The Seven Best Books on Global Justice

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This page contains a list of the best books on global justice. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on global justice. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about global justice. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.

Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best books on global justice in no particular order.

Global Justice – Jon Mandle

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 192 pages | Published: 2006

Publisher description: Global justice has become one of the most pressing issues of our time. Whilst half of the worlds population continue to live on less than $2 per day, there are growing demands for a world wheredemocracy, development and security are permanent features in all our lives.

In this new book, Jon Mandle explores the meaning of global justice and provides students with an accessible introduction to the core concepts and debates in the field. Global justice, he explains, requires universal respect for basic human rights. These rights belong to each and every one of us, and they can be used to guide policy-making in areas such as humanitarian intervention, global poverty, and secession.

Emphasizing the importance of legitimate political institutions for protecting basic rights and ensuring self-determination, Mandle sets out concrete reforms which would protect core human rights internationally. He explains but ultimately rejects theories which assert that no principles of justice apply globally or that the same principles apply both domestically and globally. Instead, Mandle develops and defends his own unique account of global justice, inspired by the work of John Rawls.

Global Justice will be of interest to students of philosophy, political science, international relations, sociology, globalization, and anyone reflecting on the importance of justice across borders.

Political Theory and International Relations – Charles R. Beitz

Category: General Introduction | Length: 264 pages | Published: 1999 (Revised Edition)

Publisher description: In this revised edition of his 1979 classic Political Theory and International Relations, Charles Beitz rejects two highly influential conceptions of international theory as empirically inaccurate and theoretically misleading. In one, international relations is a Hobbesian state of nature in which moral judgments are entirely inappropriate, and in the other, states are analogous to persons in domestic society in having rights of autonomy that insulate them from external moral assessment and political interference. Beitz postulates that a theory of international politics should include a revised principle of state autonomy based on the justice of a state’s domestic institutions, and a principle of international distributive justice to establish a fair division of resources and wealth among persons situated in diverse national societies.

The Global Justice Reader – Thom Brooks

Category: Anthology | Length: 764 pages | Published: 2008

Publisher description: The Global Justice Reader is a first-of-its kind collection that brings together key foundational and contemporary writings on this important topic in moral and political philosophy.

  • Brings together key foundational and contemporary writings on this important topic in moral and political philosophy
  • Offers a brief introduction followed by important readings on subjects ranging from sovereignty, human rights, and nationalism to global poverty, terrorism, and international environmental justice
  • Presents the writings of key figures in the field, including Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Peter Singer, and many others

Global Justice: Seminal Essays – Thomas Pogge & Darrel Moellendorf

Category: Anthology | Length: 736 pages | Published: 2008

Publisher description: Global Justice is part of a two-volume set (with Global Ethics) that will aid in the study of global justice and global ethical issues with significant global dimensions. Some of those issues directly concern what individuals, countries, and other associations ought to do in response to various global problems, such as poverty, population growth, and climate change. Others concern the concepts that are commonly used to discuss such issues, such as “development” and “human rights.” And still others concern the legitimacy of various phenomena that structure the global scene, such as national borders, the institutions of national sovereignty and self-determination, and attitudes such as nationalism and patriotism.

In recent decades, literature on such issues has started to build up in the Western philosophical tradition. Until now, though, no up-to-date sample of this literature has been available to students and other interested parties. These two books, companion volumes sold separately, fill this gap by providing a sample of the best recent work on these themes.

The Law of Peoples – John Rawls

Category: Contemporary | Length: 208 pages | Published: 2001 (Revised Edition)

Publisher description: This book consists of two parts: the essay “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” first published in 1997, and “The Law of Peoples,” a major reworking of a much shorter article by the same name published in 1993. Taken together, they are the culmination of more than fifty years of reflection on liberalism and on some of the most pressing problems of our times by John Rawls.

“The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” explains why the constraints of public reason, a concept first discussed in Political Liberalism (1993), are ones that holders of both religious and non-religious comprehensive views can reasonably endorse. It is Rawls’s most detailed account of how a modern constitutional democracy, based on a liberal political conception, could and would be viewed as legitimate by reasonable citizens who on religious, philosophical, or moral grounds do not themselves accept a liberal comprehensive doctrine–such as that of Kant, or Mill, or Rawls’s own “Justice as Fairness,” presented in A Theory of Justice (1971).

The Law of Peoples extends the idea of a social contract to the Society of Peoples and lays out the general principles that can and should be accepted by both liberal and non-liberal societies as the standard for regulating their behavior toward one another. In particular, it draws a crucial distinction between basic human rights and the rights of each citizen of a liberal constitutional democracy. It explores the terms under which such a society may appropriately wage war against an “outlaw society,” and discusses the moral grounds for rendering assistance to non-liberal societies burdened by unfavorable political and economic conditions.

World Poverty and Human Rights – Thomas W. Pogge

Category: Contemporary | Length: 304 pages | Published: 2008

Publisher description: Some 2.5 billion human beings live in severe poverty, deprived of such essentials as adequate nutrition, safe drinking water, basic sanitation, adequate shelter, literacy, and basic health care. One third of all human deaths are from poverty-related causes: 18million annually, including over 10 million children under five.

However huge in human terms, the world poverty problem is tiny economically. Just 1 percent of the national incomes of the high-income countries would suffice to end severe poverty worldwide. Yet, these countries, unwilling to bear an opportunity cost of this magnitude, continue to impose a grievously unjust global institutional order that foreseeably and avoidably perpetuates the catastrophe. Most citizens of affluent countries believe that we are doing nothing wrong.

Thomas Pogge seeks to explain how this belief is sustained. He analyses how our moral and economic theorizing and our global economic order have adapted to make us appear disconnected from massive poverty abroad. Dispelling the illusion, he also offers a modest, widely sharable standard of global economic justice and makes detailed, realistic proposals toward fulfilling it.

Thoroughly updated, the second edition of this classic book incorporates responses to critics and a new chapter introducing Pogge’s current work on pharmaceutical patent reform.

Global Justice: A Cosmopolitan Account – Gillian Brock

Category: Contemporary | Length: 288 pages | Published: 2009

Publisher description: Gillian Brock develops a viable cosmopolitan model of global justice that takes seriously the equal moral worth of persons, yet leaves scope for defensible forms of nationalism and for other legitimate identifications and affiliations people have. Brock addresses two prominent kinds of skeptic about global justice: those who doubt its feasibility and those who believe that cosmopolitanism interferes illegitimately with the defensible scope of nationalism by undermining goods of national importance, such as authentic democracy or national self-determination. The model addresses concerns about implementation in the world, showing how we can move from theory to public policy that makes progress toward global justice. It also makes clear how legitimate forms of nationalism are compatible with commitments to global justice.

Global Justice is divided into three central parts. In the first, Brock defends a cosmopolitan model of global justice. In the second, which is largely concerned with public policy issues, she argues that there is much we can and should do toward achieving global justice. She addresses several pressing problems, discussing both theoretical and public policy issues involved with each. These include tackling global poverty, taxation reform, protection of basic liberties, humanitarian intervention, immigration, and problems associated with global economic arrangements. In the third part, she shows how the discussion of public policy issues can usefully inform our theorizing; in particular, it assists our thinking about the place of nationalism and equality in an account of global justice.


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