Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement

Research Article

Needs and Global Justice

Gillian Brock

In this paper I argue that needs are tremendously salient in developing any plausible account of global justice. I begin by sketching a normative thought experiment that models ideal deliberating conditions. I argue that under such conditions we would choose principles of justice that ensure we are well positioned to be able to meet our needs. Indeed, as the experiment aims to show, any plausible account of distributive justice must make space for the special significance of our needs. I go on to offer some empirical support for this view by looking at the important work of Frohlich and Oppenheimer. I then present an account of our basic needs that can meet a number of goals: for instance, it provides a robust theoretical account of basic needs which can enjoy widespread support, and it can also provide an adequate framework for designing policy about needs, and thus help us to discharge our global obligations. I then briefly discuss the relationship between basic needs and human rights, arguing why the basic needs standard is more fundamental than—and required by—the human rights approach. Finally, I tackle a few important sets of objections to my view, especially some objections concerning distributing our responsibilities for meeting needs.

(Online publication July 27 2006)