Book Review: The Humanity of Universal Crime: Inclusion, Inequality, and Intervention in International Political Thought, by Sinja Graf

Published date01 April 2023
Date01 April 2023
Subject MatterBook Reviews
442 Political Theory 51(2)
racial justice. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
has released increasingly dire predictions of the future as climate change has
moved from expectation to reality. For some, returning to Rawls may feel
like a warm blanket in such circumstances. After all, a good blanket is valu-
able, even if one’s identity isn’t wrapped up in it, and affirming the impor-
tance of justice remains worthwhile. But Forrester suggests we can do more
with egalitarian liberalism today. If we take seriously the enormity of con-
temporary injustice, achieving freedom and equality together will require not
only tremendous ambition and radical imagination but also real humility to
reckon with how pervasive injustice has so far shaped egalitarian liberalism
itself. Demanding equality in a society pervasively structured by white
supremacy means something different than simply asking whether resources
should be redistributed from policing to other public services. Similarly, we
can and should consider the fair distribution of costs of adapting to a chang-
ing climate, but we also urgently need to begin a fundamental transformation
of the unsustainable basic structure of global society. And while egalitarian
liberals in elite schools arguably benefited from the inequality of the 1970s
and 80s, the neoliberal hollowing out of universities may have reached the
point that the continued viability of reading, writing, and teaching political
theory and philosophy as a profession depends on making higher education
genuinely available and accessible to all.
Such work can certainly be done in the spirit of Rawls, but it will require
conceptual tools that go beyond his, and it will require political allies who are
not themselves egalitarian liberals. Accordingly, against increasingly open
defense of inequality and authoritarianism, we need new shared imaginaries
that can help believers in human freedom and equality identify not with any
one master thinker but with a broader coalition of those committed to justice
for all.
The Humanity of Universal Crime: Inclusion, Inequality, and Intervention in International
Political Thought, by Sinja Graf, New York: Oxford University Press, 261 pp.
Reviewed by: Sanjay Seth, Department of Politics and International Relations,
Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.
DOI: 10.1177/00905917221085605
The expression “crimes against humanity” was used by Lloyd George to
characterize the Kaiser’s actions in initiating the Great War and figured again
during the Nuremberg trials. In both cases, what was adverted to was

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT