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Environmental justice brings together two of the most powerful social movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, environmentalism and civil rights. Despite the success in reducing pollution and improving environmental quality in many areas, the reduction of race- and income-based disparities in environmental conditions, such as the levels of pollution to which individuals are exposed, has seen limited progress. Minority and low income communities continue to bear the brunt of environmental burdens. The idea of environmental justice also helps clarify the ethical issues underlying climate change and compels action to reduce the threat even in the face of uncertainties and to help poor nations with the costs of adapting to disruptive climate change. A major challenge in environmental justice is deciding how to define the problem. Five options for framing the issue of environmental justice capture most of the approaches taken by advocates and scholars. These are the civil rights framework; theories of distributive justice, fairness, and rights; the public participation framework, social justice framework, and ecological sustainability framework. These frameworks are not mutually exclusive. They overlap considerably and proponents of one primary framework may rely on elements of others as they frame the issues. Advocates of environmental justice will find that elements of each can contribute to their goal. No one framework is sufficient, but in recognizing where those with other views are coming from, we can develop opportunities for creative solutions that bring together alternative approaches.
Resources have become part of the larger discussion on environmental security, not only because they are sometimes the object of conflict but also because the use of fossil fuels and the deforestation of the planet are key contributors to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, the main cause of climate change. In the last few decades, scholarly literature has integrated the environment into discussions of war, conflict, and specifically security. Initial formulations of conflict research in what became the discourse of environmental security were anchored on the assumption that shortages of renewable resources would likely be aggravated by various kinds of environmental degradation. There are lessons to be learned from the history of the environmental security debate that have a direct bearing on the discussion of climate change and how this might affect security in coming decades. One crucial lesson is disciplinary, and another concerns questions of how the social, economic, and physical locales in which insecurities happen shape both the patterns of violence and the opportunities for peacebuilding. It is important that we think very carefully about the appropriate geopolitical contexts in which the relationship between environmental security and climate change is addressed. The military appears to be the institution most suited to alerting governments and publics about the need to tackle the issue of climate change issue, but diplomacy and development cooperation are also required.
Environmental sustainability is most often discussed in the context of “sustainable development,” a goal-oriented, normative concept that emphasizes the need to reconcile the often conflicting goals of economic development, environmental protection, and social progress. Despite various efforts throughout human history to encourage responsible harvesting of renewable resources such as timber forests, fish, and game, at rates that do not exceed the so-called “sustainable yield,” there is a tendency toward the “tragedy of the commons”—the incentive to overexploit shared natural resources. The challenge of sustainability is how to develop or improve the capability of individuals and communities to foster a high quality of life, without undermining the ecological and natural resource foundations on which all development ultimately depends. This essay also outlines two contrasting energy paths that the United States might follow: the hard energy path, which included rapid growth in energy demand and expansion of large-scale, centralized coal, oil and gas, and nuclear electricity production facilities that were inherently wasteful; and the soft energy path, which relied on decentralized and diverse energy projects designed to meet specific local needs, and a technological and social commitment to conservation. It also discusses policies designed to improve welfare without increasing energy and material throughput—such as investing human resources into alternatives to consumption; for example, innovations in simple living, collective action, nonmaterial personal satisfaction, and needs prevention. These approaches draw from case studies that demonstrate how the logic of sufficiency can lead to improved human welfare at lower environmental costs.
Robert Bartlett and Priya Kurian
The fundamental conflicts and contradictions between environment and development, and various theoretical and practical efforts to reconcile them, have been a prominent part of the history of development thinking since environmentalism emerged as a significant political phenomenon in the 1960s. The idea of development as change for the better resonates perhaps with all civilizations and across time. All civilizations have development myths which reflect a self-awareness that a particular culture had at some time in the past advanced from a more primitive, less developed state. But these cultural myths of development are only incidentally material or economic. More pronounced concerns over the environment and development emerged during the 1960s and the 1970s. These decades were marked by the emergence of widespread public concern about environmental problems of air and water pollution, and the growth of the environmental movement led to national environmental policy developments and international efforts on the environmental front. In addition, development, environment, and sustainability are all normative concepts with implications for ethics and justice. The vast literature on sustainable development has spawned a range of critiques from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. The environmental justice literature developed after early sustainable development literature, and raises questions about intragenerational equity.
