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Do We Have a Negative Duty Towards the Global Poor? Thomas Pogge on Global Justice

Jean-Christophe Merle (ed.) Spheres of Global Justice. Dordrecht: Springer (2013), pp. 595-610

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-57

General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-12

17 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2014 Last revised: 20 Oct 2016

Roland Pierik

University of Amsterdam

Date Written: December 23, 2013

Abstract

Who has the duty to guarantee that basic human rights are fulfilled globally? This is one of the central questions in the current global justice debate. The answer to this question must be based on some principle of justice that distributes rights and duties in the global sphere. This paper analyses Thomas Pogge’s answer to this question, which does not rest on notions of charity, benevolence, or supererogatory duties, but on the negative duty not to harm the global poor. His central claim is that “we, the citizens and governments of the affluent societies, in collusion with the ruling elites of many poor countries, are harming the global poor by imposing an unjust institutional order upon them.”

Although I am sympathetic to Pogge’s project, my discussion of it is mainly critical of his negative duty argument. Section 48.2 discusses Pogge’s explanatory globalism arguing that global poverty is caused by a global institutional order, and that affluent societies, by setting up this global institutional order in an unjust way, are responsible for global poverty. Section 48.3 describes and discusses Pogge’s argument that we, the citizens and governments of affluent societies, have a negative duty not to cause global poverty. Although Pogge’s explanatory globalism is convincing, his negative-duty argument cannot be sustained. The main problem in his argument is the unspecified “we” that have a duty: does it refer to governments of affluent societies, their citizens, or both?

Keywords: Thomas Pogge, Global Justice, negative duties

Suggested Citation

Pierik, Roland, Do We Have a Negative Duty Towards the Global Poor? Thomas Pogge on Global Justice (December 23, 2013). Jean-Christophe Merle (ed.) Spheres of Global Justice. Dordrecht: Springer (2013), pp. 595-610; Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-57; General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2371265 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2371265

Roland Pierik (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
Amsterdam, 1012 CN
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.rolandpierik.nl/theory

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