A Role for Coercive Force in the Theory of Global Justice?

In Thom Brooks (ed.), New Waves in Gobal Justice. Palgrave-MacMillan (forthcoming)
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The first wave of philosophical work on global justice focused largely on the distribution of economic resources, and on the development or reformation of institutions relevant thereto. More recently, however, the horizon has broadened significantly, to also include a concern with the global spread of the right to live under reasonable legal institutions and representative forms of government (cf. “a human right to democracy”). Thus, while the first wave was focused primarily on international (non-territorial) institutions, later work has also brought critical focus to bear on domestic institutions traditionally assumed to be protected by rights of state sovereignty. This naturally raises the question of whether, when, and how the international community can coercively intervene in issues falling under assumed to fall under domestic jurisdiction. Many theorists of global justice will accept, however reluctantly, that coercive means such as military force may be used (even unilaterally, if necessary) to halt a government’s mass atrocities against its civilian population (so-called “humanitarian intervention”). They are, however, for the most part firmly opposed to the use of military force as a tool to force regime change or democratic reform. I will discuss the viability of this stance along two dimensions: (i) can we draw a morally relevant distinction between humanitarian intervention and regime change policies? (ii) can we draw a morally relevant distinction between the use of military force as a policy tool and the use of other kinds of coercive measures such as economic sanctions?

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Endre Begby
Simon Fraser University


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