Publikation Globalisierung Global Governance and Justice

Beitrag zur Konferenz "Gerechtigkeit oder Barbarei" Interkontinentales Forum vom 5. bis 6. Oktober 2000 in Berlin





Oktober 2000


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Gerechtigkeit oder Barbarei.

Interkontinentales Forum vom 5. bis 6. Oktober 2000The new men of Empire are the ones who believe in fresh starts, new chapters, new pages; I struggle on with the old story, hoping that before it is finished it will reveal to me why it was that I thought it was worth the trouble.

J.M.Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians


In a framework paper informing this particular dialogue, three sets of actors were identified as having significant influence on public policymaking at the global level:

a)       States and intergovernmental organisations (IGOs);

b)       Transnational corporations (TNCs) and business associations that operate in the market; and

c)       Civil society organisations, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), transnational social movements (TSMOs), and the media.

And then a question posed to this writer: “Which actor (or triad of actors) is best able to strengthen justice in the world?”

Three preliminary questions need be asked before we begin. One, where is a scholar located in the total constellation of moral, social and political forces? As Edward Said reminded us, no scholar can totally step out of history or his/her political and social conditioning;[1] those who say that they are “objective”, “universal”, or “neutral” are fooling themselves as well as others. Two, how is the language of discourse crafted, by whom and why? Philosophers like Wittgenstein tried to expurgate language of impurities of expression, but failed.[2] As we shall show, language continues to remain one of the most powerful forces of control and manipulation. Third, where is an alternative discourse going to come from? The hegemony of the dominant discourse is so pervasive and stifling that discordant voices are often dismissed as “not constructive” or “conspiratorial” or “not nuanced enough” or “Manichean”. This is part of the perennial problem of constructing a critical ontology from one defined by hegemonic theory.

This article presents an alternative language of discourse created from the periphery of the contemporary global system of governance. It is in three parts.

Basic Argument of the Paper

In Part one the paper looks at the Real World. It argues that contemporary civilization has become pathological; it is devoid of both rationality and humanity. To use the Kantian metaphor, the dominant force behind the shaping of contemporary culture is the “crooked timber”, the base aspect of human nature.[3] Those who control the system use language and ideology to obfuscate reality and legitimise exploitation. International institutions (such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, among others) provide three things: ideologists who craft the language of mainstream discourse; rules of global governance; and sanctions. There are contradictions within and between them. But in the contemporary world, a hegemonious political and economic power bloc (the G7/8 and the hundred or so mega-corporations) use their control over these institutions to govern the rest of the world. The bulk of humanity are mired in poverty (not of spirit or of mind, but material poverty) and its concomitant effects, i.e. vulnerability to social and natural conditions. The system has spawned the growth of science and technology to unprecedented heights, but at the same time it has also spawned totally unjustified poverty to unprecedented depths. This contradiction is a product of the system’s pathology.

In Part two, the paper examines the concept of Justice.

It takes John Rawls’ concept of justice as fairness as its point of departure. Rawls applied it only within a domestic context. The paper argues that it can and should be extended to the global arena. It goes on to critique alternative concepts of justice that are based on welfare and charity. It also critiques those who argue that the world is already witnessing the emergence of a cosmopolitan or a Kantian global system.

In Part three, having worked the concept in the abstract, the paper seeks to apply this to the Real World. It asks which of the main actors in the global system have the capacity to advance the cause of justice as defined. The paper argues that this is a concrete and conjunctural question. It cannot be answered in the abstract. On this basis, it argues that only peoples’ movements have the potential to advance the cause of justice in the contemporary world


Civilizational Tendency towards barbarism

The contemporary civilization has become barbaric both as between human beings, and in terms of relations with other species of life. It has become wantonly destructive. It is a norm among predatory animals to kill only when in need for food; at some time in the historic past, humans also used to kill mainly for food. Hunting was part of food gathering. As "civilization" moved on, humans began to kill other animals for fun as well as for food. In the capitalist phase of our civilization, the dominant culture is for humans to kill other species not for food but for profit. Food is only the medium through which to make profits. Though millions may starve, profits must first be made.

Unlike animals, humans also destroy species that they do not eat. Thus, they kill weeds because weeds reduce the output of corn or wheat or what have you. They kill pests though they do not eat them. The wanton, and senseless, part is that the destruction has to be total. The cholera virus has to be annihilated for good, the cotton bollworm has to be eliminated permanently, and the stalk borer weed has to be destroyed forever. Animals have to be put into zoos and parks, crop varieties into gene banks and laboratories. None must have free existence except at the dispensation of humans. This is the anthropocentric part of global governance.

Unlike animals, humans kill competitors. Lions do not kill cheetahs just because both predate on giraffes. Humans kill other human beings as well as other species in competition for land, for forests, for cattle, for fish, for water, for space, for pleasure. Competition may have been the impulse behind the development of science and technology. But it is also at the root of the barbarism of human beings. Our present capitalist period is the most competitive and also the most destructive. Millions of species are destroyed every day. Millions of human lives are wasted away simply because they do not have the "market power" to buy food, shelter, clothing or medicines. Ours must be the most barbaric period of human "civilization".[4]

Natural species are destroyed and manufactured products offered in their place that yield profit to the capitalist. For the loss of the microbe that filters the drinking water is offered the manufactured substitute with its "more efficient" filtration technology. For the loss of natural nutrients is offered fruity vitamin supplements. However, consistent with man's anthropocentrism, nobody has replaced the sea snails on which the life of Borneo hooded tern had depended. There is no profit to be made out of the hooded tern; unlike humans they cannot buy sea snails from the market.

Much of the rise in consumer-product diversity is a direct result of the decrease in bio-diversity. Consumer-product diversity now far exceeds bio-diversity. 200 million new product options have been generated since 1993 in replacement of the millions of now extinct species.[5] Half a century ago, Joseph Schumpeter had said that "creative destruction" was the necessary basis for the development of capitalism.[6] If so, then its present phase is dominated by destruction of Nature and its substitution by profit seeking “creation”.

The pathology of global governance

Global governance is ruled by profits. This is not an expression of reductionism. There are, of course, other aspects of globalism, such as art, music, culture, communications, football, Wimbledon Tennis, white water rafting, social welfare, acts of charity and writing novels. There are also large sections of societies that do not function in the market where profits rule. Nonetheless, as broad generalisations go, profits form the basis of contemporary global governance. It is also at the root of its pathological character.

Take global medical governance for example. In 1977, the WHO published the "Essential Drugs List" of some 306 drugs which, it said, "… should be available at all times in adequate amounts and in the appropriate dosage form." But the poor in the third world (and that means the majority of the population) wait for decades to have access to life-saving drugs, such as those against HIV/AIDs (for example) which is a deadly scourge in the South. A few large global corporations dominate the pharmaceutical industry, and they will not allow these 306 or so drugs to be marketed at prices affordable to the people. In South Africa in 1999 the Government introduced a system of compulsory licensing and parallel imports of patented drugs. But the multinational drug industry backed by the US Government used all the power at their command to block this action. In the world of global governance health is subordinated to the demands of profit, and protecting patents take precedence over protecting human lives. This is only one instance of the pathology of global governance.

In 1992, during the Earth Summit in Rio, many countries in the world signed the Convention on Bio-Diversity (CBD). It recognised the right of indigenous communities and sovereign nations to their bio-diversity. But this would have blocked the pharmaceutical multinationals' access to it. Instigated by them, the US and its allies in the West succeeded to push through the Trade-Related Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) within the Uruguay Agreements. This effectively took away the rights of governments and communities recognised under the CBD.[7] The companies secured the right under TRIPS to exploit biological resources wherever these might be. Countries that would forbid this are subject to sanctions by the Governments of countries where the big pharmaceutical companies originate. In effect, this puts a big divide between the "North" (where these companies originate) and the "South" (where most of the bio-diversity exists), or to use Samuel Huntington's pithy phrase, between "the West and the Rest".

