Review of International Studies

Research Article

Global justice, national responsibility and transnational power



This article focuses on David Miller's recent and influential study National Responsibility and Global Justice (2007). After outlining Miller's methodological commitments in the book, the article offers an interpretation of the major aspects of Miller's case against ‘Cosmopolitan egalitarianism’ before focusing especially on the issue of migration and refugees. Here the article argues that while membership of a nation is (under certain conditions) of intrinsic value, it is not the only thing that is of intrinsic value – friendship, family and other practices can also be sources of intrinsic value – nor is it necessarily the most important. It is therefore not clear, the article argues, why an account of global justice that seeks to take seriously the existence of national communities on the grounds of their intrinsic value, should propose rules of justice concerning freedom of movement that entail the de jure privileging of the value of national community over other sources of intrinsic value. The article concludes by assessing how Miller's arguments can support the movement from mere ‘distributivism’ towards political justice, towards an account that more adequately integrates agency, responsibility and power into our account of global justice.

(Online publication June 14 2011)

David Owen is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy and Deputy Director of the Centre for Philosophy and Value at the University of Southampton. His research focuses on problems of political community; contemporary democratic theory; the ethics and politics of migration, theories of power and freedom, post-Kantian moral and political philosophy and the philosophies of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Foucault. He is currently working on two books, Nietzsche's Contest: Freedom, Perfectionism and Realism in Political Theory (Rowman and Littlefield) and Migration and Political Theory (Routledge).

* I am grateful to Chris Armstrong, Bert van Brink, Peter Niesen, Nick Rengger and Jonathan Seglow for their helpful comments on a draft of this article. I owe particular thanks to Andy Mason for discussing many of the issues raised herein and for his comments on two earlier versions.