Philosophy Talk: A Theory of Injustice in Global Trade

7 March 2017 (Tue), 6:30 - 8:00 PM
At Saga Lecture Theater

Professor Sarah Goff discusses the different kinds of injustice at play in global supply chains. These supply chains are an increasingly important form of trade in the global economy. In some of these supply chains, goods are produced using slave labor (where ‘slave labor’ means that workers are subject to violence preventing exit, subjection to a state of contractual indebtedness due to accounting fraud or withholding of wages, and severely bad working conditions). This paper proposes a way to understand how global supply chains relate to the institutions of global trade, and how the fact that some global supply chains rely upon slave labor is relevant for justice in trade.

Professor Sarah Goff considers the purpose of Rawls’ ‘holistic’ approach to reasoning about justice, which has greatly influenced the recent trend in structural approaches to trade justice, and she proposes another way to characterize institutions as ‘unjust’ that is in keeping with these purposes. This approach is intended to produce more nuanced descriptions of how institutions of trade may be unjust, a greater diversity of sites of action for justice, and greater attention to businesses and other economic actors who may serve as capable agents of justice.