The Global Covenant: Human Conduct in a World of States

By Robert Jackson | Go to book overview

4 The Classical Approach as a Craft Discipline

The chapter moves the discussion forward by spelling out what the classical approach basically involves as a research enterprise. It characterizes that enterprise as a craft discipline—and not a strictly scientific or technical subject. Along the way it investigates several closely related topics, including some erroneous conceptions of norms in social science, the tension between academic detachment and political engagement, the dialogical modality of international ethics, the ethics of practitioners, and the difference between practice and theory. The final section outlines the stages of research involved in carrying out a classical normative inquiry into world politics.


Normative Inquiry into World Politics

There are five things to notice or keep in mind when it comes to normative inquiry into world politics: (1) Political scientists operate with contradictory conceptions of norms: some conceptions cannot lead to normative inquiry in the meaning of that term in classical political science. (2) There is a fundamental difference between a detached and disinterested orientation to international scholarship and a politically activist orientation. (3) International ethics and political ethics generally have a dialogical modality: it is a world of human communication, of question and answer, of dialogue and discourse. (4) International ethics is created by statespeople: it is their normative equipment. (5) Theory is a hostage to practice and not the other way about, as is often assumed.


1 The Study of Norms

Misunderstanding of normative inquiry is produced by the ambiguous meaning of 'norm' in social science discourse. A good point of departure in any discussion of norms is a fundamental distinction between nature and artifice which is captured by Karl Popper in terms of 'natural laws'—'i.e., a law that is factual and can be tested to see whether it is verifiable or falsifiable'—and 'normative laws'—'i.e., such rules as forbid or demand certain modes of conduct'. 1 Positivist

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