Disputing the Subject of Justice:National Citizenry, Global Humanity or Transnational Community of R

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Lecture 3:

Disputing the Subject of Justice:National Citizenry, Global Humanity or Transnational Community of Risk?


The present context, I have suggested, is one of abnormal justice. In this situation, which reflects the break-up of a previous hegemonic grammar, claims for justice immediately run up against counterclaims whose underlying assumptions they do not share. The result is a fractured landscape of political claimsmaking, which contrasts with the relatively ordered, quasi-normal discourse of the Cold-War era. Today’s abnormalities constellate around three different nodes. In the first case, claimants tend to lack any shared understanding of the ontological substance or matter of justice; in the second, they often posit divergent views about the subjects of justice, rival assumptions about whose needs should count. In the third case, finally, those who appeal to justice frequently share no common sense of the process or procedure by which their disputes should be resolved. Absent agreement on the “what,” the “who,” and the “how” of justice, we encounter a heteroglossia of justice discourse that lacks any semblance of normality.

Abnormal justice, I have argued, requires new modes of political theorizing. To clarify disputes over justice in the absence of shared presuppositions, we must jettison mainstream approaches, where are premised on the currently counterfactual assumption of normal discourse. In their place, we must devise genres of reflection that can illuminate discourses in which first-order claims for justice are interlaced with meta-disagreements about what counts as an well-formed claim. Our theorizing must be able to work through such meta-disagreements, without losing sight of pressing the first-order injustices that pervade our globalizing world.

What sort of theorizing can help us navigate these abnormal times? In the previous lectures, I sketched a general, two-sided orientation, which requires balancing the positive and negative sides of abnormal justice. The positive side, once again, is the expansion of contestation, which makes it possible to challenge injustices that the previous grammar elided. The negative side, however, is reduced prospects for corroborating claims for justice and diminished capacities for redressing injustice. What sort of theorizing, I have asked, can keep both sides of that equation in view?

In last week’s lecture, I proposed a strategy for dealing with abnormalities of the “what” of justice. To validate the positive side, of expanded contestation, I proposed a three-dimensional conception of justice, encompassing redistribution, recognition, and representation. To cope with negative side, of diminished capacities for adjudication, I proposed a normative principle that overarches those three dimensions, namely, the principle of participatory parity. The result was a view of justice that combines ontological pluralism with normative monism. Such an approach, I argued, can illuminate justice conflicts that encompass divergent understandings of “what.”

This approach seems quite promising, as far as it goes. And yet, as I noted last week, a major question remains. Parity of participation among whom? Who exactly is entitled to participate on a par with whom in which social interactions? Unless we can find a suitable way of addressing the “who” of justice, my proposal concerning the “what” will not be of any use.

Tonight, accordingly, I resume my inquiry into abnormal justice by considering the question of the “who.” This question is increasing pressing today, given the ongoing de-normalization of the Westphalian frame. Hegemonic in the previous era, that frame posited the subject of justice as the citizenry of a bounded polity. That understanding of the “who” went along with a specific picture of political space, a Westphalian political imaginary. In this imaginary, political communities appeared as geographically bounded units, demarcated by sharply drawn borders and arrayed side by side. Associating each such polity with a state of its own, the Westphalian political imaginary envisioned the state as exercising exclusive, undivided sovereignty over its territory; seeking to bar “external interference” in the state’s “internal affairs,” it also rejected the view that the state could be constrained by any higher, international power. In addition, this view enshrined a sharp division between two qualitatively different kinds of political space. Whereas “domestic” space was imagined as the pacified civil realm of the social contract, subject to law and obligations of justice, “international” space was envisioned as a state of nature, a warlike realm of strategic bargaining and raison d’état, devoid of any binding duties of justice. In the Westphalian imaginary, accordingly, the subjects of justice could only be fellow members of a territorialized citizenry. To be sure, this mapping of political space was never fully realized; international law tamed relations among states to some degree, while Great Power hegemony and modern imperialism belied the notion of an international system of equal sovereign states. Yet this imaginary exercised a powerful sway, inflecting the independence dreams of colonized peoples, who mostly yearned for Westphalian states of their own.

