The Normative Dimensions of State Action
Kaufman, Mitchell Tulley
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States tend to be the centerpiece of International Relations theory, as they are commonly considered the primary actors of international relations. As such, states are commonly analyzed as intentional beings that act on their own reasons, based on their own beliefs and desires. This treatment of states as intentional entities leads naturally to a treatment of states as responsible agents that must stand accountable for what they have done. It is on such a basis that retrospective moral and legal judgments are made of states; for example, when reparations debt is established between states after a military conflict. The above perspective is very common amongst academics and laypeople alike; however, it seems to be in deep tension with our widely held interpretive model of interpersonal relations, where the individual is the primary actor and responsible party with respect to her own free agency. In short, state responsibility and individual responsibility often fail to align. This project attempts to clarify the tension between these levels of analysis, evaluate various defenses of state responsibility, and argue that an individualist methodological approach is required if normative IR theory is to remain consistent with basic interpersonal normative theory.
- Philosophy