chapter  6
20 Pages

One world, many peoples: international justice in John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples

We live in “one world.” The globe is an ecological whole, suffi ciently connected that it is now possible to envision climate changes and catastrophes that affect the entire planet. 2 The world’s economy is increasingly becoming interconnected. Human beings recognize a common humanity, including a body of human rights. But we are not the “single nation state” hypothesized by the South Commission. We are divided into many peoples, governed by the slightly more than the 191 states recognized by the United Nations as members. But the existence of many peoples does not answer the normative questions implicit in the South Commission’s warning. Should we be trying to govern the one world as if we were one people – and take on the task of building a single stable world order, bridging the divides between the much better-off top fi fth and much less well-off bottom four-fi fths? Or, should the one world be governed as if it were two sets of peoples, one set free and the other not? Or, should a third order shape the world, one that encompasses many peoples who develop the rules, agreements and accommodations that are needed to keep those peoples at peace where possible and promote mutually advantageous cooperation, while taking those measures that address the emergencies and extremes to which all decent states would concur?