The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States

By Robert Jackson | Go to book overview

15 Justifying the Global Covenant

This chapter stands back and assesses the societas of states from a broader perspective of human conduct. The first section recollects two limiting conditions of human relations with regard to which the global covenant should be understood as an institutional response: human diversity and human imperfection. Human diversity separates people into different personalities and collectivities. Human imperfection, on the other hand, unites people via their shared intellectual frailties and common moral deficiencies. Against that background, the chapter proceeds to defend the moral and legal foundations of the global covenant: normative pluralism, political anti-paternalism, international law, and political virtue. They are justified as serviceable international norms that come to grips with the unavoidable realities of human diversity and human imperfection. 1 They compose a workable ethics of international relations. The final section examines the evolutionary character of the societas of states and offers some concluding reflections on its historical staying power and future prospects as a normative framework of world politics.


Human Diversity and Human Imperfection

International ethics, just like any other practical morality, must deal with human beings not as we might wish them to be but rather as they are, 'warts and all', and as they disclose themselves by their actions in the circumstances in which they live. The diversity of human life-ways and living conditions to be found within the approximately 190 member states that make up contemporary global international society is huge and impossible to summarize even in the most general terms. That should be obvious to any informed observer of world politics. Anyone who has travelled abroad will be aware of that diversity; indeed, to witness it at first hand is one of the main reasons for travelling in foreign countries. If we could be travellers in time as well as space we would see far more human diversity: most of our ancestors would be remote and probably incomprehensible

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