The Huntington thesis revisited

In 1993, Huntington put forward the challenging thesis that post-cold war would be a period of “clashes of civilizations”.[8] By making somewhat simplistic assumptions, and even simpler classification of "civilizations" (never easy to categorise), he opened himself to much deserved criticism. Nonetheless, his thesis retains a kind of macroscopic validity, much like when historians make broad generalisations about history as "the age of reason" or "the romantic period”. As generalisations go, then, what we are witnessing in the post-cold war period is indeed the increasing dominance of one particular branch of human civilization - the Euro-Christian-Judaic-capitalist[9] - over other civilizations.

Contrary to all reified polarities, the reality is, of course, much more complex and contradictory. This polarity between the “North" and "South" is widening in our times.[10] Propositions that seek to qualify this broad division of the world - such as that there is a 'North' in the 'South' and a 'South' in the 'North' – strengthen, not weaken, the argument. The "North" and "South" are more than geographic constructs. They also refer to particular manifestations of certain cultural and consumerist attributes. The dominant North historically created and continues to nurture a minuscule class of its own kind in the South, those that rule and over-consume; the North also creates an impoverished and marginalised "South" within its own midst, those who do not rule, and who under-consume.

Modernisation theories of the 1950s and 60s assumed that the South would "eventually" catch up with the North if they would only open up their economies to Western technology and science, and emulate North’s democratic institutions. Retrospective analysis indicates that those theories were no more than ideological expressions of the West's continued drive to dominate and conquer the "Rest". That drive continues to this day. Only it is now called "globalization". Like the earlier concept of modernisation, globalization is also presented by its ideologists as something driven by technological and economic forces that cannot be stopped, something "natural", inherent in history itself.[11]

Socialisation of language

Language can obscure reality. It is often deliberately crafted to encourage a certain perspective, a certain mind-set. For example, in the colonial times, a person from the colonised world did not have an individual identity; he was an Arab, an Asian or an African. Their personalities were generalised, their individuality dissolved. That made the colonised easier to handle.[12] Racist polarity between "us" and "them" facilitated global governance during the colonial period.

Nothing describes the skilled use of language to create mind-sets as the West's definition of what constitutes "barbarism" in our time. Nobody in his right mind would condone the bombing of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998. Whether that was the work of the "terrorist" Osama bin Laden remains an open question. The US Government believes that Laden was the culprit. On that basis, it bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, alleged to be supplying bio-chemical weapons to Laden. Not a single country, not even the UK, supported the US. If one were to be objective about the matter, then the American act qualifies as an act of barbarity no less than that of bombing of its embassies. In the text of the West, however, only the latter is barbaric.

The UNICEF reported in 1999 that almost 600,000 children under five perished in Iraq because of West’s sanctions. The infant mortality rate increased from 56/1000 before to 131/1000 after the sanctions.[13] If this is not barbarism, what is? And yet, in the vocabulary of the ruling circles of the West this is no more than "collateral damage" that sanctions cause to the children. It is incredible how language can caricature a grotesque reality and "cleanse" it of evil and absolve responsibility of its perpetrator. Blame it on Saddam Hussein is the West's outrageous and indefensible defence of this carnage.

The blame culture is deeply rooted in Western culture and the history. Blame the "collateral damage" against the people of Yugoslavia on Milosovic. Blame Fidel Castro for US sanctions on Cuba, isolate him and if possible remove him from power. Blame the British atrocities against the Mau Mau on Jomo Kenyatta, lock him up. Blame Nasser, bomb the Suez Canal; blame Lumumba for the chaos in the Congo in the 60’s, kill him; blame Gadaffi, bomb his home; blame Mugabe, he is a Marxist; blame Mahathir Mohamed, he refuses to conform. The demonisation of the "rebellious" leader in the South has been an abiding feature of West's "justification" for its barbarism against the "Rest".

Language makes "acceptable" that which is inhuman and unjust. "Collateral damage" to civilians sanitises bombing. The collective noun, "the African", dehumanises the individual, objectifies him, and makes it easier to dispose of him. Demonisation of the individual leader separates him from his people, his history and his reason, casts him as irrational or simply mad (the gallant Somali fighter against British colonisation was simply called "the Mad Mullah"), and therefore outside the pale of "civilized" discourse.[14]

Socialisation of ideology

Where language is a one-off description, ideology is complex knitwear of values, prejudices and assumptions. Both serve the same purpose of obscuring reality and making "acceptable" that which is inhuman and unjust. The anthropocentric ideology puts man at the centre of the universe, and "justifies" to himself the subjugation of all "lower" species of life to his control and abuse. The ideology of "white man's burden" puts the white man and woman at the centre of the universe, and relegates all other human species to lower levels to be controlled and abused. The ideology of "Anglo-Saxon superiority" puts the Englishman and the Anglo-Saxon American at the centre of the Universe. In an ever decreasing circle of defining the "superior" being, it is finally the Anglo-Saxon MAN whose gender ideology puts HIM at the centre of the Universe, so even Anglo-Saxon women are then relegated to a step below the top. Racist and sexist ideologies set the pecking order of human society.

Where language is descriptive, ideology is prescriptive. It shows the direction in which the Universe must move at the behest of the "superior" beings. The communist ideology was teleological; it promised to lead to the classless society at the behest of the vanguard of the proletariat. The capitalist ideology is economistic; it promises unending "growth" at the behest of the owners of capital. Both are reductionist and presumptuous, both denigrate the role of the human spirit in the advancement of humanity.

Communism is no longer an issue today; Capitalism is. As the ruling ideology of the moment, it has passed through many phases and modes, from the competitive phase to that of monopoly, from the state interventionist mode to that of privatisation. But its underlying ideology has remained constant, namely, that it is the profit incentive that promotes growth. Like all ideologies it is a combination of truth and lie. In our period, the lie overshadows the truth. Speculative capital, which now forms over 90 percent of the movement of capital, promotes growthless profit. A George Soros makes more money in speculation in six months than an industrial enterprise in six years. Speculative capital disembowels the economy of industry and productive activity. It generates money with money without having to go through the process of production. It gives the lie to the capitalist ideology that capital generates growth. We have reached a stage in the development of capitalism where 90% of capital generates only air - and profits. The tragedy is that this happens at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, as happened in Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia in 1997-99.[15]

Another ideological tenet of contemporary capitalism is that the South must liberalise their economies to provide incentives to foreign direct investments (FDIs) for the sake of their own growth. This is the lie of globalization. A fundamental aspect of Globalization is a desperate effort by an overflow of capital in the West seeking profitable ventures in the South. [16] But the matter is presented as if it is the South that needs capital and they must therefore provide the best incentives for it.

Ironically, and that is the force of ideology, most Governments in the South have taken the ideology for truth. So they vie with one another to offer most competitive terms to Western capital. In the process they cheapen their resources and the value of their labour-power. This sets a vicious circle of poverty and debt bondage from which it is impossible to escape. Those East Asian countries that were able to generate self-motivated growth in the 80’s and 90’s were forced by speculative attacks on their currencies in 1997 to roll back their gains and succumb to the power of western capital. The currency crises forced the opening of their economies to ownership and control of foreign capital. Thus, for example, in South Korea whereas formerly only up to 15% of the shares of Korean companies could be owned by foreigners, after the crisis foreigners could own first 50% and later up to 100 %. The result is that South Korea is now more foreign owned than during its last fifty years of industrialisation. Lawrence Summers, the US Treasury Secretary, said that the IMF deal in Korea accomplished for US what trade could not in all the trade rounds.[17] The West is once more in command in the Pacific, both economically as well as militarily.

