Rethinking Global Distributive Justice: Legal and Economic Norms Addressing Crises of Global Health, Hunger, and Sustainability

Benedict Sheehy, Ying Chen, Juan Diaz- Grandos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The increasingly global nature of the events impacting society globally call for a reconsideration of global distributive justice. Distributive justice, a matter of domestic concern, has a long history spanning millennia. It has become a particular concern with the advent of wide-spread private property and capitalism. While a concerted focus on distributive justice commenced in the mid-twentieth century, it is urgent that global distributive justice garners increased attention due to recent events spanning the past decade along with modern political ideologies and jurisprudence. This Article contests purist theoretical positions by taking pragmatic approaches in reviewing legal and economic governance norms. We first review the dominant liberal and conservative political philosophies that drive the discussion with attention to the balance of individual and society. We then connect these philosophies with legal theories concerning the nature and role of property, including norms and pragmatic approaches. Conversation proceeds to consider the theories of economics, a major policy driver. This Article argues that economic approaches to distributive justice are needed to address the collective action challenges faced by the current and future generations— namely health, hunger, and sustainability. Unlike economics, with its focus on wealth creation and efficiency, a central value of law and justice requires weighing all human beings fairly, regardless of location geographically or in time. This Article contributes to overarching legal discussion on property by placing a focus on three emerging and increasingly important global issues that remain inadequately addressed by current economic and legal approaches to distributions. We argue that a rebalancing of internationally-focused legal norms and economics is overdue and that a shift favoring justice foundations over economic wealth and efficiency as the normative foundations is required. Our argument proceeds by drawing on emerging ideas of global distributive justice, non-market institutional economics, and new pragmatic theories of property law to contribute to realizing global distributive justice at this specific, critical juncture in history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-156
JournalGeorgia Journal of International and Comparative Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2024


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