Freedom beyond the threshold: Self-determination, sovereignty, and global justice

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In current debates about global justice, statist and nationalist theories appeal to the right to selfdetermination in argument against egalitarianism beyond borders, and in general as a reason for caution about substantive international duties of justice, lest the exercise of self-determination would be too tightly constrained. Has self-determination-an important heritage of decolonization-no longer a role to play in the argument against international inequality and disempowerment? In this article, I examine a dominant interpretation of self-determination in the global justice debate, as defended prominently by John Rawls and David Miller and find it wanting. Specifically, two challenges are raised: at the conceptual level this interpretation leaves unclarified the distinction and relationship between sovereignty and self-determination; at the normative level, this interpretation adopts a sufficiency view of international distributive justice that neglects that problem of relative extents and measures of self-determination, beyond the threshold. While the article's argument is mainly of a critical scope, it is suggested that a more robust theoretical account is required of the content of the right of self-determination, and in particular of the freedoms that the right confers to the right-holders in the socioeconomic domains and their extents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages21
JournalEthics and Global Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 A. Banai.


  • David Miller
  • Global justice
  • International investment law
  • John Rawls
  • Self-determination
  • Sovereignty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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