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Dangerous ontologies: the ethos of survival and ethical theorizing in International Relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 May 2002


The article responds to a recent call for a more systematic interrogation of the persistence of the dichotomous relation between ethics and International Relations. The addition of ethics into International Relations, it has recently been claimed, has left unquestioned the ethical assumptions encompassed in the ‘agenda’ of International Relations itself. Thus, the article examines the ethics implicit in the ‘agenda of IR’ and, in so doing, considers the condition of possibility for a movement beyond the dichotomy ‘ethics and IR’ and towards ‘an ethical International Relations’. To achieve this task the article calls for an understanding of ethics as ethos. It further illustrates how the ‘dangerous ontology’ of realist IR is discursively created through an exposition of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan and Carl Schmitt's The Concept of the Political. In this anarchical ontology of danger an ‘ethos of survival’ has come to be the relational framework through which the other is conceptually encountered as an enemy. Subsequently, the article considers what repercussions this ethos has for the reception of ethics into IR.

Research Article
© 2002 British International Studies Association

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