Today, however, the Westphalian mapping of political space is losing its hold. Increasingly, its posit of exclusive, undivided state sovereignty appears implausible, given a ramifying human-rights regime, on the one hand, and spiraling networks of global governance, on the other. Equally questionable is the notion of a sharp division between domestic and international space, given novel forms of “intermestic” politics, practiced by new, trans-territorial non-state actors, including transnational social movements, intergovernmental organizations, and INGOs. Also dubious is the view of territoriality as the sole basis for assigning obligations of justice, given patently trans-territorial problems, such as global warming or genetically modified agriculture, which prompt many to think in terms of functionally-defined “communities of risk” that expand the bounds of justice to include everyone potentially affected. No wonder, then, that activists contesting transnational inequities reject the view that justice can only be imagined territorially, as a domestic relation among fellow citizens. Positing post-Westphalian views of “who counts,” they are subjecting the Westphalian frame to explicit critique.

The upshot is that the “who” justice of no longer goes without saying. Today, rather, both the bounds of justice and the mapping of political space are objects of struggle. Today, accordingly, theorizing cannot proceed in the usual way. Unlike the theorists of the previous era, we cannot assume that we already know who counts. Far from simply presuming the Westphalian “who,” we must explicitly pose the question of who counts as the subject of justice. We must ask: Given the clash of rival views of the bounds of justice, how should we decide whose interests ought to count? Faced with competing framings of social conflicts, how should we determine which mapping of political space is just?

In this lecture, I seek to answer these questions by pursuing a strategy analogous to the one I followed last week with respect to the “what.” Here, too, in other words, I seek to accommodate both the positive and negative sides of abnormal justice. Thus, I seek to both valorize contestation of the Westphalian “who” and also to cope with the exacerbated difficulty of achieving a just resolution in disputes that encompass conflicting views about who counts. What sort of theorizing, I ask, can balance those two desiderata? The answer I shall propose here can be stated in brief: theorizing suited to abnormal times should be simultaneously reflexive and substantive. Let me explain each part of this two-pronged proposal.

On Reflexivity as Meta-Political Critique

In order to valorize expanded contestation, reflection on abnormal justice must be open to claims that first-order questions of justice have been wrongly framed. To ensure that such claims receive a fair hearing, one should assume at the outset that it is possible in principle that some ways of delimiting the “who” of justice are themselves unjust, perhaps because they wrongly exclude some who deserve consideration. Thus, abnormal justice theorizing must be reflexive, able to jump up a level to interrogate the justice (or injustice) of alternative frames. Only by becoming reflexive can one engage the meta-level where framing itself is in dispute. Only by becoming reflexive can one grasp the question of the “who” as a question of justice.

How can one generate the reflexivity needed in abnormal justice? The strategy I shall propose extends the framework introduced yesterday. That framework allowed for three dimensions of justice, namely, redistribution, recognition, and representation. In tonight’s lecture, concerning the “who,” I propose to look more closely at the dimensions of representation. I shall claim that properly understood, that political dimension of justice can provide the reflexivity needed to handle disputes over the “who” in abnormal justice.

The reason is that political dimension applies at two levels, which I shall call “ordinary political” and “meta-political” respectively. In last week’s lecture, I focused on the ordinary-political level, which concerns the structures of political representation within a bounded political community. Tonight, in contrast, I want to focus on the meta-political level, which concerns the divisions between political communities, as well as the design of the broader political space within which they are situated. Let me explain the difference between these levels.

The ordinary-political level is intuitively familiar. At this level, representation is largely a function of a polity’s internal constitution, which sets the ground rules for the legitimate exercise of political power. The paradigm case, from the standpoint of mainstream political science, is electoral decision rules, which mediate the relations between voice and power in a bounded polity. Together with other fundamental features of political constitution, such decision rules establish the terrain of legitimate contestation within the polity. They set the terms on which those included in the political community air their claims and adjudicate their disputes. Shaping the terms on which the members can exercise political voice, ordinary-political representation takes the polity’s external boundaries as a given.

