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Article

Gary Bryner

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.

Article

Andreas Papamichail and Anthony F. Lang Jr.

The concept of security is central to the study of international relations (IR), yet it remains heavily contested, both in theory and in practice. In part, this is because the concept contains intractable tensions and contradictions. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a result of this, security—if understood as a state of being that is a function of war and peace—has been the subject of ethical reflection for millennia. Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions, among others, all 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 the Christian tradition. It became an influential source of critical reflection upon both legal and practical dilemmas in international security, informing a wide range of debates around the world, and it has persisted at the heart of the field of Security Studies that emerged post-World War II. However, in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, changing notions of legitimate authority and broadened conceptions of conditions that cause harm and insecurity led to challenges to state-centrism and war-centrism in Security Studies. Issues such as global health security, counterterrorism, and humanitarian intervention have demonstrated the inherent tensions within security practices and demand novel ethical engagement. Approaching the issue of security from the perspective of international political theory (IPT) allows us to probe the ethical dimensions of security and ask how justice, authority, and security are linked and with what consequences.

Article

Peter J. Dixon, Luke Moffett, and Adriana Rudling

The devastation brought by war leaves behind irreparable loss and destruction. Yet over the past 100 years there has been a concerted effort by states, both within their territory and following conflicts with other states, to resolve the past through reparations. As a legal and political tool, reparations can affirm values in a postconflict society through recognising suffering and responsibility, as well as helping those most affected by the conflict to cope with their loss. However, the scale of harm and damage of war may devastate a state’s capacity to redress all victims, and states may have more pressing priorities to reconstruct and encourage development. While the guns have been silenced, the motivations and ideologies that fueled and justified violence may continue, politicising debates over which victims are deserving of reparation or absolving the responsibility of certain actors, causing reparations to be delayed or dropped. Where reparations are made, furthermore, assessments of their effectiveness in meeting their goals are both challenging and necessary. This article addresses these issues, providing a snapshot of the key debates in the area, the continuing gaps, and the need for further research.

Article

Kevin K W Ip

Distributive justice, in its broadest sense, is about how benefits and burdens ought to be distributed among a set of individuals as a matter of right and entitlement. Political philosophers have traditionally assumed that principles of distributive justice apply only within the bounds of a given political community. However, this assumption has been rigorously challenged in recent years, as evidenced by the recent work on global distributive justice. The focus of this article includes theoretical approaches to the problem of global poverty, special obligations among fellow nationals, and global inequality. In addition to these theoretical debates, students of global distributive justice have paid considerable attention to how certain facts about the global domain might affect the grounds of their normative judgments. Therefore, it is important to focus on the application of distributive justice to certain global issues. These issues include reparations for historic injustice, climate change, transnational trade, and natural-resources ownership. These issues are inevitably global in scope and they tend to have profound impacts on the well-being of individuals around the world.

Article

One of the primary goals of the United Nations (UN) is to provide justice. The vast majority of mentions of “justice” in the UN Charter relate to the creation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), one of the UN’s five principal organs. However, this body is not empowered to take cases on behalf of aggrieved individuals or even to prosecute individual malefactors. Rather, it is “justice” for states that is its goal. Meanwhile, the treaties signed at the 1948 Peace of Westphalia radically delimited the arena of international affairs. Most importantly, Westphalia held as paramount the noninterference by other states in the internal affairs of other members of the international community. Rejecting the logic of Westphalia, the notions of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect” refer to the legal right and/or obligation for a state to interfere in another state for purposes of humanitarian protection. Consequently, the UN established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in order to address the carnage ongoing in the Balkans, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which targeted that country’s 1994 Hutu–Tutsi violence. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC), a non-UN institution, is the first permanent international tribunal devoted to justice in the wake of mass crimes. Each of these post-Cold War international tribunals have been concerned with the enforcement of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Ultimately, however, the international community continues to hold fast to central elements of Westphalian protections.

Article

Within the international society, law and diplomacy have always been complementary and interdependent. However, lawyers and diplomats deal with international issues differently, making them rivals to be the primary mode of international interaction. Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states; it usually refers to international diplomacy, the conduct of international relations through the mediation of professional diplomats with regard to a full range of topical issues. Nations sometimes resort to international arbitration when faced with a specific question or point of contention in need of resolution. For most of history, there were no official or formal procedures for such proceedings. They were generally accepted to abide by general principles and protocols related to international law and justice. International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted as binding in relations between states and between nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. Much of international law is consent-based governance. This means that a state member is not obliged to abide by this type of law, unless it has expressly consented to a particular course of conduct, or entered a diplomatic convention. Interdisciplinary courses, like diplomacy and international law, are designed to help one think critically about diplomatic and international legal issues in real-life contexts, while applying theory to practice and addressing some of the key questions facing the world today.

