Competing conceptions of justice in world politics

Competing conceptions of justice in world politics

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2022.02.08

For citation:

Troitskiy M.A. Competing conceptions of justice in world politics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No. 2. P. 99-114. (In Russ.).


Different conceptions of justice are often employed during negotiations by states looking for an ethical anchor for their postures or trying to signal their commitment to prevail in a conflict. Major powers often support their claims of upward adjustment of their status by reference to useful conceptions of justice. For the purposes of this article, justice is defined as a fit between benefits and entitlements. The article avoids falling into the trap of contested entitlements by only considering claims of entitlement and justice based on widely recognized universal ethical principles and/or salient points. The article classifies justice conceptions relevant for international politics by source and target and groups them into dyads, or “justice dilemmas.” These dilemmas include reciprocity vs. restraint; parity vs. proportionality; status quo vs. accelerated progress; effectiveness vs. procedural justice, and others. A concept may be advanced by and/or targeted at individual actors (states) or the international community as a whole, represented by activist groups or political entrepreneurs. The positions of different sides in major international disputes as well as in the global and regional order debates may often be described and sometimes modeled as a competition between basic conceptions of justice championed by the sides. The outcome of these conflicts and debates may depend on the prevailing concepts of justice as much as on the balance of forces between the conflicting sides. 

negotiation, justice, security, great power, international politics, foreign policy, equality, equity, efficiency, human rights.


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Content No. 2, 2022

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