'On Cosmopolitanism: Equality, Ecology and the Transition to a Fairer World' Workshop

G51 European Research Institute (ERI)
Arts and Law, Lectures Talks and Workshops
Friday 20th January 2017 (10:00-18:00)
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Simon Caney, On Cosmopolitanism: Equality, Ecology and the Transition to a Fairer World (OUP, forthcoming) – Book Manuscript Workshop

The Centre for the Study of Global Ethics and the Department of Philosophy warmly invite you to join us for this workshop exploring Simon Caney's forthcoming publication. 

On Cosmopolitanism defends an ecologically sustainable account of global egalitarian justice and examines what those denied their entitlements are permitted to do to bring about a more just world.

The book is divided into three parts. Many are sceptical of global principles of justice or affirm very minimal principles. In Part I, I challenge this consensus and seek to defend an egalitarian set of principles of global distributive justice. In doing so I criticise both the methodological approaches adopted by many critics of global egalitarianism and the substantive conclusions they reach. On the methodological front: I argue against the common tendency to carve up issues of global justice into separate issues (such as territory, natural resources, migration, trade, health and so on) and argue that this ‘modular’ approach is flawed for both principled and practical reasons. I further reject accounts that claim that the correct principles of justice must correspond to existing practices (so-called 'practice-dependent' accounts), and defend a practice-independent approach. We need, I argue, a more systemic approach which considers these together - a general overarching theory. On the substantive front: I then argue that such a theory should be guided by egalitarian principles of justice, and, moreover, that these principles apply at the global level, irrespective of whether there are pre-existing social, economic or political relationships.
Such an account is, however, radically incomplete unless it also specifies the duty-bearers. Part I thus concludes by deriving a set of first-order and second-order responsibilities, identifying the relevant duty-bearers and specifying how responsibilities should be distributed.

Having defended an egalitarian conception of cosmopolitan justice and its correlative responsibilities, I turn, in Part II, to explore the ecological preconditions of global justice. Realizing cosmopolitan principles of justice has profound implications for the treatment of the natural world. Securing persons' rights has both environmental effects but also environmental preconditions, and it is important to ensure that persons' effects on the environment do not undermine the environmental preconditions needed to secure people's rights. In short: humanity must live within its means. This requires honouring seven environmental boundaries, including climate change, ozone layer depletion, ocean acidification, the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, atmospheric aerosol loading, freshwater use, land use, biodiversity loss and chemical pollution (Rockström et al 2009). Since the environmental impacts of our actions often fall on future generations, ascertaining these ecological limits requires an account of what obligations members of one generation owe to future generations. In response to this I argue that justice to future generations requires leaving them at least as well off as current generations: we can leave future generations better off, but may not leave them worse off. Part II concludes by examining the implications that the cosmopolitan principles of economic and environmental justice I defend have for the ascription of responsibilities. In addition to this it explores its implications for economic growth and secular stagnation, technological innovation, and demographic policy and the appropriate response to global population growth.

Parts I and II, thus, specify what principles of economic and environmental justice should apply at the global level. They, thereby, identify what rights people have and who is obligated to realise them. However, one stark feature of our world is that persons and institutions signally fail to comply with principles of global justice. What should be done in response? I address this in Part III. In particular, I explore what rights those who bear the brunt of global injustice have to secure their just entitlements and thereby to help bring about a fairer world. To do so I argue that there is a right to resist global injustice. This can take two forms: (i) a right to engage in acts to secure one's immediate rights, and (ii) a right to act in ways which bring about long-term structural change. My aim in Part III is to delineate the content of these rights, explain why they are justified and necessary, and to identify the ethical parameters that should guide any struggle to realise a fairer world. This involves addressing when the right to resist global injustice is triggered; who has the right; what means they may use, and, under what circumstances; who should bear the brunt of acts of resistance; when illegal action is justified; and, what criteria resisters must satisfy for their actions to enjoy political legitimacy.

Provisional programme

  • 09:30-10:00 - Registration
  • 10:00-10:30 - Welcome: brief introduction from Merten Reglitz and Simon Caney
  • 10:30-12:00 - Session 1: Andrea Sangiovanni, Brian Milstein                             
  • 12:00-13:30 - Session 2: Chris Armstrong, Andrew Williams
  • 13:30-14:15 - Lunch break
  • 14:15-15:45 - Session 3: Ed Page, Darrel Moellendorf
  • 15:45-16:00 - Coffee break
  • 16:00-17:30 - Session 4: Clare Heyward, Wouter Peeters
  • 17:30-18:00 - Closing remarks

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Registration is £15 and is via the University of Birmingham online shop.