Justice and Morality in Global Politics

Justice and Morality in Global Politics:
A perceptual lacuna in a realist global environment

Water and oil do not mix. Scientific experiments demonstrate that water settles beneath the oil and that oil always floats to the top, suffocating the environment below. In nature, oil spills present enormous potential for harm and occur when humans make mistakes, are careless or enact deliberate acts of sabotage. This description of oil and water is a useful metaphor for mixing justice and morality with global politics. It is most disappointing to note, however, that this analogy is particularly apt – water and oil separate themselves when mixed; just as global politics is currently separated from global justice and morality. However, it is in today’s complex political environment that the voices of morality and justice need to be heard more than ever.

After the end of the Cold War and prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, there was an era of idealism in global politics during which the global society launched anti-capitalist movements, emphasised demilitarisation and focussed on humanitarian ethical concerns (Haque, 2004). Global politics today, in contrast, is an era of realism in which a complex interplay of ethical dilemmas, competing moralities and differing perceptions of justice dominate. In this complex global environment, there are numerous dilemmas facing the global community – who should pay, and how much, for realising human rights; how do we ethically balance the desire for an ethos of world citizenship in a globalised environment versus the ethics of individual and national responsibility; how do we most appropriately deal with the world’s colonial past so as to forgive and justly reconstruct international relations; how do we deal with the revival of realism in international politics after the September 11 attacks (Haque, 2004). These difficult ethical dilemmas confront policy makers and challenge societal, institutional and global...