In principle, as I noted in last week’s lecture, the relations of ordinary-political representation are matters of justice. At this level, one can ask: are the relations of representation just? Do the polity’s decision rules accord equal voice in public deliberations and fair representation in public decision-making to all of its members? Are all who are counted as members able to participate on a par with all others? When the answer is no, we are confronted with what I shall call “ordinary-political injustices.” These are injustices arise within a political community whose boundaries and membership are taken as settled. Thus, ordinary-political misrepresentation occurs when a polity’s decision rules deny some who are counted in principle as members the chance to participate fully, as peers. Recently, such injustices have given rise to demands for changes in the mode of ordinary-political representation–ranging from demands for gender quotas on electoral lists, multicultural rights, indigenous self-government, and provincial autonomy, on the one hand, to demands for campaign finance reform, redistricting, proportional representation, and cumulative voting, on the other.[i]

Important as such matters are, they do not exhaust the political dimension of justice. That dimension applies as well at what I am calling the meta-political level. Although less intuitively familiar, the meta-level concerns the design of the broader political space within which the bounded polities considered so far are embedded. At issue here are precisely those matters that were taken for granted at the previous level: namely, the setting of boundaries and the delimitation of membership. Here, accordingly, the crux of representation is inclusion in, or exclusion from, the community of those entitled to make justice claims on one another. If ordinary-political representation concerns the allocation of political voice among those who are counted as members, then meta-political representation concerns the prior establishment of who counts as a member in the first place. It tells us who is included in, and who excluded from, the circle of those entitled to just distribution, reciprocal recognition, and fair terms of ordinary-political representation.

Like ordinal-political representation, meta-political representation is a matter of justice. At this level, too, one can ask: are the relations of representation unjust? Do the boundaries of political membership wrongly exclude some who are actually entitled to voice? Does the division of political space into separated bounded polities deprive some of the chance to engage with others as peers on matters of common concern? When the answer is yes, we are confronted with what I call “meta-political injustice.” Meta-political injustices arise when a polity’s boundaries are drawn in such a way as to wrongly exclude some people from the chance to participate at all in its authorized contests over justice. In such cases, those who are constituted as nonmembers are wrongly excluded from the universe of those entitled to consideration within the polity in matters of distribution, recognition, and ordinary-political representation. The injustice remains, moreover, even when those excluded from one polity are included as subjects of justice in another–as long as the effect of the political division is to put some relevant aspects of justice beyond their reach. An example is the way in which the international system of supposedly equal sovereign states gerrymanders political space at the expense of the global poor. When that happens, the result is a special form of meta-political injustice that I call misframing.

Misframing is a reflexive idea. Pitched at the meta-political level, it permits us to interrogate the construction of ordinary-political representation from the standpoint of justice. Taking the ordinary level as an object of scrutiny, the concept of misframing makes it possible to ask whether a given account of the “who” of justice is truly just. Enabling us to interrogate first-order framings of justice, this notion can help us parse disputes that encompass conflicting views of the “who.” As a result, the concept of misframing possesses exactly the sort of reflexivity needed in circumstances of abnormal justice.

Although the term is certainly new, the idea of misframing has some real traction in today’s struggles over globalization. This notion implicitly informs the claims of many “alternative globalization” activists, even though, of course, they do not use the term. For example, activists associated with the World Social Forum effectively contend that the Westphalian frame is unjust, as it partitions political space in ways that block many who are poor and despised from challenging the forces that oppress them. Channeling their claims into the domestic political spaces of relatively powerless, if not wholly failed, states, this frame insulates offshore powers from critique and control.[ii] Among those shielded from the reach of justice are more powerful predator states and transnational private powers, including foreign investors and creditors, international currency speculators, and transnational corporations. [iii] Also protected are the governance structures of the global economy, which set exploitative terms of interaction and then exempt them from democratic control.[iv] Finally, the Westphalian frame is self-insulating, as the architecture of the interstate system excludes transnational democratic decision-making on issues of justice.[v]

These claims are meta-political. Premised on the idea that first-order framings of justice may themselves be unjust, the concept of misframing permits claimants to pose the question of the frame as a question of justice. As a result it, it provides the reflexivity needed to parse disputes about the “who” in abnormal justice.

By itself, however, reflexivity is not a solution. As soon we accept that injustices of misframing can exist in principle, we require some means of deciding when and where they exist in reality. Thus, a theory of justice for abnormal times requires a substantive normative principle for evaluating frames. Absent such a substantive principle, we have no way to assess the alternatives, hence no way to clarify disputes that encompass conflicting understandings of the “who.”

Substantiveness: A Defense of the All-Subjected Principle

What might a substantive principle for evaluating frames look like? Currently, there three major candidates on offer. Let us examine them one by one.

