A Defence of Thomas Pogge’s Argument for a Minimally Just Institutional Order
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In an attempt to illustrate that the developed world has obligations to alleviate severe poverty, Thomas Pogge created a theory driven by human rights to focus on negative rights and duties of the avoidance of harm. His theory of global justice is developed on a minimalist account of what it means to harm. For him, the violation of the negative duty not to harm constitutes an injustice. This injustice is enacted against the citizens of developing nations by the global institutional order. Citizens of the developed world are perpetuating injustice by harming individuals through the imposition of a global order that avoidably causes human rights deficits without due compensation or reform to policies. Many critics take issue with his definition of harm as focused on negative rights, as well as find his theory of causation troublesome. His critics largely object to his assertion that the developed world causally contributes to severe poverty. Critiques of Pogge attempt to demonstrate that it is not the case that the developed world is causally responsible for severe poverty. In doing so, some make reference to domestic factors within developing nations, which they claim Pogge largely neglects. Others argue that the current global institutional order benefits developing nations. Furthermore, some of his critics engage with the normative demands that follow from his argument. They claim he has a minimal definition of harm and injustice that leads to unmanageable maximal obligations. Conversely, there are claims his argument leads to normative demands that are insufficient in redressing injustices. I argue that Pogge’s theory of global justice has developed the foundation necessary to motivate affluent nations to establish a minimally just global institutional order that avoids the perpetuation of avoidable human rights violations. This foundation elucidates and establishes, through the global institutional order, an overarching causal relationship between the world’s affluent nations and the severely poor. This relationship, despite critiques, is essential in order to illustrate that developed world citizens do indeed contribute to severe poverty and so must take action to establish a minimally just institutional order.