Feb 6, 2007

moral cosmopolitanism within a nationalist framework

In opposition to Simon Caney's view of cosmopolitan justice--that suprastate organizations are the natural and justifiable consequence of universal human rights--Margaret Moore, in the October 2006 edition of Social Theory and Practice, defends national sovereignty. Read "Cosmopolitanism and Political Communities" for the full treatment.
In this paper, I identify six arguments for differentiated political communities: three closely related, albeit distinct, justice-based arguments, two consequentialist arguments, and one argument specifically about the drawing of political boundaries but which is derivative on the value that political arrangements are intended to promote. The arguments examined are: (1) individual autonomy; (2) conditions of autonomy; (3) structural injustice; (4) fear of tyranny; (5) fear of fragmentation; and (6) subsidiarity. All the arguments discussed below are consistent with a commitment to moral cosmopolitanism, understood in terms of the claim that all persons qua persons have equal moral worth.7 They all appeal to universal moral goods that have to be weighed in an overall theory of (global and domestic) institutional design. They are relevant to the issue of the justifiability of differentiated political communities, and hence political borders, and four of the six arguments have implications for the related issue of where the borders should be drawn.
In one of the more relevant passages (to the current resolution, at least), Moore defends sovereignty as grounding autonomy.
A closely related but more persuasive argument for political jurisdictions focuses on the connection between political authority, culture, and a rich understanding of the conditions for the exercise of personal autonomy. The most influential versions of this argument are developed in relation to the protection of minority groups, but, because this argument rests on a particular account of the relationship of jurisdictional authority to the protection of group culture (not specifically minority group culture), it is best understood as an argument about the appropriate and justified relationship between jurisdictional authority and cultural group identity.

The most influential contemporary version of this argument involves essentially three claims: the first move in the argument attempts to establish a link between the collective good of culture and the exercise of personal autonomy; the second relates the good of culture to mechanisms for protection, especially the capacity to make collective decisions about culture; and the third is an equality claim, which is typically applied to minorities for the protection of their culture.
In a cosmopolitan suprastate--the likely outcome of a United Nations bent on valuing rights over sovereignty--minority groups and their cultures and languages vanish. Sovereignty preserves diversity and respects autonomy.


Anonymous said...

I dont understand how the argument that allowing the nation to handle human rights is better becuase it can look to group rights- and therefore give the people more autonomy would work in this resolution. Doesn't this statement assume that the sovereign is a democracy or some form of government that will listen to its people?

Jim Anderson said...

The statement is a generality--certainly some sovereign states will violate autonomy. It's a qualified good--but then, as Caney argues, so are "global human rights." Remember, sovereignty is sought after by many groups--they want the recognition and status that comes from joining the "club" of states. The Kurds or the Palestinians are just a couple examples.