Abstract: In this essay, I analyze the cosmopolitan project for a new international order that Habermas has articulated in recent publications. I argue that his presentation of the project oscillates between two models. The first is a very ambitious model for a future international order geared to fulfill the peace and human rights goals of the UN Charter. The second is a minimalist model, in which the obligation to protect human rights by the international community is circumscribed to the negative duty of preventing wars of aggression and massive human rights violations due to armed conflicts such as ethnic cleansing or genocide. According to this model, any more ambitious goals should be left to a global domestic politics, which would have to come about through negotiated compromises among domesticated major powers at the transnational level. I defend the ambitious model by arguing that there is no basis for drawing a normatively significant distinction between massive human rights violations due to armed conflicts and those due to regulations of the global economic order. I conclude that the cosmopolitan goals of the Habermasian project can only be achieved if the principles of transnational justice recognized by the international community are ambitious enough to cover economic justice.
Comment: This article addresses topics that may be covered by a wide variety of courses. Lafont addresses both a Rawlsian and a Habermasian theory of global justice and international law, making this a good text to supplement a course that covers institutional proposals for global justice and fulfilling other cosmopolitan obligations.