Date of Award

Fall 10-12-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Alison Jaggar

Second Advisor

Claudia Mills

Third Advisor

Celeste Montoya


Thomas Pogge’s argument that the global economic order is harming the poor by causing severe poverty problematically ignores gender and race. I argue that it is only on the surface that his work is gender and race neutral and that a deeper examination reveals a covert gender and race bias that erases the gender and racial injustices committed by global economic institutions. I first argue that the feminization of poverty should be a conceptual starting point for assessing severe poverty. I use SAPs and microcredit to show that women are being disproportionately harmed by the economic policies of transnational economic institutions. Similarly, Pogge misses the salience of race to the structure of current transnational economic institutions, which are shaped by past racism and colonization. Rather than emphasize national inequalities, as Pogge does, it is necessary to look at how such inequalities are racially structured in order to grasp the nature of the moral ills producing severe poverty. Here, I draw upon Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract. I then assess Pogge’s institutional theory of human rights, arguing that there is a gender bias in his theory, which ignores the systematic nature of gender violence, especially domestic violence. I suggest that his theory can be modified and that reflection on the nature of gender violence points the way to a gender inclusive institutional account of human rights. Finally, I argue that Pogge’s theory is blind to institutional racism as a feature of the current global economic order. Institutional racism constitutes a serious human rights violation by perpetuating severe poverty and violating individuals’ rights to be free from racial discrimination. I build upon Gertrude Ezorsky’s definition of institutional racism to support my claim. My project is to uncover gender and race bias in order show the moral salience of race and gender to severe poverty and human rights.