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Moral Agency and International Society

Abstract

There is no body that has the legal right to exercise agency on behalf of international society (IS), even though the notion of “society” encapsulated in IS is, in principle, close to that conveyed by bodies such as clubs and associations that can be represented by, for example, a board of directors or governing committee. Some have argued that the UN or the Security Council can exercise agency on behalf of IS, but in view of the “underinstitutionalization” of IS in the UN, a more interesting possibility is that groups of states may authorize themselves to act on the behalf of IS as “coalitions of the willing.” However, the contrasting experience of the Gulf War of 1990/91 and the Kosovo campaign of 1999 suggest that the degree of ideological coherence of the coalition in question is an important variable here - in 1999, NATO was able with some plausibility to represent the wider international society because of its commitment to certain core democratic values, while in 1991 the Gulf War coalition could only act conservatively in restoring the status quo because of its diverse nature.

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Hedley Bull , The Anarchical Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977

Jennifer Welsh , Edmund Burke and International Relations: The Commonwealth of Europe and the Crusade against the French Revolution (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
  • URL: /core/journals/ethics-and-international-affairs
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