A Theory of Injustice, with Application to Global Trade

“A Theory of Injustice, with Application to Global Trade” (working paper available upon request)

This paper demonstrates the need for a new understanding of what it means for an institution to be “unjust.” This new understanding is necessary in order to better diagnose problems and to assign responsibilities for institutional reform. Whilst the paper demonstrates this need through engagement with recent scholarship on trade, the argument’s scope is general to non-ideal and applied theory on justice in the Rawlsian tradition. First, the paper explains why political theorists tend to follow Rawls in his use of what I call a “holistic” approach to evaluating institutions, and it sketches my alternative approach. Second, the paper describes several ways to assign responsibilities for institutional reform when institutions are unjust. In the next three sections, the paper shows the influence of the Rawlsian methodology on Aaron James, Thomas Pogge, and Iris Marion Young in their writings on global trade. I propose that each theorist could employ a theory of injustice in order to correct defects in their arguments’ diagnosis of problems, identification of relevant agents, and assignment of responsibilities.