Rising powers are fundamentally shifting the relations of power in the global economic and political landscape. International political theory, however, has so far failed to evaluate this nascent multipolarity. This article fills this lacuna by synthesizing empirical and normative modes of inquiry. It examines the transformation of sovereignty exercised by emerging democracies and focuses especially on the case of Brazil. The paper shows that – in stark contrast to emerging democracies’ foreign policy rhetoric – the ‘softening’ of sovereignty, which means that emerging powers gain as well as lose certain aspects of sovereignty, has become the norm. The paper explores this softening of sovereignty from the perspective of global justice by assessing it on the basis of globalist, statist, and internationalist conceptions of global justice. We find that the emergent multipolarity contributes in various ways to the realization of the distinct socioeconomic and political criteria of these three conceptions of global justice. However, we also point out that the transformation of sovereignty generates particular problems for the realization of all three conceptions.