Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach

Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach

Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach

Normative Theory in International Relations: A Pragmatic Approach

Synopsis

Molly Cochran offers an account of the development of normative theory in international relations over the past two decades. In particular, she analyzes the tensions between cosmopolitan and communitarian approaches to international ethics, paying attention to differences in their treatments of a concept of the person, the moral standing of states and the scope of moral arguments. The book draws connections between this debate and the tension between foundationalist and antifoundationalist thinking and offers an argument for a pragmatic approach to international ethics.

Excerpt

Normative theory in International Relations (IR), as it is discussed at present in the framework of the cosmopolitan/communitarian debate, is at a standstill. Cosmopolitan and communitarian positions are generally assumed to be irreconcilable, with no means available for reaching conclusions. This book pursues three lines of inquiry in relation to this debate. First, it aims to examine the nature and extent of the impasse within the cosmopolitan/communitarian debate. Secondly, it re-evaluates whether the cosmopolitan/communitarian dichotomy offers a complete picture of the most pressing issues at stake within normative IR theory. The book suggests that a shift in focus onto epistemology and questions of foundationalism and antifoundationalism is necessary. Thirdly, it constructs an argument for a new normative approach to international ethics which draws from the tradition of American pragmatism and is attentive to the wider concerns raised by the book's assessment of the cosmopolitan/communitarian debate. The three parts of the book take each of these lines of inquiry in turn.

In order to illuminate the nature of the debate between cosmopolitans and communitarians and the extent of its impasse, the Introduction proposes a formulation of three central issues as an analytical tool. These issues are: (1) a concept of the person; (2) the moral relevance of states; and (3) the universal versus the particular. The extent of the impasse is gauged by the degree to which accommodations can be reached on any or all of these three issues. Also, an 'anchor analogy' is drawn in the Introduction that is used throughout the book to facilitate discussion of epistemological issues in normative IR theory. This analogy illustrates the foundational claims implicit or explicit in the work of the writers discussed.

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