Realist Ethics

Just War Traditions as Power Politics

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Valerie Morkevičius
  • Cambridge: 
    Cambridge University Press
    , January
     268 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Just war thinking and realism are commonly presumed to be in opposition. If realists are seen as war-mongering pragmatists, just war thinkers are seen as naïve at best and pacifistic at worst. Just war thought is imagined as speaking truth to power - forcing realist decision-makers to abide by moral limits governing the ends and means of the use of force. Realist Ethics argues that this oversimplification is not only wrong, but dangerous. Casting just war thought to be the alternative to realism makes just war thinking out to be what it is not - and cannot be: a mechanism for avoiding war. A careful examination of the evolution of just war thinking in the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions shows that it is no stranger to pragmatic politics. From its origins, just war thought has not aimed to curtail violence, but rather to shape the morally imaginable uses of force, deeming some of them necessary and even obligatory. Morkevičius proposes here a radical recasting of the relationship between just war thinking and realism.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Valerie Morkevičius is associate professor of political science at Colgate University, New York. Her work focuses on the intersection between power and ethics, and the applicability of traditional just war thinking to contemporary challenges. Her recent publications include 'Power and Order: The Shared Logics of Realism and Just War Theory' in the International Studies Quarterly



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