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This chapter presents the standard of justice that is used in this book to appraise international law. That standard is based on two core principles, or what the book calls pillars—the promotion of international and intrastate peace, on the one hand, and respect for the basic human rights of all individuals, on the other. The justice of international norms is determined by the extent to which they lead to a state of affairs involving peace and human rights, with some room for deontological considerations in limited situations. The chapter defends the choice of these two pillars. It elaborates on the notions of peace and human rights that form the test of the justice of international law and explains the broadly consequentialist way in which these pillars operate in practice as individual norms are assessed. It completes the framework with some additional assumptions about the state system that flow from non-ideal theory, as well as two important conceptual overlays necessary and unique to a project aimed at evaluating legal (as opposed to social) norms. Once the standard of justice and modus operandi are explained, the chapter proposes a modifier—‘thin’—to accompany this standard of global justice, defend this standard against other standards, and situate it within debates about cosmopolitan justice.


This material was originally published in The Thin Justice of International Law: A Moral Reckoning of the Law of Nations, edited by Steven R. Ratner and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit