Department or Program



In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argues that, in constructing the basic structure of a just society, any social and economic inequalities must be part of a scheme of cooperation that works to the benefit of the least advantaged social class. He calls this principle of distributive justice the difference principle. In A Law of Peoples, however, he backs away from this claim, arguing for weaker cosmopolitan duties in constructing an international social order. This thesis does two things. 1.) It explores this tension in Rawls’s work, arguing that in order for the Law of Peoples to be consistent with A Theory of Justice, Rawls must embrace a global difference principle. 2.) It then investigates the implications of this conclusion, arguing that a global difference principle would necessitate robust duties of cosmopolitan aid, but would necessitate neither a world government nor open borders.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Cummiskey, David

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2013

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 PDF file

Open Access

Available to all.