Beyond redistribution: rethinking the agency of the global poor

Discussions of global justice in contemporary political philosophy are currently dominated by a (re)distributive paradigm, which holds that the solution to injustice is simply a more equitable sharing of resources and opportunities. This approach has fostered debates over the design of more just transnational economic and political arrangements, over the demands of patriotism, and over the duties that citizens of affluent countries should assume.

The distributive model, however, makes a number of assumptions: it takes countries in the global North as the rightful agents of a more just world order, and treats citizens of the global South as mere subjects or recipients of aid; it identifies justice with material equality; it does not question capitalist modes of production and ownership; and it obscures the salience of global relationships of power and domination. This paper offers a critique of these assumptions, illuminating how they limit the reach of the distributive paradigm. It focuses on what is perhaps the most influential version of the redistributive approach to global justice, Thomas Pogge’s human rights-based argument for aiding the global poor.