The UN System and Global Governance

At the end of the Second World War, the victorious powers had created two sets of institutions. One set related to economic matters. These were the IMF, the World Bank and GATT. The second set consisted of the United Nations and its related agencies. These represented the more "visionary" aspects of global infrastructure, dealing with disputes settlement, health, welfare, labour, culture, education, trusteeship, and other such matters. The visionary part of the UN also paid homage to the idea of "We, the people…" as against "We, the Governments …" although in the Security Council, it congealed power in the hands of the big and powerful.

Over the decades, the vision and authority of the U.N. has diminished and the power and control of the Bretton Woods institutions have increased.

During the cold war years, the peace and security dimension of UN's work was used mainly by the US and its allies to legitimise their global policies and interventions, such as in Korea, the Middle East and the Congo. The peoples of the South were able to use the UN to effect and legitimise decolonisation, but not without a price. Because of the nature of alliances that needed to be built, and because of Western hegemony in the UN, decolonisation came with mixed baggage. While the former colonial powers were eased out, in most cases the USA came out on top of the situation. In the Congo, for example, the UN became the means, under US hegemony, to neutralise nationalist forces led by Patrice Lumumba and to install in power Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country for 27 years as a bastion of Western interests in Africa. Where the West adamantly backed Portugal in its colonies and the apartheid regime in South Africa, a door was opened to Soviet influence and ideology. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the West is once again the dominant force in these countries. They can now pursue their interests directly, that is, without having to go to the UN. In fact, they have more or less lost interest in the UN as a mechanism for peace and security. The US even refuses to pay its dues to the UN.

The UN has thus become largely ineffective on issues of peace and security. In Africa, for example, it made half-hearted, ineffectual, interventions in places such as Somalia, Angola and Rwanda.[18] This has led Africans to accuse the West of double standards. For example, when it comes to removing Jonas Savimbi out of his position blocking peace efforts in Angola, the UN has been extremely parsimonious in the resources it provided, and half-hearted in the pursuit of the objective that it set for itself. In contrast, the Western efforts to try to get Milosovic out of Bosnia and Kosovo were an entirely different story. This duplicity of the West has been observed by Africa even in relation to issues such as the care of refugees. Once again, African refugees are treated to the minimum of resources compared to refugees that came out of Yugoslavia.

The social and economic dimensions of the UN have suffered an even worse fate. The US and some of its allies, especially the UK, have tried over the years systematically to destroy the role, influence and justification of organisations such as UNESCO, ILO, UNIDO, UNEP and UNCTAD. UNCTAD, for example, is no longer what it used to be; it can provide technical assistance and undertake research but it is no longer permitted to give policy advice to developing countries. The Economic and Social Council of the UN, similarly, has been virtually disembowelled of its role and functions. Most of the economic functions of the UN have been effectively transferred to the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. These, in contrast to the UN, have become powerful institutions of global governance. It is now the World Bank, not UNESCO, which lays down educational programmes for developing countries. The weighted voting in the IMF and the World Bank puts decision-making powers effectively into the hands of the West. In the case of the WTO, decision-making is in theory by consensus. In practice, however, decisions are taken in small committees, and they come out as negotiated settlements between its powerful members - the so-called "quad countries" (US, EU, Canada and Japan) and without the participation of the developing countries. Yet these decisions bind these countries. An example is the decision taken on information technology at the Singapore Ministerial meeting of the WTO in 1996.

Global governance, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO

Ideology needs ideologists, paid servants of the ruling circles. These are located in the institutions that churn out globalist ideologies neatly expressed in elegant, "balanced", official language. Not all officials of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are conscious peddlers of ideology; most of them, in their innocence or ignorance, have "faith" in what they preach. They get recruited in those jobs precisely because of their faith. They actually believe that developing countries must open their doors to capital to get out of the vicious circle of poverty. Since the Asian crisis of 1997, some of them are beginning to have doubts about the efficacy of their medicine, and most now make a distinction between "bad" speculative capital and "good" FDIs, in practice an untenable distinction.

The problem is that when ideology takes hold of ones mind, no amount of contradictory evidence will dislodge it. There is always that bit in the complex set of assumptions that will "explain away" contradictory evidence. "If only the Governments in the South were to do as we tell them to, they really should not have problems." This is the escape route of all ideologists. Ideologies are, in the words of Karl Popper, "impossible to falsify".[19]

For over twenty years the so-called "Washington Consensus" (WC) provided the ruling orthodoxy of “development” theory. Its "axiomatic" tenets were the basis not only of mainstream development economics at the academic level but also of the main policy directions for developing countries, especially those that had come under the World Bank's SAPs. Joseph Stiglitz, former senior Vice-President of the Bank, in a stinging attack on IMF bureaucrats, said that the sum-total of their knowledge boiled down to six concepts: inflation, money supply, growth, interest rate, budget, and trade deficits.[20]

At the political level, the minimalist state became part of the WC orthodoxy. Developing countries that were hostage to SAPs were forced to privatise, or stand accused of "Soviet style" statism. Stiglitz was later to say that the focus of the WC on liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation had grossly ignored the important role the state needs to play in regulation, industrial policy, social protection and welfare. He said the WC was "misguided".

Misguided or not, the WC had served its purpose for the West. Liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation enabled Western corporations a greater control over the economies of developing countries. The illusion that SAPs were creating conditions for growth is finally being shattered. But the poor are now paying a heavy price. Thousands have lost jobs and have joined the "informal sector" as the final refuge for survival; thousands had their real wages slashed; and under “cost-sharing” imposed by the IMF, the poor are forced to pay cash for health services and education, or getting children, mainly girls, out of school. In the meantime, Western multinationals and speculators are piling on their profits.

In 1994, the WTO was created following eight years of intense negotiations between mainly the USA and Europe. Most developing countries joined later, for staying out might have been worse for them. But they had practically no say in the making of the WTO. The rules are backed by mandatory sanctions against those that fail to fulfil their obligations, even if they had no part in their making.

The WTO has potentially, and under pressure from the West, an ever-expanding agenda. Under the prefix "trade-related" all manner of issues are now brought under its sanctions-bearing authority. TRIPS, to which we referred earlier, should never have come into the WTO. In like manner, Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) have made serious inroads into the sovereign right of nations to regulate foreign investments. Not satisfied, the rich countries of the OECD are pushing for a Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) which would force developing countries to give "national treatment" to foreign investors. This means that foreign investors would be treated at least on the same basis as nationals, and so indigenisation policies of the South would become illegal and so subject to sanctions.

The West is now pushing into the WTO other issues. These include the environment, labour standards, public procurement, industrial tariffs, E-commerce, competition policy, trade facilitation and Genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These are all potential minefields. Successively more and more of our lives are being subject to market forces, from food production and entitlement to childcare, from water to education. Every time a new sector is privatised and brought into the market, the West introduces it into the World Bank or the sanctions-bearing WTO. This process not only undermines the ability of the developing countries to use policy tools for development. It also puts beyond the pale of the market the poor and the vulnerable that do not have the means to secure their livelihood from the market. In the double-speak language of the neo-liberalists, these are merely “market failures”. The ingenuity of linguistic gymnastics has reached quantum leaps of absurdity.


