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Thomas Pogge and the Challenge of Global Justice


Thomas Pogge and the Challenge of Global Justice

Mark Kernan

Philosopher Thomas Pogge in his seminal book, World Poverty and Human Rights, asks a deceptively simple and ultimately moral question on the nature of what he calls the ‘global institutional order’: can authentic reform be made of this international order, and can any proposed reform better align with our moral values in order to alleviate the suffering of the global poor?


“In other words, the global poor Pogge argues, need not just our good will or technical know-how, they also demand that we as citizens of rich countries act justly to transform the global institutional order, by acting ethically as good global citizens.”

This article is on some level a reasonable (if stuffy, conciliatory and somewhat obfuscatory) introductory statement to the contradictions and crimes of the Global International Order.

But then, let us imagine what it will take, “acting ethically as good global citizens,” to “transform the global institutional order.” What are we really up against, and what will we need to do to “transform” it?


I think that the first step has already been taken. You are now aware. With awareness action can follow. If you start to think of how everything is set up, it becomes clear. For each person the action may be different. I am in the U.S. so I will vote, contact my representatives on issues that not only include me but issues that include others.

My actions may be as small as a tweet, Facebook post or editing a wiki article that was biased towards a group. I read Politics as Usual by Thomas Pogge and spread the word, We can contact businesses that deal with dictators. People that are on the boards of these companies can take direct action, just stop dealing with them and buying up a countries resources which fuels the oppressive regimes.

First, don’t harm the global poor, second take action to help them. People may think that it is not their duty but… would you help a neighbor if they needed it? Everyone is our neighbor. lol sorry, long winded today.


The problems of huge and growing inequality, aggravated by WTO, the IMF and World Bank policies, also the blatant and hypocritical actions of the US and EU governments over the years: these inequalities are not new. Anyone remember the North South report (by Willy Brandt and others)?
There is also the issue of the class divide within all countries: even within the ‘affluent’ countries, ther is a ‘Third World’ of the really wretched.
None of this is new - just take a look at capitalism’s early history and even fictional accounts, whether in the US or Europe
It is not by simply being nice to each other and acting “ethically” that we can change things for the better. We need to realize that a capitalist system of production for profit is one that is bound to lead to inequality, it is the real cause of the poverty of the many as it is of the wealth and dominance of the few. And capitalist competition is also the cause of the many wars which scar this once beautiful planet.
All the reforms in the world have not changed things much for the better.
So it seems to me the best thing is to organise to get rid of this class-divided system, with all its inherent problems, and replace capitalism with a global system based on the whole community owning in common all the land and other means of production.
That seems to me both desirable and do-able.
As John Lennon sang:
Imagine all the people… And I’m not the only one!