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The politics of humanity: humanitarianism and international political theory

Radice, Henry (2010) The politics of humanity: humanitarianism and international political theory. Doctoral thesis, London School of Economics.

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This thesis brings the concept of humanitarianism sharply into focus within the discourse of international political theory. Existing literature examines humanitarianism obliquely, via debates on military humanitarian intervention or human rights, resulting in an impoverished account of a vital idea. Meanwhile, a vibrant discussion among professional humanitarians has recently questioned the nature of their endeavour, along lines that clearly fit the remit of international political theory. Bringing together these two discussions in the course of its critical analysis, the thesis argues that humanitarianism should be conceptualised as a political context in which we articulate, negotiate and defend our understandings of common humanity. Central to this politics are the ways in which we react to and conceptualise human suffering, through humanitarian crises that are often "crises of humanity". In sparking concern and mobilising responses to suffering, the affective underpinnings of the humanitarian impulse create a complex and shifting backdrop to extensions of solidarity and humanitarian action. At the heart of this action is the idea of rescue, a crucial "presumptive occasion" of our moral life. But an important part of humanitarian action consists in the efforts to institutionalise the humanitarian impulse. In this sense human rights and projects of global justice represent important crystallisations of humanitarian concern, yet neither can fully capture the more contingent workings of the humanitarian impulse. What emerges is an understanding of humanitarianism as a broad discussion, central to the identity of contemporary liberal international political theory, but with a scope best gleaned not from cosmopolitan accounts, but from a more fluid internationalist tradition of thought. The thesis concludes that the importance of this theoretical approach will be borne out by the complex and far-reaching practical challenges that humanitarianism is set to confront over coming decades, not least the "crisis of humanity" threatened by climate change.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2010 2010 Henry Radice
Divisions: International Development
Justice and Security Research Programme
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Development
Research centres and groups > Justice and Security Research Consortium (JSRP)
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2014 15:17
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2021 23:38

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