Between Anarchy and Society: Trusteeship and the Obligations of Power

By William Bain | Go to book overview

7 Trusteeship, International Society, and the Limit of Obligation

It might be said that this book has been thus far devoted to interrogating characteristics that are internal to the idea of trusteeship, and it has been suggested that the character of the idea of trusteeship is intelligible in certain beliefs about virtue, inequality, and tutelage. But to leave it at that would be to bring our investigation to a premature close. Therefore this chapter offers some thoughts about the idea of trusteeship and its place in the history of international society. The first section puts forward the claim that trusteeship is an historic idea that is distinctive of a particular time and place, and, specifically, that it is intelligible in relation to other ideas that are especially characteristic of the Enlightenment. Thus, trusteeship discloses moral excellence, and indeed obtains powerful justification, when it contributes to the unity, progress, and perfection of the human family. The second section argues that these ideas call forth an understanding of international life that conceives international society and human society as forming a perfect identity, and which is underwritten by the duty that we should act so as to secure the good of our fellows. The third section considers the limits of this duty, and concludes that in seeking the good of our fellows we must stop short of treating people paternally. This conclusion casts a pall of doubt on the legitimacy of trusteeship in contemporary international society, even when it is aimed at protecting fundamental human rights, because it proposes to treat an equal unequally. Indeed, trusteeship is morally objectionable because it offends the irreducible sanctity of human personality by repudiating the essence of what it means to be human-a thinking and choosing agent.


Unity, Progress, and Perfection of Humankind

The idea of trusteeship is, according to Giambiattista Vico's understanding of history, a novelty that cannot be wholly disconnected from the past, and yet it is at the same time an idea that is distinctly of the present-the here and now. Indeed, Vico believed that the reappearance over time of characteristics that distinguished one age from another enabled human beings to argue analogically between different periods of history. He did not, however, suppose

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Between Anarchy and Society: Trusteeship and the Obligations of Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Between Anarchy and Society iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Obligations of Power 27
  • 3: The Internationalization of Trusteeship 53
  • 4: Trusteeship as an Institution of International Society 78
  • 5: The Destruction of the Legitimacy of Trusteeship 108
  • 6: The New Paternalism 140
  • 7: Trusteeship, International Society, and the Limit of Obligation 173
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 207
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