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On the confusion between ideal and non-ideal in recent debates on global justice

By Lea Ypi


This article assesses two contending global theories of justice (cosmopolitanism and statism) in light of the role that ideal and non-ideal considerations should play in political theory. It starts with a distinction between ideal and non-ideal and it proceeds to show how both statists and cosmopolitans are ideal when non-ideal considerations should prevail and how both are non-ideal when ideal theorising is required. This view is assessed with reference to two issues on which statists and cosmopolitans appear particularly divided: the relevance of states and the principles of global justice. With regard to the former, the article shows that the discussion on states is ideal (discussing the place of special associative relations in normative justifications of distributive equality) when it should be non-ideal (emphasising the role of states as the most relevant agents of justice in real-world circumstances). On the second issue, it illustrates how the discussion on principles is non-ideal (limited to assessing the consequences of global poverty in unfavourable conditions) when it should be ideal (investigating the grounds of injustice at the appropriately fundamental level). The article concludes by sketching an alternative analysis of global justice which is able to accommodate some statist and cosmopolitan concerns but which avoids the criticisms that each theory usually attracts

Topics: JC Political theory
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2009.00794.x
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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