Enforcing the Global Economic Order, Violating the Rights of the Poor, and Breaching Negative Duties? Pogge, Collective Agency, and Global Poverty

Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (2):334-370 (2018)
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Thomas Pogge has argued, famously, that ‘we’ are violating the rights of the global poor insofar as we uphold an unjust international order which provides a legal and economic framework within which individuals and groups can and do deprive such individuals of their lives, liberty and property. I argue here that Pogge’s claim that we are violating a negative duty can only be made good on the basis of a substantive theory of collective action; and that it can only provide substantive ethical guidance when combined with an account of how collective action gives rise to forward-looking responsibility and/or accountability on an individual level. I consider accounts of these two topics given in work by Peter French and Christopher Kutz; and I argue that neither of them give Pogge what he needs. Although there is a sense in which 'we' can be said to be violating the rights of the worst off, the sense in which this is true does not generate any plausible action-guiding claims for individuals.

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Bill Wringe
Bilkent University


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