The first proposal for evaluating frames of justice is the principle of political membership. Proponents of this approach propose to resolve disputes concerning the “who” by appealing to criteria of political belonging. For them, accordingly, what turns a collection of individuals into fellow subjects of justice is shared membership in a political community. As they see it, therefore, the “who” of justice should consist in those who belong together as fellow members of a polity.

Actually, there are several different variants of the membership principle, which hold different interpretations of political belonging. In one interpretation, political belonging is (or should be) a matter of shared nationality. For proponents of this approach, such as Michael Walzer and David Miller, justice finds it strongest support when political membership is undergirded by a shared prepolitical ethos, a common matrix of language, history, culture, tradition or descent. For these theorists, accordingly, the “who” of justice is simply the nation.

Other membership theorists reject that interpretation, however, as objectionably racialist, historically misleading, and generally unsuited to the polyglot, multicultural character of modern states. In their eyes, political membership need not rely on any substantive prepolitical commonality. It is better conceived as a political relation all the way the down. On this second interpretation, which is endorsed by Will Kymlicka and Thomas Nagel, among others, one belongs to a political community simply by virtue of citizenship. Citizenship alone, irrespective of national identity, is sufficient to establish the relationship required for standing as a subject of justice. Thus, the “who” of justice is simply the citizenry.

One might wonder, parenthetically, where John Rawls fits in this scheme. Certainly, the author of The Law of Peoples belongs in the ranks of membership theorists, as he conceives justice as a relation among fellow members of a “people” organized as a domestic political community. But what sort of membership theorist is he? Everything depends on what Rawls means by a “people.” Without pretending to parse the subtleties of his account, which I find equivocal, we can safely locate him somewhere in the grey area that lies between the nationality and citizenship variants of the membership principle.[vi]

In any case, the differences between these variants of the membership principle are less important for my purposes here than the similarities. What they share is the conviction that what turns a collection of individuals into fellow subjects of subject is the condition of co-belonging to the same bounded political community. In the end, moreover, that bounded political community turns out to be a Westphalian state. For the nationalists, every viable or “historical” nation should have such a state; for the citizenship thinkers, belonging simply means holding citizenship in such a state.

For all these thinkers, the underlying reasoning runs something like this. Justice is by definition a political concept. Its obligations apply only to those who stand to one another in a political relationship. So determination of the “who” of justice depends on what exactly counts as a political relationship. The answer, for membership theorists, nationalist or otherwise, is co-belonging in a political community. Thomas Nagel gives perhaps the most extended explication of this point. What makes a relation political, he claims, is common subjection to a political authority that exercises coercive power in its members’ name and whose actions perforce engage its members’ will. It is our connection to and through a coercive power that acts in our name and engages our will that makes us political fellows. Political relations arise, accordingly, by virtue of shared belonging in a territorially bounded unit with a sovereign state. Only relations among the members of such a unit count as political relations in the sense required to trigger obligations of justice. Thus, the bounds of justice coincide with those established by the Westphalian frame. And the only legitimate “who” of justice is the Westphalian “who.”

What shall we make of this approach? The first thing to note is that the membership principle grounds obligations of justice in a social relation. Rejecting the view that justice can bind people who bear no relation to one another, it insists that justice applies only among those who stand to one another in a certain specific, morally relevant social relationship: namely, a political relationship of shared belonging to Westphalian state. As a result, the membership principle has the advantage of combining a robust sense of human sociality with an interest in human autonomy. Refusing recourse to abstract appeals to “Humanity,” it maintains that any defensible account of the “who” of justice must connect up with the self-understanding of those who comprise it. From its perspective, obligations of justice arise from social relations.

In addition, the membership principle has the advantage of realism. Its definition of what counts as a political relationship jibes with existing institutional reality and/or in widely held collective identifications. Yet that last strength it is also a weakness. In practice, the membership principle serves all too easily to ratify the exclusionary nationalisms of the privileged and powerful–hence, to shield established frames from critical scrutiny.

But that is not all. By definition, this approach cannot even contemplate the possibility that in some cases the Westphalian framing of questions of justice may itself be unjust. Effectively foreclosing such misframing in advance, it is unable to provide a fair hearing for claims that assume non-hegemonic accounts of the “who.” Forfeiting the reflexivity needed to entertain such claims, the membership principle fails to meet the requirements for theorizing abnormal justice. Thus, it is not a viable option for abnormal times.

