The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States

By Robert Jackson | Go to book overview

Preface

This book addresses some vital normative questions that arise when human beings around the world organize their political lives and conduct their political relations on the basis of a society of independent states. The study investigates modern international society by paying particular attention to the norms of state sovereignty and the ethics of statecraft and with particular reference to the post-1945 and post-1989 periods. It presents a comprehensive analysis of the most important international issues of our time, including peace and security, war and intervention, human rights, failed states, territories and boundaries, and democracy. It draws on a family of closely related disciplines of classical international scholarship: diplomatic and military history, international legal studies, and international political theory. It addresses fundamental methodological questions and presents the elements of a human sciences approach to the study of world politics.

I have three principal aims in mind which are pursued in the three parts of the book: first, to rejuvenate the classical scholarship associated with the 'English School' which posits the foundation idea of international society as a defining feature of the modern political world; second, to extend that mode of analysis to the investigation of important normative issues of contemporary world politics; and third, to evaluate the pluralist and anti-paternalist body of international norms disclosed by that investigation and to assess its future prospects. I refer to that normative arrangement of world politics by the expression 'the global covenant'.

The study can be read as an extended essay on international freedom. Modern international society is a very important sphere of human freedom: it affords people the political latitude to live together within their own independent country, according to their own domestic ideas and beliefs, under a government made up of people drawn from their own ranks: international freedom based on state sovereignty. We should understand international freedom as a specific historical expression of classical liberalism: negative liberty for territorial groups: a doctrine which began its historical journey to the four corners of the world in the seventeenth century but only completed it in the second half of the twentieth century. After the Second World War the political leaders of the world reconstituted and enlarged modern international society. Membership in that world-wide association was arranged for people living in every corner of the globe. For the first time in history politics everywhere was now based on local state sovereignty. Western empires and colonies were a thing of the past. The quasi-empire known as the Soviet Union also was dismantled. In short,

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