This article traces a transition in the aspirations of social justice on global scale. The ‘welfare world’ vision of global justice, as it was captured most prominently by the proposals for a New International Economic Order in the mid-1970s, is contrasted with the contemporary ambitions of ‘supply chain ethics’, which seek to infuse transnational corporations with social responsibilities. These visions differ drastically in their ambitions, their epistemologies, and the role they reserve for the state but share a structural outlook on issues of social justice. Following the theme of the Special Issue, the shortcomings and the potential of the current supply chain ethics agenda in addressing the ‘human problems’ associated with corporate irresponsibility are reviewed. The paper suggests that mediating between structure and agency in a way that recontextualises the democratic principle is necessary to challenge power asymmetries in global regimes of production.
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