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Durham University

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Thom Brooks

Brooks, Thom (2014). Remedial Responsibilities beyond Nations. Journal of Global Ethics 10(2): 156-166.

Author(s) from Durham


David Miller’s theory of nationalism and national responsibility offers the leading alternative ‘anticosmopolitan’ theory of global justice. His theory claims that ‘nations’ may be held responsible for the benefits and harms resulting from their collective decisions. Nations may be held remedially responsible to help nations in need even where the former lack causal or moral responsibility, for example. This article critically examines Miller’s position that remedial responsibilities—the responsibilities of nations to remedy others in need—can and should only be satisfied by nations. I argue that the characteristics that define and justify a particular understanding of nationalism extend to further constructions of identity, such as religious affiliation and other connections. The problem with Miller’s position is that it is overly narrow by focusing solely on our national identities as the characteristic most relevant for determining remedial responsibilities. It is possible and desirable to widen our focus, enriching our understanding of global justice and remedial responsibility. Moreover, this wider perspective is an extension, and not a break from, Miller’s position. Our shared identities should have significance for considerations of global justice and they can help us develop a more robust view of anticosmopolitanism.