Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force

Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force

Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force

Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force

Synopsis

The thirteen essays by Allen Buchanan collected here are arranged in such a way as to make evident their thematic interconnections: the important and hitherto unappreciated relationships among the nature and grounding of human rights, the legitimacy of international institutions, and the justification for using military force across borders. Each of these three topics has spawned a significant literature, but unfortunately has been treated in isolation. In this volume Buchanan makes the case for a holistic, systematic approach, and in so doing constitutes a major contribution at the intersection of International Political Philosophy and International Legal Theory. A major theme of Buchanan's book is the need to combine the philosopher's normative analysis with the political scientist's focus on institutions. Instead of thinking first about norms and then about institutions, if at all, only as mechanisms for implementing norms, it is necessary to consider alternative "packages" consisting of norms and institutions. Whether a particular norm is acceptable can depend upon the institutional context in which it is supposed to be instantiated, and whether a particular institutional arrangement is acceptable can depend on whether it realizes norms of legitimacy or of justice, or at least has a tendency to foster the conditions under which such norms can be realized. In order to evaluate institutions it is necessary not only to consider how well they implement norms that are now considered valid but also their capacity for fostering the epistemic conditions under which norms can be contested, revised, and improved.

Excerpt

This volume includes thirteen chapters that have appeared in diverse venues over the last nine years and arranges them in a way that makes their systematic interconnections evident. The chapters explore important relationships between the nature and moral grounding of international human rights, the legitimacy of international institutions, and the justifications for the use of force across borders. Taken together, they make the case for a holistic, systematic approach to the issues they examine, articulating close connections between human rights, legitimacy, and humanitarian intervention that have hitherto gone unnoticed because of the tendency to focus exclusively on one or the other of the three topics. A central theme of the volume is that productive thinking about the ethics of international relations must be more attentive to institutional issues. Instead of thinking first about norms and then only about institutions as mechanisms for implementing norms, it is necessary to consider alternative “packages” of norms and institutions. When philosophers make the case for certain norms and reject others, they typically rely tacitly on certain assumptions about the characters of the institutions within which the norms will operate, but too often these assumptions are accepted uncritically and are empirically unsupported. A central conclusion of this volume is that if philosophical thinking about ethics and international relations is to be rigorous, it must be more empirically informed as well as more sensitive to when it is relying on empirical assumptions about institutional resources.

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