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One World: The Ethics of Globalization (The Terry Lectures) Paperback – March 11, 2004

3.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Peter Singer may be the most controversial philosopher alive; he is certainly among the most influential."

From the Publisher

Also available by Peter Singer: A Darwinian Left.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd edition (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300103050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300103052
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Peter Singer is arguably the most influential -- almost certainly the most controversial -- philosopher alive today. From the way he is treated in the press, one might expect this book to be nothing but a foaming-at-the-mouth radical manifesto, but instead I found a cogent, carefully argued inquiry into moral issues raised by globalization. Singer begins, as any good philosopher does, from premises that he thinks he can get most people to agree on: that no moral principle in itself justifies giving more of a limited resource to one person than to another; that we ought to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves; that we have an obligation to assist those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in the direst poverty. From these premises, he carefully leads the reader to thoughtful conclusions, considering and responding to potential objections and modifying his own initial conclusions to provide a practical prescription for how one ought to act (the school of philosophy to which Singer belongs is known as "practical ethics").
In this brief book, Singer tackles 4 issues raised by globalization: how to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and global warming; whether the WTO and free trade make the world a better place or simply enrich the rich at the expense of the poor while undermining all other human values; when military intervention is justified to prevent or stop genocide or other crimes against humanity; and the scope of the Western world's obligations to the poor and less developed portions of the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Set in the context of globalization both of trade and of the capacity to mount attacks on cultures/communities that you consider to be hostile, Singer examines a selection of key policy decisions and institutions from an ethical viewpoint. These include:
* The ethics of a political position that gives absolute priority to the perceived short-term interests of the citizens of one's own country (particularly issues of poverty and environmental protection) - mainly in the Chapters "One Atmosphere" and "One Community", and ending (in "A Better World?") with a brief discussion of issues and alternatives for a better solution to the governance of a single world;
* An ethical critique of the World Trade Organization's defence against four key charges - in the Chapter "One Economy";
* A similar critique of the arguments advanced by global corporations for trading with dictatorial regimes - also in the Chapter "One Economy"; and
* An examination of the basis of international law, in particular the ethical basis for military intervention in another country - in the Chapter "One Law".
A notable feature of the book is the wealth of factual detail that Singer brings to underpin his case. Further, he avoids the trap of mere utopianism by the rigour and practicality of his arguments, while insisting on the importance of the ethical dimension in resolving the issues.
The care with which he lays out his arguments will provide food for thought for both sides of the divide about globalization, while his use of ethics as a touchstone highlights the sad fact that few current global policies, including the Iraq intervention, are ethically defensible.
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Format: Paperback
Clearly, the nations of the world are moving away from traditional sovereignty towards greater mutual dependency. That much is obvious. However, what shape this process will eventually take is not so obvious. In broad outline, Singer's book attempts to lay out the ethical foundations for a more just, humane, and sustainable global process. Of course, it's hard to argue with that, given so many present trends away from those laudable goals. On the other hand, it's certainly possible to take issue with Singer's consequentialist approach to these problems, as I'm sure ethicisists other than Singer will do. But that academic issue aside, the book's main value lies in the author's penetrating analysis of the WTO and its hypocritical foundations which he locates in the conflict between "process" and "product". The fact that the conflict is buried in the organization's misleadingly titled "10 Common Misunderstandings About the WTO" makes for an amusing irony. That section alone is worth the read. There are other less concentrated nuggets scattered throughout, including some shrewd and telling observations on the work of the renowned John Rawls.

My reservation is with the book's safely liberal framework. When all is said and done, Singer's prescriptions raise no issues beyond those of market reforms (reform of WTO), greater world democracy, and more generous foreign aid. In short, there is nothing there that the liberal wing of the Democratic party could not at least pay lip service to. Nowhere does his work suggest that the barriers confronting a more humane and sustainable planet are structural and non-negotiable, that wealth and power may have to be seriously redistributed, or that the problems may be more systemic than piece-meal.
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One World: The Ethics of Globalization (The Terry Lectures)
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