Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mathias Risse's "On Global Justice"

Mathias Risse is professor of philosophy and public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, On Global Justice, and reported the following:
Page 99 of On Global Justice – which just came out from Princeton University Press – is not a bad place to start reading. The page is in the middle of a chapter on Hugo Grotius, a 17th century Dutch international lawyer and political theorist. His main work is called On the Law of War and Peace. One core idea of that book is that to figure out how to live together both peacefully and justly we need to determine how to divide up the spaces and resources of the earth in a way that should be acceptable to everybody. Grotius offered such a theory by way of thinking through the idea of humanity’s collective ownership of the earth. In the 17th century, that idea was largely religiously motivated, but one of the main ideas of my book is to revitalize a secularized version of the idea that humanity collectively owns the earth. I do a lot of work with that idea: I apply it to immigration, human rights, obligations to future generations, and obligations arising from climate change. Grotius provides much inspiration for these inquiries, and that’s why there is this chapter on him that includes page 99. But the contemporary theorizing needs to stand on its own. So that is one important part of what is going on in my book. Overall, my goal is to offer a foundational theory of global justice that takes an approach "in between" the classical dichotomy according to which principles of justice either apply only within the state, or else apply globally. Instead, I develop a view I call pluralist internationalism, according to which there are different grounds of justice that individuals may or may not share, such that those who share such a ground are people to whom the distribution of certain goods must be justifiable. Principles of justice then are those principles that fulfill that role, and they will vary with the specific grounds. And I think this through for a bunch of rather applied issues. What is most distinctly novel about all this is that among these grounds of justice is indeed collective ownership of the earth. In addition to On Global Justice, I also published a book called Global Political Philosophy, an introduction to political philosophical from a global rather than state-focused standpoint. The latter is a text book that should be useful to anybody interested in political philosophy.
Learn more about On Global Justice at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue