The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States

By Robert Jackson | Go to book overview

2 International Human Relations

This chapter introduces the mode of reasoning employed throughout the book: that international relations is entirely a sphere of human relations, nothing more and nothing less. No part of it exists beyond human relations. The chapter briefly contrasts that humanist conception with a positivist social science conception of international relations as self-existing structures and selfpropelling systems. 1 It then proceeds to rehearse, in one epigrammatic statement, seven main features and facets of international relations as a distinctive and fundamentally important human activity. They are spelt out in the chapters which follow.


Prologue

The subtitle of the book is intended to make the point that international relations is a human activity, and like any other human activity, it is carried on very significantly by reference to a normative framework of a distinctive kind. I shall argue that world politics cannot be divorced from moral questions because it involves human beings in their role as stateleaders and citizens and in various other international roles; it also affects other people who are not directly or indirectly involved in the activities of particular states. 'International ethics' or 'the ethics of statecraft' or 'the morality of the states system' are expressions that only make sense if people are involved: they are the only creatures to whom morality in the usual meaning applies or can apply.

We cannot speak intelligibly of states or states systems as if they were entities that exist apart from people—like planets travelling through space along gravitational paths determined by the physical forces of nature. World politics is not a natural world; it is a world created and inhabited by people. States, like houses, are human constructs: they are built on a piece of land to provide a home for certain people who become the resident population. The society of states is also a human arrangement: it is organized and operated wholly by people, the

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