No wonder, then, that many philosophers and activists have sought a more critical approach. For some, the preferred alternative is what I shall the humanist principle. Seeking a more inclusive standard, proponents of this second approach propose to resolve disputes concerning the “who” by appealing to criteria of personhood. For them, accordingly, what turns a collection of individuals into fellow subjects of justice is common possession of defining features of humanity. Exactly what those defining features consist in is a matter of controversy, however, as humanist theorists differ among themselves as to whether to stress autonomy, rationality, language use, capacity to form and pursue an idea of the good, or vulnerability to moral injury, among other possibilities.[vii] Fortunately, those debates need not detain us here. More important than the precise definition of “the human” is the idea that all those in possession of it belong together in a single “who” of justice. That idea is shared by all proponents of humanism, notwithstanding their other disagreements.

What should we make of the humanist principle as a vehicle for evaluating disputes over the “who”? The first thing to note is that this approach provides a critical check on exclusionary nationalism. Because it delimits the frame of justice on the basis of personhood, it is capable of entertaining claims that suppose non-hegemonic understandings of the subject of justice. Nevertheless, one might worry that the humanist principle is not genuinely reflexive. The problem is that it operates at such a level of abstraction that it discerns nothing of moral significance in any particular configuration. Staking out a view from the commanding heights, it accords standing indiscriminately to everyone in respect to everything. Adopting the one-size-fits-all frame of global humanity, it forecloses the possibility that different issues require different frames or scales of justice.

The root trouble, I think, is that the humanist principle takes no account of actual or historical social relations. Cavalierly oblivious to such matters, it is, in this respect, the antithesis of the previous principle. Whereas membership theory sought to ground obligations of justice in an overly restrictive type of social relation, this one assigns such obligations with no regard whatever to such relations. As a result, it appears to ride roughshod over the forms of life it wishes to regulate and over the self-understandings of those whom it claims to obligate. Effectively handed down from some lofty perch, high above the world of real human doings, the humanist insistence that everyone counts in every matter at every time, regardless of what anything does or thinks, carries an unmistakable whiff of authoritarianism. Willing to constitute the “who” of justice without regard for the views of those comprising it, such a stance appears blithely unconcerned with its subjects’ autonomy.

Humanism’s lofty abstraction may help explain, moreover, its historic affinity with imperialism. Although it would be wrong to posit a necessary relation here, there may well be a subterranean connection between the “view from nowhere” this approach assumes and the relatively powerful somewhere from which that view is usually assumed. This is not to say that the disadvantaged do not sometimes couch their claims in the idiom of shared humanity. But, as Hannah Arendt shrewdly observed, that is typically the idiom of last resort, the one adopted when all else has failed, hence an expression of weakness or lack of other, more robust entitlement. On her reading, to appeal for justice in the name of abstract humanity is implicitly to admit that one is owed little or nothing on the basis of one’s actual relationship to the powerful and privileged. The effect, when the actual relation is one of predation or exploitation, is to obscure some important facts about the world in which claims for justice arise. In that sense, the humanist principle can appear to express, indeed to ratify, the perspective of the powerful and the privileged, which would help to explain its historic affinity with imperialism.

In any case, the principle’s one-size-fits-all globalism suffices to disqualify it as a viable approach to justice theorizing in abnormal times. To say that every question of justice always necessarily implicates everyone is every bit as a priori as to say that every question of justice is necessarily national. In both cases, the matter is always already decided in advance, and the capacity for reflexive questioning of frames is thereby surrendered. For equal if opposite reasons, then, neither the humanist principle nor the membership principle is able to parse disputes encompassing conflicting understandings of the “who” of justice. Neither can adequately handle problems of abnormal justice, so characteristic of the present era.

Understandably, then, many philosophers and activists reject both membership and humanism. Seeking to avoid approaches that pretend to settle every question in advance, they prefer a third principle for evaluating justice frames, namely, the all-affected principle. Endorsed by many who believe that the “who” of justice is neither always national nor always global, this principle promises to make it possible to conceptualize issues of transnational justice. The root idea is intuitive and simple. Proponents of the all-affected principle propose to resolve disputes about the “who” by appealing to social relations of interdependence. For them, in other words, what makes a group of people fellow subjects of justice is their objective co-imbrication in a web of causal relationships.[viii] Whoever is causally affected by a given action nexus has standing as a subject of justice in relation to it. Thus, the “who” of justice is a function of the scale of social interaction. As the latter varies from case to case, so does the former.