Justice as Fairness

Justice is at the heart of the discourse of this paper. It has been a hotly contested terrain throughout history.[21] It has many rival conceptions. This paper takes as its point of departure the Rawlsian concept of “justice as fairness”[22].

Before we get into it, let us note that some of Rawls’ propositions are derived from his specific condition as a scholar from a particular tradition – the Western liberal tradition. Hence, his views carry certain biases and prejudices that stem from this tradition. For example, Rawls gives priority to liberty over equality, and does not adequately address the question of inequalities in wealth and power leading to inequalities in the exercise of liberties. Or what happens when basic liberties are in conflict. Also, he has this strange notion that liberal states do not go to war, or if they do, it is when they are aggressed by autocratic states! This is a highly biased and one-sided view of history.

No matter, for Rawls brings some interesting ideas to the concept of justice. One of them is a set of basic principles of justice that he derives from an imaginary condition of primordial equality that he calls the “original position”. And second is his notion of the “differential principle”.[23]

In Rawls’ imagined “original position”, individuals are subject to a “veil of ignorance” so that in devising principles of justice they have practically no knowledge of the self – their sex, status, class, colour, religion, strength, intelligence or their conception of the good.[24] As he explains:

The aim is to use the notion of pure procedural justice as a basis of theory. Somehow we must nullify the effects of specific contingencies which put men at odds and tempt them to exploit social and natural circumstances to their own advantage.[25]

By this process, Rawls arrives at two principles of justice and two priority rules for institutions. It is important to quote him in extenso.

First principle

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.

Second principle

Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

First Priority Rule (The Priority of Liberty)

The principles of justice are to be ranked in lexical order and therefore liberty can be restricted only for the sake of liberty. There are two cases: (a) a less extensive liberty must strengthen the total system of liberty shared by all; (b) a less than equal liberty must be acceptable to those with the lesser liberty.

Second Priority Rule (The Priority of Justice over Efficiency and Welfare)

The second principle of justice is lexically prior to the principle of efficiency and to that of maximizing the sum of advantages; and fair opportunity is prior to the difference principle. There are two cases: (a) an inequality of opportunity must enhance the opportunities of those with the lesser opportunity; (b) an excessive rate of saving must on balance mitigate the burden of those bearing this hardship.

General conception

All social primary goods – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favoured.” [26]

Though the above principles appear to savour of egalitarianism, Rawls denies this motivated his theory. What he is opposed to is institutionalised inequalities, unless these are “to the advantage of the least favoured”.

What is attractive about Rawls is that unlike 19th Century Utilitarians and present-day economists who define benefits in terms of welfare, he defines it in terms of “primary goods” – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect. Again, unlike natural law theorists (Locke, Grotius, Kant, a.o.) who argued that justice can be discovered through reason, Rawls’ principles are based on fair procedure (justice as fairness), that individuals would agree to under a “veil of ignorance”. Under these conditions, they agree to the “difference principle”: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged “to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged.” He sees natural talents of individuals as collective assets to be so distributed that it enhances “the opportunities of those with the lesser opportunity.” In some ways, Rawls is even more radical than those who today talk about “Global Public Goods” or “the Global Commons.”[27]

However, Rawls’ radicalism disappears when he steps beyond the borders of “liberal” states to that of international relations. In his The Law of Peoples he argues that the difference principle does not apply between nations or in what he calls “hierarchical” societies.[28] However, consistent with his liberalism, he would not brook intervention on the part of liberal states into the affairs of “hierarchical” societies however much these offend liberal sensitivities.

We depart from Rawls in two significant ways.

First, we disagree with his methodological individualism. We accept that part of liberal ethics which argues that basic human rights are inherent in individuals. However, to push this to the level that denies that societies are more than the sum of individuals is methodological individualism that cannot stand either empirical or ethical test. No individual is born outside society, nor can she exist, materially or spiritually, outside of the material or social production and reproduction of life. We would thus argue that like individuals, communities and nations too have inherent rights. Implicit in Rawls’ theory of non-intervention in his Law of Peoples is the notion of national self-determination, but he refrains from formulating it as an explicit principle. One consequence of this is that he is unable to extend, to stretch, the principles of justice obtained in an “original position” to the community of nations.

What Rawls is unable to do because of methodological limitations, we now do. Following from him, let us imagine an “original position” comprising of nations. In this condition and under a “veil of ignorance” they seek to arrive at fundamental principles of justice. They are ignorant about their character, strength, location, religion, ethical norms, and all such attributes that would, in Rawls’ words, “tempt them to exploit social and natural circumstances to their own advantage.”

Placed thus, nations would then, I argue, agree to principles of justice as fairness along lines similar to those arrived at by individuals in Rawls’ “original position”. In other words, Rawls’ two principles and two priority rules will apply as between nations as they apply as between individuals. Each nation will have “an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.” Also, to quote directly from Rawls, “Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.” Furthermore, “justice is lexically prior to the principle of efficiency and to that of maximizing the sum of advantages; and fair opportunity is prior to the difference principle.” His “General conception” will also apply as between nations, namely, thatAll social primary goods – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favoured.”

Is this outlandish, is it “going too far” to extend principles of justice arrived at between individuals to nations? I suggest it is not. Already, even in the real world of today, there is a generally accepted principle that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) should be treated to an “unequal distribution” of global social goods (tariff reductions, debt remissions, technical assistance, etc.) in their favour. Similarly, at the 1992 Rio Summit on “Environment and Development” the principle of “common and differentiated responsibility” was accepted as an allocative principle. The entire global community accepted a common responsibility towards the environment. However, the developing countries were to have a lesser degree of responsibility, and were to be assisted with finance and technology to meet their obligations. Also, under GATT the principle of “Special and Differential Treatment” for the developing countries was an accepted principle until it was undermined by the Uruguay Agreements and the WTO.

Our second difference with Rawls is the methodology he adopts in his The Law of Peoples. Unlike his Theory of Justice where Rawls conceptualises justice in the “original position”, when he comes to writing The Law of Peoples he has in mind extant societies, his own and “the others”, those that are “hierarchical”. He has allowed himself to be influenced by concrete history. He now talks like a “real world” person and not one in the “original position”. He violates his own norms that he had set in his “original condition”.

The truth of the matter is that in the Real World of today all societies are hierarchical. Liberalism is a product of certain history and culture and contains generally acceptable values of human rights and respect for basic liberties. But in the real world liberalism has also become fused with capitalism. Within the domestic arena even in the West, the individual is submerged under the weight of an order – the capitalist order – over which he/she has little control.

Indeed, one of the problems of the present epoch is the incomplete democracy (or democratic deficit) in the United States, the most powerful country on earth. The US Government is accountable more to its corporations than to its people. The US Congress is, in fact, a plutocratic powerhouse. Without millions of dollars there is no way of getting into it. With approximately 36 million people living below the poverty line (at last count), and with one individual (Bill Gates) owning assets more than the combined assets of the poorest half of the population, the US has become as much of a "hierarchical" society as any.[29]

We were drawn into a discussion of the Real World because of Rawls’ departure from the imagined world of “original position” in his Theory of Justice, where he has much clarity, to the real world in his The Law of Peoples where he loses his clarity. But let us return to the conceptual level and examine, very briefly, some alternative formulations of justice, and assess their comparative merit in relation to justice as fairness. We consider three of these.

