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New Left Review 36, November-December 2005

Theorists of political justice have long taken the nation-state to be the relevant unit for their proposals. Nancy Fraser argues that the time for this is past. The necessary interconnection between struggles for economic redistribution and social recognition now requires that issues of political representation be re-tabled at a global rather than national level—where decisions affecting the fate of all are increasingly taken, or not taken.



Globalization is changing the way we argue about justice. [1] First delivered as a 2004 Spinoza Lecture at the University of Amsterdam, this text was revised at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2004–05. Thanks to both institutions for their support, to James Bohman, Kristin Gissberg and Keith Haysom for their assistance, and to Amy Allen, Seyla Benhabib, Bert van den Brink, Alessandro Ferrara, Rainer Forst, John Judis, Ted Koditschek, Maria Pia Lara, David Peritz and Eli Zaretsky for helpful comments and stimulating discussions. Not so long ago, in the heyday of social democracy, disputes about justice presumed what I shall call a ‘Keynesian-Westphalian frame’. Typically played out within modern territorial states, arguments about justice were assumed to concern relations among fellow citizens, to be subject to debate within national publics, and to contemplate redress by national states. This was true for each of two major families of justice claims—claims for socioeconomic redistribution and claims for legal or cultural recognition. At a time when the Bretton Woods system facilitated Keynesian economic steering at the national level, claims for redistribution usually focused on economic inequities within territorial states. Appealing to national public opinion for a fair share of the national pie, claimants sought intervention by national states in national economies. Likewise, in an era still gripped by a Westphalian political imaginary, which sharply distinguished ‘domestic’ from ‘international’ space, claims for recognition generally concerned internal status hierarchies. Appealing to the national conscience for an end to nationally institutionalized disrespect, claimants pressed national governments to outlaw discrimination and accommodate differences among citizens. In both cases, the Keynesian-Westphalian frame was taken for granted. Whether the matter concerned redistribution or recognition, class differentials or status hierarchies, it went without saying that the unit within which justice applied was the modern territorial state. [2] The phrase ‘Keynesian-Westphalian frame’ is meant to signal the national-territorial underpinnings of justice disputes in the heyday of the postwar democratic welfare state, roughly 1945 to the 1970s. The term ‘Westphalian’ refers to the Treaty of 1648, which established some key features of the modern international state system. However, I am concerned neither with the actual achievements of the Treaty nor with the centuries-long process by which the system it inaugurated evolved. Rather, I invoke ‘Westphalia’ as a political imaginary that mapped the world as a system of mutually recognizing sovereign territorial states. My claim is that this imaginary informed the postwar framing of debates about justice in the First World, even as the beginnings of a post-Westphalian human-rights regime emerged. For the distinction between Westphalia as ‘event’, as ‘idea/ideal’, as ‘process of evolution’, and as ‘normative score-sheet’, see Richard Falk, ‘Revisiting Westphalia, Discovering Post-Westphalia’, Journal of Ethics, vol. 6, no. 4 (2002), pp. 311–52.

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Nancy Fraser, ‘Reframing Justice in a Globalizing World’, NLR 36: £3

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