Elizabeth L. Chalecki
The term environment is often used as a short form for the biophysical environment, which refers to the biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. All life that has survived must have adapted to conditions of its environment. On one hand, part of the study of environmental science is the investigation of the effect of human activity on the environment. On the other hand, scholars also examine threats posed by environmental events and trends to individuals, communities, or nations, otherwise known as environmental security. It studies the impact of human conflict and international relations on the environment, or on how environmental problems cross state borders. Environmental security is a significant concept in two fields: international relations and international development. Within international development, projects may aim to improve aspects of environmental security such as food security or water security, along with connected aspects such as energy security. The importance of environmental security lies in the fact that it affects humankind and its institutions anywhere and at anytime. To the extent that humankind neglects to maintain the planet’s life-supporting eco-systems generating water, food, medicine, and clean air, current and future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe instances of environmentally induced changes.
Peter M. Haas
The literature on the political economy of the global environment is a hybrid of political economy, international relations (IR), and international environmental politics, looking at the formal and informal institutional factors which give rise to unsustainable habits. The physical environment has long been the subject of social scientists, who recognized that patterns of social activity might contribute to environmental degradation. One of the most common formulations of environmental issues as a collective action is through the metaphor of the Tragedy of Commons, which argues that overpopulation worldwide would undoubtedly contribute to extensive resource depletion. Following the formulation of the core properties of environmental issues as lying at the interstices of a variety of human activities, implications followed for how to conduct research on international environmental politics and policy. Realist and neorealist traditions in international relations stress the seminal role of power and national leadership in addressing environmental problems. Neoliberal institutionalists look at the role of formal institutional properties in influencing states’ willingness to address transboundary and global environmental threats. On the other hand, the constructivist movement in international relations focuses on the role of new ecological doctrines in how states choose to address their environmental problems, and to act collectively. Ultimately, the major policy debates over the years have addressed the political economy of private investment in environmentally oriented activities, sustainable development doctrines, free trade and the environment, environmental security, and studies of compliance, implementation, and effectiveness.
A comprehensive review of the scholarly literature that considers ethical questions surrounding human migration flows across international borders covers themes of membership and belonging, the right to exclude, the liberal impasse with regard to immigration, the role of property rights at the international level, movement through visa categories, and the problem of jurisdiction during migration journeys. Such an examination reveals that migration provokes a particular problem for international relations when the nation-state is the primary unit of analysis, and that the current literature acknowledges yet does little to correct a Western bias at the heart of scholarly work on the ethics of human migration flows.
Ethical questions regarding human migration have been at the forefront of news and public debate, particularly in recent years. The implications of human migration for membership in political communities have received much attention in political theory, international relations theory, international law, human rights, and ethics. Migration, by definition, challenges some of the key assumptions, categories, and ways of theorizing international relations (hereafter IR). The conventional assumptions of IR reproduce the notion that states as unitary actors interact with each other in a global sphere or within the confines of the international system and its structure and rules of behavior. In this rendering of the global, there is little room for people who seep outside of state borders, people who move with no national affiliation, or people who retain multiple national affiliations. The embodied contestation of the territorial categories of IR that is practiced by the movement of people is particularly relevant to constructivist IR theory. If the world is constituted through social interactions and intersubjective understandings, when social interactions happen across borders the intersubjective understanding of state units containing human populations is called into question. When people manifest multiple identities, the state-based identities of the international system are called into question. Studies of the ethics of migration flows then must tackle these lines of inquiry.
Literature concentrated on sovereignty’s location laid the groundwork for the distinctive sort of ethical detachment that has characterized sovereignty in international relations (IR). While it is customary to refer to sovereign absolutism as linking a logic of prerogative with sovereignty, mainstream IR theory has reproduced its own variation on the theme and done little until recently to decouple the two. Yet beginning in the late 1970s, the literature began to entertain the idea that interdependence and globalization impede, constrain, corrode, or diminish the core assumptions of sovereignty: the centralization of power and authority, the supremacy of the state, the state’s capabilities to achieve its objectives, and the degree of permissiveness afforded by an anarchical system. Put differently, the space within which sovereignty could operate unencumbered rapidly diminished in size and scope, and the sovereign state, by losing control over various functions, was becoming incoherent at minimum, and irrelevant at maximum. If these arguments focused on a narrow question, then a new literature emerged in the mid to late 1990s that focused on, and questioned, sovereignty as authority. Moreover, the debates about globalization underscored sovereignty’s disjunctive nature. Yet by linking it so closely with material structures and factors, the literature generally elided consideration of the constitutive effect of international norms on sovereignty and the ways the institution of sovereignty has changed over time.
