n Stellenbosch Law Review - Social exclusion, global poverty, and scales of (in)justice : rethinking law and poverty in a globalizing world

Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1016-4359


Most discussions of law and poverty are pitched at the national level and tacitly presume what this paper terms "the Westphalian frame", which envisions the arena for addressing poverty as a modern territorial state. As a result, they imagine the victims of poverty as citizens of a bounded political community and picture the law that might help to rectify poverty as national law. Finally, they see the agency that might effect redress as a modern national state with sovereignty over a delimited territory.

This paper argues that the Westphalian framing of poverty and law is problematic in a globalizing world. Its constitutive assumptions are belied by the increasingly salient fact of "global poverty". Generated by transborder processes, the harms suffered by "the global poor" largely escape the parameters of national law and the control of national states. To locate them within the Westphalian frame is in fact to them. This paper maintains that sensitivity to the problem of is a for understanding some of the most characteristic forms of poverty in the 21st century. The question of scale is treated as a problem requiring interrogation.
Discussions of law and poverty need to reckon with the existence of a plurality of and need to contemplate the possibility that some forms of poverty cannot be overcome by appealing exclusively to national law. This paper suggests that some injustices are best located at the intersection of several scales.
This argument is made in several steps. After some preliminary reflections on terminology, a general conceptual account of social exclusion is presented. In this first step, a three-dimensional view of (in)justice, encompassing (mal)distribution, (mis)recognition, and (mis)representation is proposed. In a second step, the problem of scale is introduced. In a third step, this paper considers how such injustices might best be combated. In a brief on terminology, it is argued for reflection on the political implications of analytical categories, especially the terms "global poverty" and "the global poor".

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