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A Marxist perspective on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

posted on 2023-05-22, 18:59 authored by Weis, VV, Robert WhiteRobert White
This chapter examines the theoretical contributions of Marx and Engels as a framework for analysing the historical evolution of the idea of inequality within the domestic and international legal frameworks in capitalist societies. It discusses what can be referred to as a triple inequality in the legal frameworks that emerged at the end of the eighteenth century in a historical context dominated by bourgeois revolutions. The new ruling class relied on a legal-philosophical discourse to promote a drastic legal transformation: the equal treatment for all citizens under the law. This marked the beginning of a period of ‘idyllic justice’ grounded in consensual social values that gave the appearance, at least formally, of non-selectivity. Despite these promises, the emergent formal treatment under the law contrasted with the inequality of the law in practice. The continuity of the vulnerable sectors' dispossession – an inherent element of the development of capitalism – was then masked behind three modes of inequality: the denial of unequal material conditions through the imposition of an ahistorical and abstract characterisation of the law; inequality of the formal law; and inequality in the application of the law. Today, in an age of global governance, this chapter proposes that a similar process of global triple inequality is taking place through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reflections on possible paths to overcome this trend can be found at the end of the chapter.


Publication title

The Emerald Handbook of Crime, Justice and Sustainable Development




J Blaustein, K Fitz-Gibbon, NW Pino and R White






School of Social Sciences


Emerald Publishing Limited

Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2021 The Authors

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Criminal justice