Anthony F. Lang
The concepts of ethics, justice, and security are inextricably linked within the field of International Relations (IR). In IR, three concepts are most often deployed in understanding the ethics of security: norms, rules, and laws. These norms, rules, and laws evaluate security, which is an alternative concept for describing what IR as a discipline has long sought to address: namely, war. Hence, norms, rules, and laws provide a means to evaluate violence and war. Using the first three concepts to evaluate the latter two is the heart of ethics and security. The concept of justice, however, suggests that simple norms, rules, and laws may not be enough. There have been debates about the use of military force since ancient times—the Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, and Islamic traditions have their own conceptions of how war and violence ought to be addressed. One of the more prominent ideas drawn from these debates is the concept of the “just war,” which emerged from Christian tradition. The concept of just war has played a role in constructing the international legal tradition. This tradition as an explicit moral one was subsumed into international law during the nineteenth century, but re-emerged in the mid-twentieth century. Today, it has become an influential source of critical reflection upon both legal and practical dilemmas in international security, informing a wide range of debates around the world.
Reina C. Neufeldt
The proliferation of international peacebuilding practice in the 2000s was accompanied by a series of questions that has produced a significant body of writing about peacebuilding ethics within International Relations. This growing body of literature has produced questions, debates and theoretical positions. As explored below, a limited set of meta-ethics considerations provide the foundation for normative theorizing, particularly the moral objectivist commitment to positive peace. The majority of theorizing is situated among normative ethics debates. These works respond to the questions: Who has agency or who ought to have agency in peacebuilding? What ends should peacebuilding pursue? And, what means will ensure that peacebuilding is done right? The related literature focuses on a broad range of conditions, from individuals working for nongovernmental organizations to state- and United Nations–sponsored interventions. It includes authors who write from cosmopolitan, consequentialist, postcolonial, virtue, critical, feminist, and Foucaultian perspectives, among others. Finally, there is nascent work in descriptive and applied ethics.
Peacebuilding efforts to rebuild relationships and structures during and after conflict, violence and war present a series of ethical questions and challenges for international and national actors. Should the international community engage in peacebuilding? To what extent? Who ought to be involved? What constitutes good ends for peacebuilding? How can peacebuilding be done right? These questions identify the ways in which peacebuilding has been morally interrogated since its rise in prominence as a form of international intervention in the 1990s. The history of peacebuilding and peacebuilding meta-ethics must be considered with a view toward current normative ethics debates involving agency as well as the ends and means in peacebuilding.
Torture has recently become the focus of renewed scholarly attention, including a philosophical and political debate about whether torture is ever justified. The basic parameters of the debate revolve around the question whether there should be an absolute prohibition against torture or whether it is a lesser evil to torture a suspect for information to prevent a greater evil that menaces society. Historically, torture was not only common in times of war and social upheaval, but it was also openly practiced in many societies as an integral part of the judicial system. It was seen as an effective technique for obtaining “true” information as well as an appropriate punishment for the immoral and a useful deterrent against future misconduct. Both democratic and nondemocratic forms of government engage in ill-treatment and torture, but the existence of liberal democratic institutions reduces the incidence of torture. Since 9/11, there has been considerable debate over state use of torture, as some scholars have suggested that there is a profound shift in attitudes toward torture following the 9/11 attacks. Numerous works have provided detailed analyses and documentary evidence of the Bush administration’s incarceration and interrogation policies in the war on terror. Critics of torture charge that it is immoral because it involves the inhumane treatment of human beings. On the other hand, a number of scholars have argued that individual acts of torture by state officials are warranted in extreme situations.
Landon E. Hancock
Ethnicity and identity are largely about boundaries; in fact, there is no way to determine one’s identity—ethnic or otherwise—without reference to some sort of boundary. In approaching the study of ethnicity and identity, sociology, anthropology, and to a lesser extent political science and international relations tend to focus on the group level and define ethnicity and ethnic identity as group phenomena. Psychology, by contrast, focuses on the individual level. These two disciplinary areas represent the opposite ends of a conceptual focus in examining both ethnicity as a group phenomenon and identity as an individual phenomenon, with a “middle ground” outlined by symbolic interactionism focusing on the processes of formation and reformation through the interaction of individuals and groups. The thread that runs through each of these ordinarily disparate disciplines is that, when examining ethnicity or identity, there is a common factor of dialectic between the sameness of the self or in-group and differentiation with the other or out-group. Moreover, an examination of the manner in which the generation of identity at one level has an explicit connection to the germination of identity at other levels of analysis shows that they combine together in a process of identification and categorization, with explicit links between the self and other at each level of analysis.