1.       Justice as charity

2.       Justice as welfare

3.       Justice as a teleological movement of current history.

Justice as Charity

Justice as charity has a long and in some circles an honoured history. It has both a religious as well as a secular pedigree. Most religions believe in charity. As for the secular version, there is a respected tradition in the West, especially in the US, for the rich to create charitable foundations for worthy causes (even if they do so mostly to avoid taxes).

Underlying charity are two basic assumptions. One is that inequality is an inevitable outcome of every social and political process. “It is a fact of life. The poor are always with us.” And the second is that the rich have a custodial responsibility towards the poor.

How do we assess justice as charity? In the absence of nothing else, charity may have some role to play. In terms of justice, however, it has serious problems. The biggest difficulty is that it clouds reality and prevents a critical examination of how and why the rich get richer and the poor poorer. The recipients of charity accept their condition as “natural”, or “God-given”, and they are placed in permanent gratitude to the alms-giver.

At the international level, the ordinary people in the West genuinely believe that the “aid” their countries give to the developing countries is an act of charity. It blinds their sight to the real world of unequal exchange between nations, or to the fact that most of them became rich on a history of slavery and colonialism. They acquire a certain air of superiority and a condescending attitude towards those who receive “aid”. Hence, charity, instead of ennobling the spirit, diminishes it. We would prefer Rawls’ “bases of self-respect” as a significant “social primary good”, than charity. As the earliest Western feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft, said in 1792, “It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world.”[30]

Justice as Welfare

Justice as welfare has a more recent history. It goes back, essentially, to the 19th century Utilitarians, whose chief spokesman, Jeremy Bentham, laid the philosophical foundations for maximising overall welfare level. In contemporary times, it is a favourite subject of a certain genre of economists, (hence called “Welfare Economists”) of whom the best known are A.M.Polinsky, R.Rosner and A.K.Sen. They have tried to bring a measure of “scientific” (econometric) sophistication to utilitarianism, and they deal with concepts like efficiency, allocation and distribution, entitlement, gini coefficient, and above all, Pareto optimality. A situation is said to be Pareto optimal if it is impossible to change it without at least one person feeling that he is worse off than before. It is Pareto superior if nobody is worse off but at least one person feels that he is better off than before.[31]

What do we make of welfarist concept of justice? There is no question that welfare economists have made a valuable contribution by introducing a normative side to economics. They have been influential in challenging GDP-based notions of growth. A.K.Sen, for example, has directly influenced the conceptual underpinnings of UNDP’s annual “Human Development” surveys, and the poverty alleviation concepts of the World Bank.

But as a principle of justice, the concept of welfare is quite inadequate. As a distributive principle it accommodates inequalities provided the overall benefits (or welfare) exceed the cost, and provided Pareto optimality is secured. This is a not a satisfactory proposition. Rawls’ idea that inequalities are acceptable only if they benefit the most disadvantaged is much more satisfactory from the point of justice. In the welfare model the rich could well grow richer provided they take care of the welfare of the poor. In the justice as fairness model, the “social primary goods” (liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect) are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution is to the advantage of the least favoured.[32]

As for welfare models that focus on allocatively efficient outcomes in economistic terms, the words of C. G. Veljanosky are worth repeating. Efficiency, he says, is “little more than technocratic principle of unimprovability; there is no rearrangement of society’s productive activity or allocation of goods and services that will improve the economic welfare of society given the distribution of wealth upon which market transactions are based.”[33]

Justice as Teleological Movement of Current History

There are many who believe that the world is already moving in the right direction. In other words, the real is the ideal; what is, should be. Leading lights among these are political thinkers like David Held, who argues that a “cosmopolitan” global order is already emerging, and international lawyers like Ernest-Ulrich Petersmann who argues that a Kantian constitutional order leading to “Perpetual Peace” is looming on the horizon.

David Held, to be fair, is aware of the iniquities of the existing global system, and the limitations of the liberal state. He nonetheless expresses what can only be described as a naïve faith in the movement of recent history, especially in the space that, he claims, is opening for a “cosmopolitan” order to emerge out of the erosion of national sovereignty and “global interconnectedness”.[34]

The fact of the matter is that both the erosion of sovereignty and the emerging interconnectedness have specific characteristics. Sovereignty is inseparable from power. It is primarily the power and sovereignty of small and middle states, principally those in the South, which have been eroded. The power and “extraterritorial sovereignty” of the US State and of the European Union (the collective power of Europe) have increased phenomenally, mostly at the cost of the countries of the South. As for global interconnectedness, that too is one-sided. Under the dual impact of liberalisation of markets and of concentration of power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations (through mergers and acquisitions), the power of those who control the means of communications and finance has increased astronomically. What is emerging is not a “cosmopolitan” world order, but a “homogenised” world under the control of one particular culture and power bloc.

Ernest-Ulrich Petersmann, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed Kantian. Like a priest who sees goodness in every heart, Petersmann sees the emergence of a Kantian constitutional order in every expression of the Kantian imperatives. Thus, he says, “Article 1 of the 1949 Basic Law of Germany, for instance, reflects Kantian legal philosophy.”[35] He argues that European integration law and the 1994 WTO agreement have “underlying Kantian legal theory.”[36]

EC law and the WTO law, and their comprehensive guarantees of individual access to domestic courts, reflects another important Kantian idea. [37]

Petersmann would have a “new U.N.” modelled after the WTO, with “strong leadership” provided by the USA and Europe.

Like the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreements, the 1945 U.N. Charter, GATT 1947 or the 1994 WTO Agreement, a new U.N. Charter will not come about without strong leadership and political pressures from the U.S. and Europe…In order to be politically acceptable, there is a need for a transitional period during which, similar to the temporary co-existence of GATT 1947 and the WTO, the new U.N. could co-exist with the U.N. of 1945 so as to maintain orderly relations with non-democracies. But in order to set sufficient incentives to join the new U.N., and disincentive against “free-riding”, the advantages of the new U.N. system, including the financial and development assistance from Bretton Woods institutions, should be focused on democracies joining the new U.N., just as the advantages of the WTO law were not extended to member countries of GATT 1947 until they acceded to the WTO.[38]

Here is a recipe for an authoritarian global system imposed by a U.S.-Europe coalition under the guise of creating a Kantian “constitutional order”. It is these kinds of prescriptions, made not by irresponsible but respected intellectuals, that confirm the scenario of a world being globalised under the hegemony of one particular branch of human civilization (see above). [39]

Both Held and Petersmann are guilty of contingent thinking. Rawls had his individuals placed in a “veil of ignorance” so as to “nullify the effects of specific contingencies which put men at odds and tempt them to exploit social and natural circumstances to their own advantage.”[40] But whilst Held hopes for a new United Nations built on what he calls a “democratic international law”,[41] Petersmann models his new United Nations after the WTO, and under the hegemony of the USA and Europe, a U.N. where there shall be no “free riders”.

Whatever their differences, what Held and Petersmann do is to link their ideas to the real world, and it is to this real world that we must return. It is not enough to remain in the conceptual world shrouded by a “veil of ignorance”. And so we come to the last question: Which of the three sets of actors identified earlier (states and IGOs, TNCs and business associations, or civil society and NGOs) are best placed to address the matter of global justice defined as fairness?


