Baycan, Esma

The “ideal / Non-ideal Theory” Distinction Applied to the Social Justice Debate Beyond National Borders: European or Global?


This paper focuses on the arguments in favor of extending distributive justice beyond national borders. Within the contemporary literature of normative political philosophy, we find arguments for either a global or European extension of distributive justice. Philosophers in favor of the European extension are also often supportive of extending to yet other places, but then the following philosophical question arises: Would the establishment of social justice at the level of the EU encourage or discourage the achievement of global justice? Such a question comes from a ‘non- ideal theorizing’ approach to evaluating whether or not the organization of distributive justice at the EU level would constitute an approximation to global justice and, thus, be considered as transitionally just. It proposes two positions, namely continuity and discontinuity approaches; the former claims that the extension to the European level encourages global justice while the latter claims it is discouraging. In considering the EU as having a privileged international bargaining power to contribute efficiently to global justice, the paper sides with the continuity approach while proposing an adjustment. The main argument, which is called a compatibility proviso, requires taming the potential harmful effects of the European level, in order to achieve the ideal of global justice in a ‘pareto optimal’ manner. The proviso strengthens the continuity approach by removing two risks: (1) the extension may stop once the distributive justice is organized at the EU level; but also that (2) such a deepening of the EU integration might be in itself harmful to global justice.