For some time, scholars have noticed that ethnic groups that are geographically concentrated or possess a “regional base” tend to become embroiled in anti-state rebellion at a much higher rate than other ethnic groups. Countries with higher numbers of geographically concentrated ethnic minorities and self-determination movements tend to see more internal violence. Furthermore, if popular demands for independence exist, they may or may not reach serious political expression, and that expression may take various forms, from electoral action to protest or outright rebellion. The form of expression depends on institutional constraints and various factors that generate reasons for conflict; however, not all attempts at secession are done with violence. Many secessionist organizations have in fact refrained from violence, and some governments permit secessionists to organize, to contest elections, and even to pursue independence through the political process. Recently, scholarship has begun to move away from the determinants of popular demands for sovereignty to the dynamics of secessionist mobilization, including collective protest and rebellion. This research sees the struggle between nationalists and the state in the context of game theory, particularly deterrence models, and generally stresses concepts such as capability, information, and credibility. Secessionism overall remains a research frontier in both comparative politics and international relations.
Mehmet Sinan Birdal and Josephine Squires
International relations theory has much to gain from studying ethnicity, nationalism, and colonialism. Research on nationalism has produced important theoretical contributions to constructivist approaches in international relations. Similarly, postcolonial theory can contribute to international relations theory by exploring aspects of identity construction that are neglected in studies with exclusive focus on Western states. For example, postcolonial theory can be used in the study of ethnic conflict by combining both aspects of identity construction and strategizing, and how research on ethnicity and nationalism and postcolonial studies can benefit from closer dialogue. Moreover, postcolonial studies raise important epistemological and normative questions that need to be taken seriously by international relations scholars. Postcolonial and subaltern studies question the knowledge claims made by area studies by criticizing their representational strategies of colonialism and the postcolonial situation. They pose a challenge for international relations as a discipline by questioning the knowledge–power nexus. They assert that the presumably “scientific” accounts of the non-West carry the ideological baggage of colonialism. What is needed therefore is to account first for the historical representation of the non-West in Western scientific discourse and produce a critique of this knowledge system as a legitimating and administrative discourse in the service of colonialism.
Eunice Y. Kang, Hyung-Gu Lynn, and Apichai W. Shipper
East Asian countries have varying levels of ethnic homogeneity. North and South Korea have long been considered among the most ethnically homogeneous nation-states in the world. In South Korea, the number of foreigners who were long-term visitors (over 90 days) or residents accounted for 1.3 percent of the total population in 2006. While no equivalent statistics are available for North Korea, given the data available, it seems safe to assume that the ethnic minority population in that country totals less than 1 percent. The Japanese also view themselves as a racially distinct and homogeneous people, despite the historical presence of foreigners and ethnic minorities. China is composed of a patchwork of ethnicities with around 55 state-recognized minority groups. However, according to the 2005 census, minorities accounted for only 9.4 percent of the overall population or 123 million people. Despite different levels of ethnic homogeneity, China, Korea, and Japan are witnessing a rise in international (and internal) migration over the past three decades. The recent increase of foreign migrant workers and spouses has challenged the dominant perceptions of ethnic homogeneity in Korea and Japan, while further strengthening the bonds of ethnic heterogeneity in China. These changes have not only forced a reshaping of the notions of identity and citizenship, but have also helped fuel the rise of various “reactive” forms of neo-nationalism, such as “state nationalism,” “ethnic nationalism,” and “cultural nationalism,” that attempt to fortify or recuperate ethnic or race-based definitions of national identity.
In southeast Asia, ethnic tensions and conflicts stem in large part from economic or power rivalries rather than cultural differences. The political relationships between ethnic identities and nation-state identities in southeast Asia can be analyzed based on three different frameworks, each offering important insights into the region’s complexities and variations. The first is the plural society approach, which points to cultural pluralism as the source of political tensions in southeast Asia. The implication of this view is that ethnic violence will tend to take the form of rioting between people of different cultures as they compete for state resources or power. The second framework is a state legitimacy approach, which argues that the national identity strategies adopted by the state elites are the key factor influencing the structure of ethnic politics. In this context, the strategy of state legitimation is employed to promote the migration of highland ethnic minorities out of their ancestral homeland areas so as to facilitate their economic development, but also their assimilation into the ethnic core. The third framework is a globalized disruption approach, which suggests that globalization has three negative impacts relating to economic disparities, the problematical politics of democratization, and fears of international or domestic terrorism. It can be said that the politics of ethnicity and nationalism in southeast Asia arises from the enhanced appeal of ethnic and national stereotypes for people experiencing diverse insecurities, giving rise to inter-ethnic distrust as well as intra-ethnic factionalism.
