Thursday, 13 September 2012

The virtues in international society

an article by Jamie Gaskarth (University of Plymouth, UK) published in European Journal of International Relations Volume 18 Number 3 (September 2012)


Although there has been a significant growth in the literature on the ethics of international politics in recent years, much of this has focused on the normative structure of international relations and has downplayed the role of individuals in constituting the understandings and actions in this practice.

However, individual agency and accountability are apparent in recent world events. Meanwhile, developments in moral philosophy have increasingly led scholars to re-examine the role that individual character traits – virtues – have in affecting how norms are selected and operationalised.

Building on these insights, I argue here that a fully realised appreciation of the morality of international politics requires us to consider what character traits – virtues – its individual participants are expected to exhibit to support and realise its norms.

To do so, I begin by outlining how the virtues are deemed to underpin ethical practice and highlight two forms of analysis that may be used to explore this: decision-oriented virtue ethics and constitutive virtue ethics. I then suggest that these can be used to analyse the ethical foundations of international society.

Specifically, I adopt a constitutive virtue ethics approach to show how the virtues help to constitute international society using the case study of the establishment of the International Criminal Court. In the process, I aim to highlight both the extent to which the virtues are a feature of the rhetoric of global politics, and – more importantly – how they play a significant role in normative practice.

Hazel’s comment:
In answer to the question about relevance of this article to careers information I have to say, “Not much”. However, as we are living in an increasingly globalised society, and given that many young people are becoming more concerned about ethical practices than former generations I thought it was at least interesting.

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