This approach, too, has several distinguishable variants. Among its prominent exponents are thinkers as diverse as Peter Singer, on the one hand, and the late Iris Marion Young, on the other. Here again, however, the differences are less important than the similarities. The defining crux of this position is the identification of the “who” of justice as “community of causality.” Those who count are those who actions impact and impinge one another.

What should we make of the all-affected principle as a standard for evaluating conflicting “who’s”? At first sight, this principle appears to avoid the weaknesses of the two previous ones. It simultaneously provides a critical check on self-serving notions of membership, while also taking cognizance of social relations. On the other hand, the all-affected principle is objectionably technocratic. By conceiving relations objectivistically, in terms of causality, it effectively relegates the choice of the “who” to mainstream social science.

Let me illustrate what I have in mind with reference to the debate surrounding Rawls’s Law of Peoples. In that debate, it generally goes without saying the reach of distributive justice should match the reach of the “basic structure,” which Rawls’s critics understand as the causal nexus that most powerfully shapes the life-conditions of a given population. The argument turns, accordingly, on the question of whether the basic structure is global, international, or national, which is to say, whether the principal determinants of the life-chances of a given population are global, international or national. In this debate, moreover, it also tends to go without saying that the question which structure is basic is an uncontroversial matter of empirical fact. As a result, all the philosophers in this debate effectively authorize the social scientist to determine the “who” of justice.

In fact, however, the question of the “who” cannot be delegated to social-scientific experts on structural causality. The problem is that the “basic strucure” is not a strictly empirical idea. Given the so-called butterfly effect, one can adduce empirical evidence that just about everyone is affected by just about everything. What is needed, therefore, is a way of distinguishing those levels and kinds of effectivity that are deemed sufficient to confer moral standing from those that are not. Normal social science, however, cannot supply such criteria. On the contrary, such judgments necessarily involve a complex combination of normative reflection, historical interpretation and social theorizing. As a result, I shall argue tomorrow, they are inherently dialogical and indeed political.

In general, then, the all-affected principle falls prey to the reductio ad absurdum of the butterfly effect. Unable to identify morally relevant social relations, it counts treats every causal connection as equally significant. Painting a night in which all cows are grey, it cannot resist the very one-size-fits-all globalism it sought to avoid. Thus, it too fails to supply a defensible standard for determining the “who” in abnormal times.

Given the respective deficiencies of membership, humanism, and affectedness, what sort of substantive principle can help us evaluate rival frames in abnormal justice? I propose to submit allegations of misframing to what I shall call the all-subjected principle. According to this principle, all those who are subject to a given governance structure have moral standing as subjects of justice in relation to it. On this view, what turns a collection of people into fellow subjects of justice is neither shared citizenship or nationality, nor common possession of abstract personhood, nor the sheer fact of causal interdependence, but rather their joint subjection to a structure of governance, which sets the ground rules that govern their interaction. For any such governance structure, the all-subjected principle matches the scope of moral concern to that of subjection.[ix]

Of course, everything depends on how we interpret the phrase “subjection to structure of governance.” I understand this expression broadly, as encompassing relations to powers of various types. Not restricted to states, governance structures also comprise non-state agencies that generate enforceable rules that structure important swaths of social interaction. The most obvious examples are the agencies that set the ground rules of the global economy, such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. But many other examples could also be cited, including transnational structures governing environmental regulation (the Kyoto protocols), atomic and nuclear power (the International Atomic Energy Agency), policing (Interpol), health (the World Health Organization), and the administration of civil and criminal law (the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Criminal Court, and Interpol). Insofar as such agencies regulate the interaction of large transnational populations, they can be said to subject the latter, even though the rule-makers are not accountable to those whom they govern. Given this broad understanding of governance structures, the term “subjection” should be understood broadly as well. Not restricted to formal citizenship, or even to the broader condition of falling within the jurisdiction of such a state, this notion also encompasses the further condition of being subject to the coercive power of non-state and trans-state forms of governmentality.