Migration has had a strong impact on the interplay between ethnicity and nationalism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s ethnic map of Africa is the outcome of a lengthy history of comings and goings. Before the European conquests, Africa was not populated by clearly bounded, territorially grounded tribes or ethnic groups in the Western sense. Instead, the most prominent characteristics of precolonial African societies were mobility, overlapping networks, multiple group membership, and the context-dependent drawing of boundaries. Colonialism was later seen as having shaped, even created ethnic identities, contributing to the African shift away from Western notions of nationalism. Afterward, with the postcolonial state taking up its mantle, ethnic loyalty continued to overpower national identity. Local ethnic associations have since acted as a substitute for national citizenship, and ethnic belonging for national consciousness. Three countries in particular demonstrate this interplay of ethnicity, nationalism, and migration in sub-Saharan Africa: Côte d’Ivoire, together with the homeland of many of its migrants, Burkina Faso, in West Africa; South Africa, together with the homeland of many of its migrants, Lesotho; and Botswana in southern Africa. They show that, even across very disparate countries and regions, a common trend is visible toward official attempts to subsume internal ethnic differences under a form of nationalism defined partly by excluding those deemed sometimes rather arbitrarily to be external to the polity.
Since the second half of the 1940s, the Middle East has experienced intense migrations. In 2005 alone, the region received a total of approximately 6 million refugees. Migration flows to and from the Middle East have been linked to nationalist movements and ethnic conflicts. However, these relations have received little attention from scholars. Scholarly work on migration in the Middle East that has accumulated between the early 1950s and the late 1980s falls into two broad categories in terms of subject matter: Jewish migration to Israel and the Palestinian refugees, and migrations to labor-short countries of the Gulf and Europe. New trends in the literature on migration in the Middle East can also be identified, including those relating to the gender aspects of migration, population displacement and resettlement, return migration, and the relationship between migration and security. Although the field has made significant progress—the scope of the literature with respect to subject matter has broadened from the 1980s onward, and the methods used by scholars have become more sophisticated over the years—there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed. A number of important issues, such as citizenship or economic dynamics, remain unexplored. Since labor migrations to and from the Middle East are central to economic development, a focus on the evolution of migration may shed light on numerous relevant themes.
Much of the literature on ethnic lobby groups comes from either research on interest groups or ethnicity that looks to foreign policy cases, or foreign policy analysis studies that focus on the role of interest groups or ethnic groups. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a burst of scholarly activity regarding ethnic interest group activism in US foreign policy, following the changes in American society and in the US Congress that emerged from the wake of Watergate, Vietnam, and the civil rights movement. Later, the end of the Cold War brought a new burst of ethnic lobbying on foreign policy, and a new wave of scholarly attention to these issues. During both of these bursts of attention, studies predominantly focused on the activities of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which was often seen as an exception to the rule that interest groups are not very significant forces in the foreign policy sphere. Another source of research on ethnic issues and foreign policy is the emerging literature on ethnicity, the construction thereof, and the political development of ethnic communities over time. The three basic issues that stand out in the literature about ethnic lobbying on foreign policy include the formation of ethnic interest groups, the roots of ethnic interest group success, and whether ethnic lobbies actually capture policy in their respective areas, at least in the context of US foreign policy. Meanwhile, the two level game perspective and the competition among ethnic groups needs further exploration.
Terrorism has been described variously as a tactic and strategy, a crime and a holy duty, as well as a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Nationalist terrorism is a form of terrorism motivated by nationalism. Nationalist terrorists seek to form self-determination in some form, which may range from gaining greater autonomy to establishing a completely independent, sovereign state. Nationalist terrorism is linked to a national, ethnic, religious, or other identifying group, and the feeling among members of that group that they are oppressed or denied rights, especially rights accorded to others. But while terrorism has more often been based on revolutionary politics, there has also been an increase in terrorist activity motivated by religion. Terrorist acts done in the name of religion typically aim to enforce a system of belief, viewpoint or opinion. The validity and scope of religious terrorism is limited to an individual’s view or a group’s view or interpretation of that belief system’s teachings. There are some researchers, however, who argue that religion should be considered only one incidental factor and that such terrorism is primarily geopolitical. Meanwhile, ethnic violence refers to violence expressly motivated by ethnic hatred and ethnic conflict. The minimum requirement for ethnic tensions to result in ethnic violence on a systemic level is a heterogeneous society and the lack of a power to prevent them from fighting.