War and the Politics of Ethics

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Contemporary Western war is represented as enacting the West’s ability and responsibility to help make the world a better place for others, in particular to protect them from oppression and serious human rights abuses. That is, war has become permissible again, indeed even required, as ethical war. At the same time, however, Western war kills and destroys. This creates a paradox: Western war risks killing those it proposes to protect. This book examines how we have responded to this dilemma and challenges the vision of ethical war itself. That is, it explores how the commitment to ethics shapes the practice of war and indeed how practices come, in turn, to shape what is considered ethical in war. The book closely examines particular practices of warfare, such as targeting, the use of cultural knowledge, and ethics training for soldiers. What emerges is that instead of constraining violence, the commitment to ethics enables and enhances it. The book argues that the production of ethical war relies on an impossible but obscured separation between ethics and politics, that is, a problematic politics of ethics, and reflects on the need to make decisions at the limit of ethics.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages231
ISBN (Electronic)9780198807995
ISBN (Print)9780198807995
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Ethics
  • Politics
  • Practice
  • War
  • Western war


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