must nationalism stand in tension with our commitments to global justice? How should we allocate responsibilities for implementing global justice in our world, and how should these apply in particular cases, such as in distributing costs associated with mitigating climate change? What kinds of restrictions on immigration, if any, are just? Are the institutions that dominate the global economic order just and, if not, how should they to be transformed? Can globalization be better harnessed to assist the global poor? How does a globalized, post-Westphalian world order modify the responsibilities we have to one another? Should global institutions be democratically organized? This bibliography concentrates on those issues that have received the most attention in the field so far.

General Overviews

A number of good introductions to the topic of global justice are now available, including Pogge and Moellendorf 2008, Pogge and Horton 2008, and Brooks 2008. These works include some of the most commonly covered issues by dominant theorists in the field, collecting some of the classic views that have been highly influential in shaping the terms of debates. Also providing an excellent overview and accessible introduction are textbooks, such as Bell 2010, that provide many additional resources useful for students such as web links and glossary terms. Mandle 2006 provides an accessible introduction to the field while the author advances his own Rawlsian-inspired account of global justice. For a more sophisticated introduction and overview of issues concerning international justice, suitable for graduate students, Blake 2005 is a good resource. Rosenthal and Barry 2009 and Brock and Moellendorf 2005 both provide a selection of influential chapters by leading theorists covering current debates in global justice.

  • Bell, Duncan. Ethics and World Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    An accessible and wide-ranging textbook that explores the ethical dimensions of some of the most pressing problems encountered in world politics. Chapters include coverage of critical theory, post-structuralism, analytic political philosophy, political realism, postcolonial theory, and comparative political thought. Includes helpful features such as an online resource center, PowerPoint slides, further reading, web links, and glossary terms.

  • Blake, Michael. “International Justice.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2005.

    A more sophisticated introduction and overview of issues concerning international justice. Reflects on the significance of national borders given the facts of international poverty and global integration. Good links to other Internet resources.

  • Brock, Gillian, and Darrel Moellendorf. Current Debates in Global Justice. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1007/1-4020-3847-X

    Papers collected from leading theorists of global justice represent sample debates at the cutting edge of scholarship on global justice. Contributors include Richard Arneson, Charles Beitz, Omar Dahbour, Robert Goodin, Dale Jamieson, John Lango, David Miller, Thomas Pogge, Sanjay Reddy, Mathias Risse, Gopal Sreenivasan, and James Sterba.

  • Brooks, Thom. The Global Justice Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008.

    Brings together an excellent selection of articles, both historical and contemporary, covering most of the major topics typically studied in introductory courses. Also contains a further useful bibliography. An introduction and overviews of each theme highlighting salient issues make for an exceptionally accessible introductory text.

  • Mandle, Jon. Global Justice. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2006.

    A clear and accessible introduction to several issues pertinent to global justice topics. Mandle argues that global justice requires respect for basic human rights and this requirement can guide policymaking in many areas, including humanitarian intervention, secession, and global poverty. An account of global justice inspired by Rawls’s work but different from it.

  • Pogge, Thomas, and Keith Horton, eds. Global Ethics: Seminal Essays. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008.

    This volume, the second of a two-volume set introduced above, covers essays that concern the ethical responsibilities within the international order as it presently exists. An overview by the editors is followed by twenty-two chapters by influential theorists. Covers a wide range of topics including assistance, just war, self-determination, and environmental justice.

  • Pogge, Thomas, and Darrel Moellendorf, eds. Global Justice: Seminal Essays. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008.

    This work and Pogge and Horton 2008 make up a two-volume set that aims to cover seminal essays on global justice that have been especially influential in the field. This volume focuses on essays concerning the political responsibilities in institutional design. Covers a wide range of topics, including those of distributive justice, the scope of duties of justice, immigration, sovereignty, and the significance of nationality.

  • Rosenthal, Joel, and Christian Barry. Ethics and International Affairs: A Reader. 3d ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009.

    Influential contemporary scholarship on ethical issues in the international sphere that nicely blends normative and empirical work, covering issues such as military intervention, global economic justice, and human rights. All articles are drawn from Ethics and International Affairs, a good journal that covers ethical issues in international affairs in an accessible yet sophisticated way.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.