Understood in this way, the all-subjected principle affords a critical standard for assessing the (in)justice of frames. An issue is justly framed if and only if everyone subjected to the governance structure(s) that regulate the relevant swath(s) of social interaction is accorded equal consideration. To deserve such consideration, moreover, one need not already be an officially accredited member of the structure in question; one need only be subjected to it. Thus, sub-Saharan Africans who have been involuntarily disconnected from the global economy as a result of the rules imposed by its governance structures count as subjects of justice in relation to it, even if they are not officially recognized as participating in it.[x]

The all-subjected principle remedies the major defects of the previous principles. Unlike membership, it pierces the self-serving shield of exclusionary nationalism so as to contemplate injustices of misframing. Unlike humanism, it overcomes abstract, all-embracing globalism by taking notice of social relationships. Unlike affectedness, it avoids the indiscriminateness of the butterfly effect by identifying the morally relevant type of social relation, namely, subjection to a governance structure. Far from substituting a single global “who” for the Westphalian “who,” the all-subjected principle militates against any one-size-fits-all framing of justice. In today’s world, all of us are subject to a plurality of different governance structures, some local, some national, some regional, and some global. The need, accordingly, is to delimit a variety of different frames for different issues. Able to mark out a plurality of “who’s” for different purposes, the all-subjected principle tells us when and where to apply which frame–and thus, who is entitled to parity of participation with whom in a given case.

In general, then, I am proposing to deal with abnormalities of the “who” by submitting claims against injustices of misframing to the all-subjected principle. This approach, I contend, can illuminate justice conflicts that encompassing competing views of the “who.”

More important than the specifics of this proposal, however, is its general conceptual structure. What is crucial here is that this approach is simultaneously reflexive and substantive. It combines the reflexive questioning of justice frames with a substantive evaluative principle. In this way, it accommodates both the positive and negative sides of abnormal justice. Thanks to its reflexivity, the concept of misframing validates contestation of the Westphalian frame. Because it is pitched to the meta-level, this concept permits us to entertain the possibility that first-order questions of justice have been unjustly framed. At the same time, thanks to its substantive character, this approach offers a way of assessing the justice of various “who’s.” By submitting proposed frames to the all-subjected principle, it enables us to weigh their relative merits. Thus, this approach holds considerable promise for clarifying disputes about the “who” in abnormal times.

And yet: another major question remains. How exactly ought we to implement the all-subjected principle? By way of what procedures and processes can that principle be applied to resolve disputes about who counts in abnormal times? Unless we can find a suitable way of addressing the “how” of justice, this approach to the “who” will not be of any use. In next week’s lecture, I take up this problem directly as I turn to my third and final node of abnormality, which concerns the “how” of justice.


[i] For discussions of such issues, see R. Ritchie, and S. Hill, “The case for proportional representation,”’ in Whose Vote Counts? ed. R. Ritchie and S. Hill (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001), pp. 1-33. Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Majority (New York: The Free Press 1994. S.M. Rai, “Political representation, democratic institutions and women’s empowerment: the quota debate in India,” in Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World, ed. J. L. Parpart, S.M. Rai and K. Staudt (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 133-145. Mala Htun “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups,” Perspectives on Politics 2, 3 (2004): 439-458. Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (London: Oxford University Press, 1995). Melissa Williams, Voice, Trust, and Memory: Marginalized Groups and the Failings of Liberal Representation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998).

[ii] Thomas W. Pogge, “The Influence of the Global Order on the Prospects for Genuine Democracy in the Developing Countries,” Ratio Juris 14, 3 (2001): 326-343; and “Economic Justice and National Borders,” Revision 22, 2 (1999): 27-34. Rainer Forst, “Towards a Critical Theory of Transnational Justice,” in Global Justice, ed. Thomas Pogge (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 169-187; and “Justice, Morality and Power in the Global Context,” in Real World Justice, ed. Andreas Follesdal and Thomas Pogge (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005), 27-36.

[iii] Richard L. Harris and Melinda J. Seid, Critical Perspectives on Globalization and Neoliberalism in the Developing Countries, (Boston: Leiden, 2000). Ankie M.M. Hoogvelt, Globalization and the Post Colonial World: The Political Economy of Development (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001).