The first point to establish is that when it comes to the role of major actors, it is a concrete or contingent question, not one that can be analysed in a “veil of ignorance” or in the abstract. The veil needs to be removed. The concrete set of questions is: Which states? Which IGOs? What business associations? Which civil society?[42]

We have already described the Real World in the first part of this paper. The US State, as stated earlier, is not only internally “hierarchical” but also externally predatory. In the international arena the US corporate sector uses the power of its state to impose its order on the rest of the world.[43] The ordinary people in America are implicated in this powerhouse and its predatory character by the manner they cast their votes every four years, lured by the promise of jobs from their corporations and an over-consumptionist life-style. As President Clinton is reported to have said: “You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that if you want to keep 22% of that world’s income for 4% of the world’s people, you’ve got to sell something to the other 96%”.[44] It is, he said, a question of simple maths. The over-consumptionist demands of the US (and generally Western) populations drive their corporations to over-exploit the rest of the world. The super-profits of these corporations, in turn, keep their domestic populations materially satiated and ideologically co-opted.[45]

One serious consequence of this perversion is that even the rich heritage of the West in the area of human rights is fraught; it is corrupted. When Western states espouse the cause of, for example, child labour in the South, one is never sure whether this is a genuine concern for the children or a protectionist excuse to save their industries from competition of products of “cheap labour”. When 20,000 trade unionists marched in the streets of Seattle on the eve of the third Ministerial conference of the WTO in November 1999, they wanted the issue of labour to be included in WTO’s agenda. The US President supported this demand and went further. He said that those countries that would not abide by labour standard requirements would face US sanctions.[46] Clinton was thus both protecting American jobs and buying votes for his party. The hypocrisy of the American state was only too apparent to the discerning South who noted that out of the 10 core labour Conventions passed by the ILO, the US has signed only two of them.

By the same token, when NATO countries bomb Iraq and Yugoslavia, it is not on some high moral grounds of defending “human rights”. It is to protect their own vested strategic and economic interests. Western actions at the international level have debased the currency of human rights.

So it should be clear that the states (qua states) in the West are not among those that would administer justice as fairness in the global system. It is not their job to administer justice. Theirs is to order and administer a global system that serves their own strategic and economic interests.[47]

It should be equally clear that Western TNCs are also not purveyors of justice. They might administer charity, even welfare. Indeed, from the viewpoint of justice as fairness the motivations behind their charitable or welfare activities are questionable. In every ordered society, the ruling classes give handouts to those they oppress and exploit both as a way of placating them and of salvaging their own conscience.[48] Those who receive charity or welfare, however, are seldom fooled. They appear eternally grateful to the “master” but they know that there is no justice in their acts of charity/welfare. In the real world, the transnationals are part of the problem, not a solution. One major strand of peoples’ movement globally is aimed at either liquidating the TNCs (an ideal), or at least making them more accountable to society.

As for states and business corporations in the South, they are both weak and dependent upon the powerful states and corporations in the Western world. In the contemporary dispensation, capital is dominant. With capital comes technology, and with technology comes the knowledge of production. To secure these, the states in the South have to open up their markets to Western corporations, and to vie with one another to provide competitive terms to capital. This raises the cost of capital for all. Since they cannot lower the cost of capital, and since the prices of their raw materials are in any case determined by market forces over which they have little control, the states in the South and their business companies can only compete in the world market by lowering the wages of the working classes. This is one of the fundamental reasons behind the impoverishment of the people of the South.

Furthermore, the purchase of capital- and knowledge-intensive products form the North with constantly decreasing value of their exports is the basis for the empirically verified phenomenon of long term secular decline in the terms of trade of the South. These are conditions of unequal exchange embedded in the system.[49] This is fundamentally at the root of the increasing debt burden of the South. It has risen from US$567 billion in 1980 to $1,086b. in 1986, to $1,419b. in 1992, to$2,030b. in 1998.[50] The South is thus in the grips of the banks and the corporations of the North in debt bondage. We said that one major strand of global peoples’ movement is to reign in TNCs. Another such strand is the global anti-debt campaign, backed by a vast alliance of NGOs, churches and trade unions.

Thus, the states and business in the South have been guilty of swallowing Western ideologies, together with their capital and technology, and are responsible for perpetuating a system that has impoverished their people.

And so to the question of what role they play in effecting justice as fairness, the answer is that they play an ambiguous role. When they seek Western capital and technology and access to Western markets, they act like supplicants and come down hard on their own populations in enforcing SAPs and other dictates of corporate capital. However, when they feel they are not getting a fair deal from the North, they protest and fight back, as indeed happened at the Third Ministerial meeting of the WTO in Seattle in December 1999. For the states in the South to defend the interests of their people, they have to be constantly pressurised from below.

As for IGOs, there is a clear division between those where the South have some voice and those which are totally dominated by the North. As earlier stated, the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO are largely creatures of the rich countries of the OECD. They provide the capital and the rules that regulate trade and the movement of capital. When their regulatory sanctions are weak or ineffective, the states of the West step in to impose these with economic, and if necessary, military means. Clearly, then, the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO cannot be counted upon to administer justice as fairness. Indeed they are part of the problem, not its solution.[51]

However, there are, on the other hand, IGOs such as the ILO, the UNESCO, the FAO, the United Nations University, the UNDP and the UNCTAD in which the South have a certain space. Imperfect as they are, they nonetheless perform an important role towards building a fairer system of global order. Often, however, they are schizophrenic. Being intergovernmental, and funded largely by Western donors, they have to “balance” the equity demands of the weaker members of the international society with the demands of the West to conform to the peremptory rules of the capitalist order. Therefore, like states in the South, for the more democratic IGOs to defend justice, they have to be constantly pressurised from below by those who suffer from the system.

That leaves us to consider the third major actor in the global sphere, namely, civil society organisations including the so-called NGOs, transnational social movements, the trade unions, and the media. We have already referred to two of these – the movements that seek to reign in the TNCs and make them accountable to society and be sensitive to concerns of justice, and the anti-debt peoples’ coalition against debt. There are literally thousands of such NGOs and peoples’ movements that have in recent years come to play a significant role in reforming or challenging the global system. [52]

Coming as they do from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and mandates, there have, of course, many contradictions.[53] Nonetheless, overall they seek a fair dispensation towards the weaker member nations of the international community, weaker and vulnerable groups within countries such as women, children, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and ethnic minorities, and those important inhabitants of this universe that have no voice of their own such as nature and animals. Overall, and keeping in mind the many contradictions between them, they are the only agencies that can be relied upon to be agents of the Rawlsian concept of justice as fairness.[54]

On strategic and tactical issues, the NGOs and peoples’ movements fall under two broad divisions. There are those that believe, and hope, that the system is reformable. They seek to work from within the system to try to change it. And there are those that have no faith in the system’s ability to reform whether from the inside or as a result of pressure from the outside. Even amongst these, their methods differ between those that resort to violence (a very tiny minority), and those who use various tactics of lobbying, advocacy and civil disobedience at both local and global levels.

Concluding Remarks

Anybody who works in the area of global justice has a challenging task. To start with, there are so many rival conceptions of it. Most of them are influenced by Real World situations where biases and prejudices are unavoidable. Rawls provides us with a helpful way out of it with his concept of justice as fairness derived from the “original condition” by individuals in a “veil of ignorance”. In this paper we have simply extended this to the community of nations.

Justice as fairness, we argue, is a better concept than justice as charity or as welfare. The welfarist notions that guide most contemporary thinking in agencies such as the World Bank and the UNDP have serious flaws, whereas justice as charity is humiliating. Both avoid the reasons why the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. Indeed, they can accommodate inequality as long as the welfare of the indigent is taken care of. Following from Rawls, we argue that this is not good enough. If there has to be inequality, it has to be in favour of the least advantaged, the ones with the least opportunities.

