Globalization, Justice & Communication: A Critical Study of Global Ethics

Uppsala Studies in Social Ethics No. 44


By: Jenny Ehnberg
June 2015
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789155492137
275 Pages, Illustrated
$77.50 Paper original


The purpose of this study is to seek to an answer to the question of what constitutes a tenable model for global ethics. This is done in part by a critical engagement with four different models of global ethics; two proposals from political philosophy and two contributions from theological ethics. The models analyzed in the study are: (1) the capabilities approach as developed by Martha Nussbaum, (2) Seyla Benhabib’s discourse ethics and model of cosmopolitan federalism, (3) David Hollenbach’s model of the common good and human rights, and (4) the model for responsibility ethics and theological humanism as developed by William Schweiker. These models contain different understandings of global justice, human rights, and sustainable development.

The study works with six primary problems: (1) Which are the main moral problems associated with different processes of globalization? (2) What should be the response to these problems, in the form of a normative ethical model? (3) What is the relation between global ethics and universalism? (4) What kind of institutional vision for the international arena does a tenable global ethic promote? (5) Given the human diversity and global pluralism, what would be a reasonable view of the human being included in a global ethic? (6) What kind of ethical theory is sustainable for global ethical reflection? These questions also form the basis for the analysis of the models.

The study uses a set of criteria in order to assess the answers that the models offer for these questions. These criteria also constitute the framework within which the author’s contribution to the discussion of global ethics is phrased. The criteria are founded on an idea of what characterizes global ethical reflection. The contention is that a tenable global ethic should be relevant, and it should also be related to a reasonable view of human beings and a plausible ethical theory. Together these support the criterion of communicability, which argues that a global ethic should above all be communicable, i.e. capable of enabling cross-cultural communication. A central argument which this study makes is that a kind of ethical contextualism is more reasonable than an epistemological universalism.