Justice and Coercion

Terry Nardin

in International Society and its Critics

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265206
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601866 | DOI:
Justice and Coercion

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The problems caused by the US‐led response to terrorism addressed in Ch. 13 are looked at in more detail in the last two chapters, with the author offering here a novel reformulation of ‘justice’ as ‘coercively enforceable morality’, by arguing that ideas about international justice, and particularly about the rightness of the use of force in pursuit of the supposedly common interests of international society are intrinsically linked to common ideas about what is right or wrong. This suggests a need to rethink the order versus justice debate, as justice becomes the pursuit of those things that are legitimate to pursue, and rather than seeing order and justice as polar opposites, the author argues that the very concept of international justice implies a basic level of agreement about the legitimacy of particular types of order. He responds to the key question of how international society manages competing ideas about justice by outlining a case for the recognition of a ‘common morality’ that should guide action in international society and has three primary properties: first, unlike other ethical codes it is binding on all individuals; second, it rests on the human capacity for reasoned argument rather than ‘custom, contract, or legislation’; and third, its precepts are obligatory restraints on choice, not mere recommendations. He then moves on to discuss how common morality is applicable in international society: in sum, the creation of a common morality implies a shift to a solidarist international society that binds all its actors to a common moral code of action and shares moral responsibilities between them. The key tension within international society, the author concludes, is not one between order and justice, but one between just and unjust coercive orders.

Keywords: coercion; coercively enforceable morality; common morality; force; international justice; international society; justice; morality; order; USA; use of force

Chapter.  9500 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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