The Ethics of Critical Theory

Robyn Eckersley

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219322
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 The Ethics of Critical Theory

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This article offers an explication and evaluation of the ethics of critical international relations theory. It highlights the distinctive contribution to cosmopolitan ethical inquiry of the Habermasian branch of critical international relations theory, while also pinpointing certain unresolved ethical tensions and inadequacies associated with the discourse ethic. It shows that tensions arise, in part, from the fact that critical theory's ultimate purpose — emancipation — is not exhausted by the procedural requirements of the discourse ethics. The article also examines critical theory's reluctance to ‘do ethics’ in the applied sense of the term. The purpose is not to reduce the ethics of critical theory to applied ethics, nor to discount the importance of critical theory's procedural normative ethics. Rather, it is merely to suggest that, once critical theory acknowledges the extradiscursive underpinnings of its normative ethics, the door is opened to engagement in applied ethical debates.

Keywords: critical theory; international relations; Habermas; ethics; emancipation; ethical inquity

Article.  5337 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Political Theory

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