The Ethics of Postmodernism

Peter Lawler

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

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


 The Ethics of Postmodernism

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This article argues that contemporary post-structuralist international relations scholarship does not cohere tidily with progressivist orthodoxy as developed within long-standing lines of antirealist and nonrealist thinking. Herein lies perhaps a key reason for the ongoing hostility toward post-structuralist scholarship, on ethics in particular, within the international relations field. The distinction between other strands of critical thought and post-structuralist or deconstructionist thinking arises particularly in the latter's preference for localized, contingent responses to ethically troubling cases, rather than the erection of transnational processes or institutions designed to dispense justice according to supposedly universal norms or codes of conduct. The idea of an inescapable ethical responsibility to others certainly looms large in post-structuralist writing. However, while being global in its reach, it pointedly does not appeal to a universal conception of human subjectivity or a notion of solidarity that presumes ‘we [are] all potentially or imaginary citizens of a great state’.

Keywords: postmodernists; ethics; international relations; post-structuralism

Article.  5345 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Political Theory

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