The Law of Peoples

in On Human Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, 1993, ed., Steven Shute and Susan Hurley (New York: Basic Books, 1993), pp. 41–82.

One aim of this essay is to sketch in a short space—I can do no more than that—how the law of peoples may be developed out of liberal ideas of justice similar to but more general than the idea I called justice as fairness and presented in my book A Theory of Justice. By the law of peoples I mean a political conception of right and justice that applies to the principles and norms of international law and practice. In section 58 of the above work I indicated how from justice as fairness the law of peoples might be developed for the limited purpose of addressing several questions of just war. In this essay my sketch of that law covers more ground and includes an account of the role of human rights. Even though the idea of justice I use to do this is more general than justice as fairness, it is still connected with the idea of the social contract. The procedure of construction, and the various steps gone through, are much the same in both cases.

JSTOR [pdf]