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The Problem of Harm in World Politics
Theoretical Investigations


  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from August 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107004436

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About the Authors
  • The need to control violent and non-violent harm has been central to human existence since societies first emerged. This book analyses the problem of harm in world politics which stems from the fact that societies require the power to harm in order to defend themselves from internal and external threats, but must also control the capacity to harm so that people cannot kill, injure, humiliate or exploit others as they please. Andrew Linklater analyses writings in moral and legal philosophy that define and classify forms of harm, and discusses the ways in which different theories of international relations suggest the power to harm can be controlled so that societies can co-exist with the minimum of violent and non-violent harm. Linklater argues for new connections between the English School study of international society and Norbert Elias' analysis of civilizing processes in order to advance the study of harm in world politics.

    • A contribution to the development of the critical theory of international relations focusing on the problem of harm
    • Places the study of violent and non-violent harm at the centre of social-scientific inquiry
    • Integrates themes from moral and legal philosophy, sociology and social psychology, and international relations
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'A seminal intervention, drawing together, and brilliantly refashioning, insights from Eliasian historical sociology and English School International Relations. The result not only advances these theories onto new terrain, but creates a novel research agenda that should refashion the disciplines of Sociology and IR in new and exciting ways.' John M. Hobson, University of Sheffield

    'One of the most important contributions to the study of international relations in decades, Linklater's book does not moralise or philosophise about the harm that states do to each other. Instead, in a spirit of factual research, Linklater, connecting the English School of international relations with Norbert Elias's theory of civilising processes, shows how and why standards of conduct in international affairs have changed and are changing over time.' Stephen Mennell, University College Dublin

    '… this book is to be welcomed. It reaffirms Linklater's reputation as one of the leading social and political theorists working in the world today. We know that violence will continue, but Linklater gives us some resources for understanding how efforts to prevent such harms will intersect with larger dynamics in international politics.' Anthony F. Laing, Jr, International Affairs

    'Linklater is one of the few international political theorists noted for contextualising his 'ground clearing' abstractions with the judicious use of case studies and empirical evidence. He is especially noted for his adoption of the 'immanent critique': the locating of his analysis within the orthodoxy, a strategy that results in his routinely engaging with historical accounts of the world. The result is a monograph with considerable relevance for both policy wonks and lay readers, as well as sufficient depth for critical researchers.' N. A. J. Taylor, Australian Book Review

    'There are few books that both change our field of vision and open up a new and far-reaching research agenda. This is one of them. Linklater here engages in a sustained reflection of the core theoretical issues surrounding the problem of harm in world politics.' Andrew Hurrell, Ethics and International Affairs

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107004436
    • length: 320 pages
    • dimensions: 234 x 158 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.62kg
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from August 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. The concept of harm
    2. The harm principle and global ethics
    3. Harm and international relations theory
    4. The sociology of civilizing processes
    5. Historical sociology and world politics structures, norms and emotions
    6. Civilizing processes and international systems

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Contemporary Political Thought
    • Ethics and International Relations
    • Ethics in International Affairs
    • Moral Dilemmas and Political Possibilities
    • Seminar in International Relations
    • Theories of International Relations
  • Author

    Andrew Linklater, Aberystwyth University
    Andrew Linklater is Woodrow Wilson Professor of International Politics at Aberystwyth University as well as a Fellow of the British Academy, the Academy of Social Science, and a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. He has published several major works on the theory of international relations including Critical Theory of World Politics (2007), The English School of International Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2006, with Hidemi Suganami), The Transformation of Political Community (1998), Beyond Realism and Marxism (1990) and Men and Citizens in the Theory of International Relations (1982 and 1990).

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