Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution

By Florian Wettstein | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Obligations of Global Justice

AFTER OUTLINING THE PRINCIPLES of rights-based cosmopolitan justice in the previous chapter, the logical next step is to have acloser look at the moral obligations deriving from them. Any account of justice remains incomplete without an adequate discussion of obligations.

Debating obligations of justice means designating responsible subjects. It means sorting out specific actors and pinning down their particular duties— arguably a task that does not enjoy much popularity. This might explain why most authors in the field of global distributive justice have avoided it so far. However, the lack of attention paid to obligations is not specific to the discussion of global justice but characterizes the justice debate in general. The prominent role that the concept of justice plays in moral philosophy has marginalized the more specific focus on injustice, as Judith Shklar (1990, 15; see also Scanlon 1998) comments. It is simply taken for granted that injustice denotes the absence of justice and that once we know what is just, there is no need for any further investigation in this matter. However, this is far from correct; precisely the question of obligations tends to get overlooked when ethical reFlection is limited merely to the question of what is to be considered just. After all, obligations of justice catch our attention first of all in situations where the requirements of justice are not met.

This chapter aims at filling this striking gap in the global justice debate. My earlier elaborations on the moral significance of political boundaries provided some first insights and implications regarding obligations of justice (see the section “The Nationalist Objection: The Ethical Significance of Boundaries and Citizenship” in chapter 2). The following paragraphs will complement

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