The concept of justice as fairness also conforms to most ordinary people’s understanding of justice. Most people would protest at being treated “unfairly”. They also recognise when others are being treated unfairly. “Fair trade” is the demand of people not only from the South but also, increasingly, of those from the North. When the WTO takes decisions in secret (in the so-called “green rooms” where only the powerful meet), it goes against the grain of “fair” play. Thus, at the end of 1999 Seattle conference of the WTO, it was not just the developing countries and their NGOs that revolted against the manipulations of the US, its allies and the Secretariat, but also most NGOs and peoples’ movements from the North. It is “not fair”, they said, for the developing countries to be so manipulated, and be bound by rules in the making of which they were systematically excluded. So Rawls’ concept of what he calls “procedural justice” has much merit. To quote him again, “The aim is to use the notion of pure procedural justice as a basis of theory.” How rules are made is equally, if not more, important than the rules themselves. Fairness, above all, is fairness in the making of rules of global governance.

In this context, rule making in IGOs should favour the weak and the vulnerable nations, communities, minorities, indigenous peoples, and the underprivileged sections within societies. Principles such as the “special and differential treatment” in the old GATT, and the “principle of common but differentiated responsibility” agreed at the Rio Summit should be resurrected and re-confirmed as the guiding principles of justice as fairness in the global context. The Western countries have systematically sought to erode them.

So what are the challenges before those who struggle for justice? The first challenge is to recognise the injustices of the contemporary situation and to understand their causes. We have argued that these are essentially systemic in character. Capitalism that was progressive in its time when it challenged a feudal order or the remnants of slavery is now reaching a point of absurdity. When over 90% of the movement of capital is not even engaged in production, but pure speculation, then that should be hint enough to most reasonable people that as a system it is becoming counter-productive even by its own original tenets.

It should also be clear to most reasonable people that if 20% of the world's people in the richest countries compared to 20% of the poorest in the poor countries had their incomes increased from 30 times in 1960 to 82 times in 1995, (see footnote 10) then there is something fundamentally wrong with the system. It is palpably unfair. It is also evidence that the theories of “development” peddled by “experts” have not only failed, but may have drawn a wool over the eyes of most people. As it turns out from retrospection, these theories were, in essence, ideological justification for the captains of capital (the TNCs) to acquire control over the world’s markets and resources.

Globalization, as defined by the “experts”, is movement along the same route. Although presented as an “inevitable” process, what “experts” do not say is that it is not inevitable that it should be spearheaded by capital. We argue that it can, and should, be spearheaded by people, a globalisation from below, not one from above. Thus, those working for justice need to be critical of the ideologies and the language used by the so-called “experts” who obfuscate reality. They should also be aware of the double standards that the Western governments apply when dealing with the South.

In this context, people should demand not just debt relief, but its total cancellation. It was unjustly accumulated to start with, and it is one of the principal reasons for the continuing poverty of the South. Africa, for example, pays out more in terms of debt servicing than all the “development aid” it receives. Initiatives such as HIPIC should be exposed for what they are – palliatives to placate public opinion. Similarly, TRIPS should be taken out of the WTO, and the right of peoples to their bio-diversity recognised under the CBD should be confirmed. The WTO itself should be brought back to dealing with matters related to trade narrowly defined as dealing with tangible goods. It should be stopped from extending its tentacles to matters that properly belong to other agencies of the UN system, such as the ILO, UNEP, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO and the FAO. People should demand that the original mandates of these organisations be re-confirmed and that they be provided with adequate human and material resources to carry them out.

The tasks of global governance are too critical and too important to leave to governments and to TNCs, who are part of the problem. The people of the US and Europe have a bigger responsibility than even those from the South. Their countries suffer from serious case of democratic deficit. Electoral democracy is only, as they say, “skin-deep”. Also, they have a responsibility to look seriously into their consumption habits and life-styles. Besides straining the world’s resources, these become an excuse for their corporations to over-exploit the South and to co-opt the people of the North in perpetuating an unjust system. The world’s resources (“public goods”) should be so distributed that the least privileged have an “unequal” share of it in their favour.

Finally, we end as we started. Human beings must question their anthropocentrism. They are the most conscious and the most deliberative beings on earth. But that gives them no right to inflict carnage on the rest of Nature’s multiple species. On the contrary, it is their obligation to protect them and give them space. That too is part of justice and good global governance.

[1] Said, Edward W.1995. Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient. Penguin Books.

[2] Wittgenstein. Year ? Tractatus. Publisher ?

[3] See paper by Fred Dallmayer in this volume.

[4] The rate at which global bio-diversity is decreasing is one of the worst in the Earth's history, comparable to the "K-T Event" that ended the Age of Dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago with a loss of 76 % of the world's species. According to a study conducted in conjunction with the UN Task Force On Global Developmental Impact, "The planet Earth stands on the brink of one of the most devastating global extinctions in history. By the year 2040, nearly two-thirds of all current species will be extinct. Rainforest habitats that were once lush canopies of life, sustaining millions of highly specialized and interdependent species of plants and animals, have been reduced by upwards of 95 percent in some areas." Because of the interdependent nature of systems like the Amazon, the disappearance of any one species can lead to the death of countless others. "The extinction of the Borneo hooded tern was an indirect result of the disappearance of the native species of sea snails upon which it fed."


[6] Schumpeter, Joseph A. 1943. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: George Allen & Unwin.

[7] Correa, Carlos M. 2000. Intellectual Property Rights, the WTO and Developing Countries. London: Zed Books

[8] Huntington, Samuel P. 1993. "The Clash of Civilizations?”, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993 in which he said that "the paramount axis" of world policies would be between "the West and the Rest", and that the central focus of conflict in immediate future will be between West and several Islamic-Confucian states. See also his, “The West: Unique, Not Universal.” Foreign Affairs, 75(6).

[9] This is a descriptive category, not evaluative. In terms of values, this civilization brings with it a mixed heritage. Broadly speaking there are essentially two traditions dominant in this civilization. There is the “naturalist” or “rational” tradition that has a rich, humanist and caring intellectual and cultural content. It is this tradition that has been in the main responsible for the contemporary human rights movement. There is, then, the “realist” tradition linked with thinkers such as Hobbes and Machiavelli. For this tradition, politics is amoral. The name of the game is power. There is room for "virtue" but only insofar as it is necessary to legitimise power. One might say, generally, that the humanist tradition has been dominant within the domestic milieu of Western countries, and the realist tradition in the practise of their international relations. Overall, and not without foundation, the Euro-Christian-Judaic civilization is equated, for the last 500 years, with capitalism. There is also a third tradition, a revolutionary tradition, most popularly associated with Karl Marx. This tradition has had profound impact on the course of history over the last 150 years. With the defeat of the Soviet Union in the cold war, this tradition has lost some ground (in the West), but it is still quite virile, especially in the so-called “third world”, and is likely to re-emerge as a strong force. Marx's critical ontology and epistemology was based on an analysis of the capitalist system in an emancipatory project that is still on the historical agenda. Its future will have new form, even new content, and may not necessarily be in the way Marx projected it.

[10] The Human Development Report of 1998 (p.29): "In 1960 the 20% of the world's people who live in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% - by 1995 82 times as much income."

[11] In a sense, globalization is part of movement of history itself. But capital-led globalization is not inevitable; and it can be resisted. Indeed there is a growing resistance against it.

[12] For a scholarly analysis of the colonial text, see Said, Edward W. 1983. The World, the Text and the Critic. USA: Harvard University press.

[13] UNICEF, "Iraq Child and Maternity Mortality Surveys, 1999."