[iv] Robert W. Cox, “A Perspective on Globalization,” in Globalization: Critical Reflections, ed. James H. Mittelman (Lynne Rienner, 1996), 21-30; and “Democracy in Hard Times: Economic Globalization and the Limits to Liberal Democracy,” in The Transformation of Democracy? ed. Anthony McGrew (Cambridge: Polity Press 1997), 49-72. Stephen Gill, “New Constitutionalism, Democratisation and Global Political Economy,” Pacifica Review 10, 1 (February 1998): 23-38. Eric Helleiner, “From Bretton Woods to Global Finance: A World Turned Upside Down,” in Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, ed. Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R. D. Underhill (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), 163-175. David Schneiderman, “Investment Rules and the Rule of Law,” Constellations 8, 4 (2001): 521-537. Alfred C. Aman, Jr., “Globalization, Democracy and the Need for a New Administrative Law,” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 10, 1 (2003): 125-155. Servaes Storm and J. Mohan Rao, “Market-Led Globalization and World Democracy: Can the Twain Ever Meet?” Development and Change 35, 5 (2004): 567-581. James K. Boyce, “Democratizing Global Economic Governance,” Development and Change 35, 3 (2004): 593-599.

[v] John Dryzek, “Transnational Democracy, Journal of Political Philosophy 7,1 (1999): 30-51. James Bohman, “International Regimes and Democratic Governance,” International Affairs 75, 3 (1999): 499-513. David Held, “Regulating Globalization?” International Journal of Sociology 15, 2 (2000): 394-408; Democracy and the Global Order: From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), 99-140; “The Transformation of Political Community: Rethinking Democracy in the Context of Globalization,” in Democracy's Edges, ed. Ian Shapiro and Cassiano Hacker-Cordón (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 84-111; “Cosmopolitanism: Globalization Tamed?” Review of International Studies 29, 4 (2003), 465-480; and “Democratic Accountability and Political Effectiveness from a Cosmopolitan Perspective,” Government and Opposition 39, 2 (2004): 364-391.

[vi] For the citizenship variant of the membership principle, see Will Kymlicka, "Territorial Boundaries. A Liberal-Egalitarian Perspective," in Boundaries and Justice: Diverse Ethical Perspectives, ed. David Miller and Sohail H. Hashmi (Princeton University Press, 2001), pp. 249-275; Thomas Nagel, “The Problem of Global Justice,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 33 (2005): 113-147; and Seyla Benhabib, The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (Cambridge University Press, 2004). For the nationality variant, see David Miller, On Nationality (Oxford University Press, 1995), especially chapter 3. For an account that, oriented to “peoples,” lies somewhere between citizenship and nationality, see John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, new edition (Harvard University Press, 2001).

[vii] Proponents of this approach include Martha Nussbaum, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,” in Martha C. Nussbaum with Respondents, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, ed. Joshua Cohen (Beacon Press, 1996).

[viii] Proponents of this approach include Peter Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization, 2nd edition (Yale University Press, 2004); Thomas W. Pogge, World and Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002) and Iris Young, “Responsibility and Global Justice: A Social Connection Model,” Social Philosophy and Policy 23, 1 (2006): 102-130. Until recently, I myself considered the all-affected principle the most promising candidate on offer for a “postwestphalian principle” of frame-setting, even though I criticized its standard scientistic interpretation and its “butterfly-effect” indeterminacy, as explained below. Now, however, I believe that these difficulties are so serious that the better course of wisdom is to abandon the all-affected principle in favor of the alternative presented here. For my earlier views, see Nancy Fraser, “Democratic Justice in a Globalizing Age: Thematizing the Problem of the Frame,” in Varieties of World-Making: Beyond Globalization, ed. Nathalie Karagiannis and Peter Wagner (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2006), pp. 193-215; and Nancy Fraser, “Reframing Justice in a Globalizing World,” op. cit.

[ix] The expression “all-subjected principle” is my own, but the idea can be found in Joshua Cohen and Charles Sabel, “Extra Republicam Nulla Justitia?” Philosophy & Public Affairs 34 (2006): 147-175; and in Rainer Forst, “Justice, Morality and Power in the Global Context,” op. cit.

[x] James Ferguson, “Global Disconnect: Abjection and the Aftermath of Modernism,” in Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 234-54.





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