In previous chapters I argued that the normative foundation of international relations is pluralistic and that it must be so to accommodate the assorted civilizations and cultures of the globe whose values may be inconsistent, divergent, incompatible, or even mutually antagonistic. This chapter contemplates some important alternative images of present and future world politics which take issue, either explicitly or by implication, with the morality of the sovereign state and the ethics of statecraft. They portray world politics as embarked on a course of fundamental transformation that renders the post-1945 international societas increasingly out of date and even obsolete. They see the emergence of a global universitas based on a hierarchy of values, at the top of which is their own preferred values, usually democracy or human rights. Or they detect a retreat into a fractured and fragmented world characterized by relativism. This chapter assesses these arguments with a view to clearing the ground for a defence of the global covenant which shall be presented in the final chapter.
One revisionist school argues that it is necessary to adopt an activist international morality for our rapidly changing world. At the heart of this argument is the claim that non-intervention produces, or at least it tolerates, needless human suffering in many countries around the world. It does that by preserving states which have failed their own people, and by protecting governments which allow or commit serious human rights violations. These critics thus argue from a normative perspective in which the sovereign state is no longer privileged and the taboo against intervention is relaxed, usually on humanitarian grounds.
This critique of the global covenant draws our attention to the commission of 'human wrongs' in numerous countries around the world. 1 Humanitarian monitoring organizations report widespread and recurrent human rights abuses,