[14] It would be quite instructive for some researcher to catalogue the number of third world "rebellious" leaders that have been or are described as "mad" in the Western press. In the case of Saddam Hussein, his image degenerated over time from Hitler, to “the butcher of Baghdad”, and then in the words of Senator Alan Simpson, the madman. In recent months I have often encountered friends in Europe who innocently ask me whether Robert Mugabe has “really gone mad”. A friend from Malaysia tells me that he is asked the same question about Mahathir Mohamed.

[15] In South Korea, thousands of workers took to the street to protest against their mass retrenchment. See, xxxx

[16] UNCTAD surveys on investments show the differential rates of return on capital between the North and the South. Typically, investment in Africa can earn 25-40% profit compared to 5-6% in the USA. The most volatile of this is speculative capital. One important source of it is pension funds in Western countries looking for higher profits so as to meet their future obligations. For details, see Mutual Fund Fact Book. 1998. 38th Edition. USA: Investment Company Institute.

[17] "In some ways the IMF has done more in these past months to liberalize these economies and open their markets to US goods and services than has been achieved in rounds of trade negotiations in the region." Larry Summers, "American Farmers: Their Stakes in Asia, Their Stake in IMF," Office of Public Affairs, US Treasury Dept, Washington DC, Feb 23, 1998

[18] In a review of UN’s action (lack of it) in Rwanda, an independent commission singled out the United States and the present Secretary-General for their callous withdrawal of UN peace-keeping forces from Rwanda in full knowledge that this would lead to massacres of the Tutsis. A quarter million people were hacked to death. See, xxx

[19] Popper, Karl. 1959. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London: Hutchinson

[20] J. Stiglitz, "More Instruments and Broader Goals: Moving Toward the Post-Washington Consensus," Speech delivered 7.1.98 at the 1998 WIDER Annual Lecture, Helsinki, Finland.

[21] For example, in Western philosophy, the debate goes back to Aritotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 350 BC; in ancient India, in the Vedas and Upanisads to between 1200 BC (Max Muller) to 4000 BC (Bal Gangadhar Tilak).

[22] Rawls, John. 1972. A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[23] Needless to say, these ideas, too, have attracted much criticism. Among his most passionate critic is Robert Nozick, the arch defender of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism.

[24] I would contend that the device of “original position” to work out principles of justice in the abstract is preferable to other alternative ways of doing this such as game theories and the prisoners’ dilemma matrix. Game theories and PD matrices are devoid of normative content, and can at best predict “rational” behaviour, rationality being defined in purely selfish or functional terms.

[25] Rawls, op.cit., p.136

[26]Ibid, p. 302-303

[27] See for instance, Kaul, Inge, Isabelle Grunberg and Marc. A. Stern. 1999. Global Public Goods. UNDP.

[28] Rawls, John. 1993. “The Law of Peoples” from On Human Rights, Shute & Hurley (eds.), Basic Books Inc.

[29] It is necessary to add that this is not a new argument. Unfortunately, since the end of the cold war and “the end of history” claimed by liberal triumphalists the earlier debate on the nature of the Western liberal state has been all but forgotten. Political theorists like C.B. Macpherson have cogently argued in the 1970s that the liberal pretensions of the capitalist state is fundamentally flawed, that the “liberal state” inescapably reproduces inequalities of everyday life, distorting decisions in favour of propertied interests. See Macpherson, C.B. 1977. The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Also see, Pateman, Carole. 1985. The Problem of Political Obligation: A Critique of Liberal Theory. Cambridge: Polity. In more recent times, the Communitarians, such as Michael Sander, Alisdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, have challenged liberalist assumptions from another angle. They argue that individualism and the acquisitive spirit is an invitation to man to behave in a socially irresponsible manner, and is the main cause of the crisis of our civilization. See, Mulhall, Stephen and Adam Swift. 1995. Liberals and Communitarians. Blackwell.

[30] Wollstonecraft, Mary. 1792. Vindication of the Rights of Women: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. London: Joseph Johnson.

[31] The Pareto optimality is also at the basis of the more crude talk among social and environmental activists and trade negotiators about creating “win-win” situations.

[32] For a critique of Rawls from a welfare perspective, see, Sen, Amritya. 1984. Resources, Values and Development. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. PP. 278-285.

[33] Veljanovsky, C. G. 1984. In Ogus, A. and C. G. Veljanovsky, (eds.), Readings in the Economics of Law and Regulation. P.22.

[34] Held, David. 1991. “Democracy, the Nation-State and the Global System” in D. Held (ed.) Political Theory Today. Polity Press; also his, “Democracy: From City-states to a Cosmopolitan Order?” in D. Held (ed.). 1993. Prospects for Democracy. Polity Press.

[35] Petersmann, Ernst-Ulrich. 1991. “How to Constitutionalize International Law and Foreign Policy for the Benefit of Civil Society?” in Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Fall 1998, p. 15

[36]Ibid, p.20

[37]Ibid, p. 21

[38]Ibid, p.23

[39] The fact that Petersmann, besides being a University professor, is the legal adviser to the WTO makes his utterances even more ominous and scary for those from the South who see the WTO, as it is presently constituted and run, as a veritable instrument of domination and oppression.

[40] Cited earlier, p. above.

[41] Held. Prospects for Democracy. Op. Cit. P. 43

[42] I realise that some of the essays in this volume talk about the state and civil society in the abstract even when writing about this world. To each his own desert. But I have fundamental difficulty in dealing in the abstract with issues that are concrete and contingent.

[43] For a comprehensive account of this, see Korten, David C. 1995. When Corporations Rule the World. USA: Kumarian Press, Inc. and Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

[44]USA Today, 26 November, 1999

[45] The North has 25% of world's population, 85% of world's income, and accounts for 80% of world consumption of natural resources. It generates 75% of industrial and municipal waste, and has contributed about 80% of global CO2 emissions since 1950. Symposium on Sustainable Consumption, Oslo, January 1994, Opening Speech by Minister T. Bernsten

[46] This was one of the major reasons for the collapse of the Seattle Conference of the WTO. The countries of the South came out collectively to oppose such an imposition of labour standards on them using the sanctions machinery of the WTO.

[47] It is commendably the merit of the “realist” school of International Relations in the West that it makes no bones about arguing that their states are motivated not by considerations of abstract justice, however conceptualised, but by considerations of real politik. Unlike the “idealist” school, they do not pull wool over the eyes of naïve observers of the international scene. We have cited Huntington above. But see also, for example, Morgenthau, Hans. 19xx. Politics Among Nations. Xxx; and Bull, Hedley.

[48] See, Thompson, E.P. 1991. Customs in Common. Penguin

[49] For a classical statement of this problem, see Arghiri, Emmanuel. 19xx. Unequal Exchange. Publisher xxx. Also, Amin, Samir. 19xx. Accumulation on a Global Scale (?). publisher.

[50] Figures derived from IMF sources. See, Keet, Dot. 1999. The International Anti-Debt Campaign. Cape Town, South Africa. Alternative Information & Development Centre. P. 2.

[51] Indeed, at the WTO Seattle conference in November-December 1999, the key players within the WTO, led by the Unites States, became so blatantly manipulative of the processes of decision-making that the South repudiated the whole conference. See, Tandon, Yash. 1999. “Blip or Turnaround”. SEATINI Bulletin, Vol 2, No. xx, December 1999.

[52] See The Economist,

[53] Two such contradictions might be mentioned here. One is between NGOs and peoples’ movements, but the differences between the two are often exaggerated. Another is between those that come from the North and those from the South. Differences between these, whilst there, are also often exaggerated.

[54] There are sometimes questions raised about their “representativeness.” But that is a false issue. It is false to apply the electoral principle to them, just as it is to their adversaries, the corporate world.