Article

Human development as a concept seeks to make individuals the driving force behind state development. Even though international organizations (IOs) are formal agreements by and for the benefit of member states and have historically prioritized states’ interests, it can still be argued that human beings have long been the central concern of many IOs, even for some of the oldest surviving ones today. Nowadays, the human development framework appears to serve as the principal intellectual and normative construct regarding how to achieve national economic growth while building broad social justice and opportunity for individuals. Its allure derives as much from its coherent philosophical critique of past empirical development failures as it does from its incorporation of values and ethics appealing to a broad spectrum of professionals working in the development community. The human development approach was in part necessitated by the monopolization of economic development by states even from the advent of the enterprise in the 1950s. But despite the widespread adoption of the human development framework as an operative concept in the practice of development, it is not without controversy. Most of the critique is directed toward the underlying premises of the capabilities approach and the elements its adherents must elucidate in order to effectively implement its tenets in policy.

Article

Caron E. Gentry

Alex J. Bellamy's Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq (2006), Michael Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars (1977), and Larry May's Aggression and Crimes Against Peace (2008) are three significant works on Just War thinking that offer unique perspectives on the different facets of jus ad bellum. Bellamy's book is a historical examination of the evolution of Just War thinking. Walzer's book is a classic and a crucial component of the Just War canon; this book brought Just War considerations back into political conversations. While classical Realism dominated the post-World War II political landscape for its own moral contemplations towards war and power, it was not able to speak to the anti-Vietnam agonism. Walzer purposefully set out to speak to these considerations in a frankly philosophical framework, one rooted in historical thought and examples. May has a unique voice within the Just War tradition— his starting point is a form of pacifism. Although this is somewhat controversial, it is not without precedence. One of the key pieces on nuclear weapons is the 1983 letter from the US Catholic Bishops that placed the Just War tradition within a pacifist framework. Similarly, May has set out to examine how this ancient tradition can fit the needs of the current international arena, particularly in light of humanitarian intervention.

Article

The social contract tradition derives its ethical force from the hypothetical agreement that parties would reach in an initial choice situation. This initial choice situation brings together a description of the circumstances of justice, various extra-contractarian moral assumptions, and an instrumental theory of rational choice. The circumstances of justice refer to the conditions that require principles of justice. These conditions include the existence of social cooperation along with moderate scarcity. In the absence of such conditions, principles of justice are either unnecessary or impossible to sustain. Social cooperation generates both benefits and burdens, and it is the allocation of those components of social cooperation that requires principles of justice. The application of the social contract to the domestic context dates back to the ancient Greeks, though their version of the contract was somewhat crude and rather one-sided in favor of state authority. Later versions of the social contract would oblige the state to provide much more to citizens in return for their allegiance. John Rawls is widely credited with resurrecting the social contract tradition in the twentieth century. His thought holds special significance for the international social contract, as he extends the contractual approach ethics into the international system where his predecessors declined to do so.

Article

Nancy A. Naples and Nikki McGary

The histories of women’s studies and feminist scholarship reveal the lack of distinction between feminist activism and feminist scholarship. The term “feminism” consists of multiple theories and agendas depending on regional, historical, and individual contexts. Broadly speaking, feminism includes theoretical and practical challenges to gender inequality and multiple forms of systemic oppression. However, the political projects that make women their objects are not always feminist; and political projects that address women’s issues are not always framed around the concept of feminism. Women activists and organizations do not always explicitly identify as feminist, although they might be participants in struggles aligned with broad feminist goals, including women’s empowerment, autonomy, human rights, and economic justice. A major theme that runs through feminist scholarship on women’s activism relates to the question of what difference women’s participation and feminist analyses make for progressive struggles. Feminist philosopher Nancy Fraser argues that there are “gender dimensions” to all struggles for social justice, and “feminists better be in these struggles and bring out those dimensions because certainly nobody else will.” Feminist scholars have also long debated what counts as a women’s movement. Revisioning women’s movements to include the diversity of women’s political analyses and strategies requires rethinking the labels used to categorize feminisms more generally.

Article

Priya Kurian and Robert V. Bartlett

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.

Article

Thanh-Dam Truong and Amrita Chhachhi

The discourse on poverty emerged in the context of capitalist industrialization and political debates on pauperism, and more specifically with the introduction of the Poor Laws whose principles on welfare and relief were firmly based on the idea of forging a system of wage labor concentrated on the male breadwinner. A major implication was the significant place occupied by the nuclear family in the field of poverty as welfare studies. Since the 1980s, feminists have made significant contribution to poverty knowledge by engaging with debates on gender, poverty, and social justice. The feminist critique of poverty knowledge formed part of a broader challenge to the androcentric and culturally specific assumptions of mainstream knowledge systems. In this context, Amartya Sen’s capability approach has been a major influence. Feminists introduced new conceptions of poverty that broaden the definition of poverty from basic needs to functionings, capabilities, assets, and livelihoods and a dynamic notion of vulnerability. Some key contributions of feminist poverty knowledge has been the deconstruction of the neo-classical concept of the household, the emergence of the care economy as a significant element in the experience of poverty, and the emphasis on subjectivity, agency and the notion of trade-offs. Feminist contributions to poverty knowledge have found particular resonance with the notions of care and justice. A greater challenge is how to frame care and justice within a global political society, given the power asymmetries between actors in the global framework.

