Reconstructing responsibility and moral agency in world politics

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Hoover, J. (2012)

Assigning responsibility is increasingly common in world politics, from theUnited Nation’s assertion that sovereignty entails a ‘responsibility to protect’to the International Criminal Court’s attempts to hold individuals responsiblefor international crimes. This development is welcome but problematic as themodel of moral agency that our contemporary practices of responsibility arebased on leads to a number of problematic consequences that impede effortsto make world politics more just. In particular, our contemporary practices of responsibility are excessively focused on the obligations of individual andcollective actors, at the expense of enabling conditions, and on holding specificperpetrators accountable, neglecting the need for wider social transformationsin response to mass violence and suffering. Alternative understandings of moralagency, which better serve international/global practices of responsibility, arepossible and here I defend an understanding of moral agency based on thephilosophy of John Dewey. The critical insights and practical possibilitiesof this alternative understanding of moral agency are explored with referenceto international interventions in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
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