Article

Emily Gilbert and Connie Yang

Moving away from the conventional geopolitical analyses of territory, states, and nations, geographical research is now focused on the ways that political identities are constituted in and through spaces and places at various sites and scales. Many geographers attend to how power gets articulated, who gets marginalized, and what this means for social justice. Poststructuralist theory problematized the fundamental premise that the literal subject is resolutely individual, autonomous, transparent, and all knowing. Feminist and critical race scholars have also insisted that the self is socially embedded and intersubjective, but also that research needs to be embodied. There are four prominent and inherently political themes of analysis in contemporary geographical research that resonate with contemporary events: nation states and nationalism; mobility and global identities; citizenship and the public sphere; and war and security. Geographers have critically examined the production and reproduction of national identity, especially salient with the rise of authoritarianism. Geographers have also focused on the contemporary transnationalization of political identity as the mobility of people across borders becomes more intensive and extensive because of globalization. Consequently, globalization and global mobility have raised important questions around citizenship and belonging. Rethinking war and the political, as well as security, has also become a pressing task of geographers. Meanwhile, there has been a growing attention to the political identities of academics themselves that resonates with a concern about forms of knowledge production. This concern exists alongside a critique of the corporatization of the university. Questions are being raised about whether academics can use their status as scholars to push forward public debate and policy making.

Article

Aaron Fichtelberg

One the most dramatic development in international law in the 20th century was the formation of international criminal tribunals. Unlike conventional international tribunals, such as the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, international criminal tribunals—such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg—are a controversial element of international law and international politics. Precisely because they are aimed at individuals who act under color of law, such as military officials or heads of state, they invoke a number of political challenges. Their combination of international law, human rights, criminal justice, and hotly disputed facts of great moral gravity makes them a subject of intense debate among academics, government officials, and the public at large. Much of the scholarship on international tribunals can be summed up by three periods: pre-Nuremberg, Nuremberg, and post-Cold War developments. Each period reveals shifts in the way that international criminal tribunals were studied and conceptualized in the academic world. In the future, much of the scholarship on international tribunals is expected to be influenced by the impact that the actual tribunals themselves have on international politics.

Article

International organizations (IOs) have effectively modified the structure of international law. For more than six decades, IOs have echoed the aspirations of humankind, in pursuit of the ideal of realization of justice, and have furthermore contributed to that end. IOs are provided with privileges and immunities that are intended to ensure their independent and effective functioning. These are specified in the treaties that give rise to the organization, which are normally supplemented by further multinational agreements and national regulations under the international law. Rather than by national jurisdiction, legal accountability is intended to be ensured by legal mechanisms that are internal to the IO itself and by access to administrative tribunals. In the course of many court cases, where private parties tried to pursue claims against IOs, there has been a gradual realization that alternate means of dispute settlement are required, as states have fundamental human rights obligations to provide plaintiffs with access to court in view of their right to a fair trial. Otherwise, the organizations’ immunities may be put in question in national and international courts.

Article

Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.

Article

Bronwyn Leebaw

Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.

Article

Andrew Hurrell

Order and justice are deeply intertwined in English School writing. The central concern of the English School is with the problem of order and with the question: To what extent does the inherited political framework provided by the international society of states continue to provide an adequate basis for world order? This kind of question links closely with the debates on international institutions and global governance that have been so prominent since the end of the Cold War. But the English School focus is less on theoretical understanding of particular institutions and more on assessing the overall character of institutionalization in world politics, the normative commitments inherent in different ways of governing the globe, and the adequacy of historical and existing interstate institutions for meeting practical and normative challenges. There are four specific themes that are central to the pluralist wing of English School writing on order and justice. The first theme concerns power and the conditions of order, while the second concerns diversity and value conflict. Meanwhile, a third theme emerges from the idea that moral values should, so far as possible, be kept out of international life and of particular international institutions. Finally, the fourth theme concerns the argument that international society has the potential not just to help manage international conduct in a restrained way but also to create the conditions for a more legitimate and morally more ambitious political community to emerge. As power diffuses away from the Western, liberal developed core, and as the intractability of the international system to liberal prescriptions becomes more evident, so one can detect new changes in the way in which global justice is understood.

Article

The international financial institutions (IFIs) have adapted and changed their policies over time to focus on global justice and poverty alleviation. This evolution is explored, with close attention to the role of political economy scholars and international events that increased the pressure on the IFIs to change their policies. Events such as the failure of structural adjustment policies, and the increasing role of nongovernmental organizations after the end of the Cold War were strong forces advocating for both debt relief policies and efforts designed to alleviate poverty. Problems surrounding the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and the increased role of the IFIs during the 2008 global financial crisis are also discussed.

Article

Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics had got its start in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more and more accessible to policy makers and the general public. Yet prior to 2008, climate politics was only touched upon in major publications on international relations, with the exception of policy journals. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. The recent years have seen an explosion in literature focusing on the topic, however. The potential for massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from the potential policies to address the problem have since resulted in an extensive literature, with scholars addressing aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research in numerous other related disciplines. In addition, efforts to address the consequences of climate change have evoked controversial ethical and distributive justice questions that have produced an important normative literature. Overall, the literature on climate politics centers on two issues: how we can explain the international political response to climate change, as well as how the international community should respond to climate change.