Ethics As Foreign Policy: Britain, The EU and the Other, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Ethics As Foreign Policy

Britain, The EU and the Other, 1st Edition

By Dan Bulley


192 pages

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Ethical foreign policy has often been considered utopian, unrealistic and potentially very dangerous. Dan Bulley argues for a reconceptualisation of ethics as foreign policy, as both look to how we can, and ought to, relate to others.

Inspired by the deconstructive thought of Jacques Derrida, Bulley studies the ethical claims of British (1997-2007) and EU (1999-2004) foreign policy. These claims are read against themselves to illustrate their deep ambiguity. A textual analysis of speeches, statements and interviews given by foreign policy makers shows that a responsibility to save ‘Africa’, to protect Iraqis, and to hospitably welcome the Balkans into the EU are also irresponsible, inhospitable and unethical.

The author contends that foreign policies making a claim to morality are ethical and unethical, in their own terms, suggesting that while a truly ethical foreign policy remains ultimately unachievable, it does not justify abandoning a responsible relation to others. Rather, a negotiation of ethics as foreign policy suggests potential individual, context-bound decisions which remain open to contestation and permanent critique. Bulley argues that the goal of ethical foreign policy must be maintained as a productive hope of what is neither completely impossible, nor entirely possible.


'This is a rich, subtle and insightful book. Dan Bulley has delivered what is perhaps the best analysis we have in International Relations scholarship of the recently popular notion of "ethical foreign policy".

Ben Rosamond Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

It is difficult to think of a timelier question than the one addressed in Ethics as Foreign Policy, namely how we produce and respond to otherness. Drawing on sophisticated theoretical arguments as well as meticulous empirical research this beautifully written analysis of UK and EU foreign policy presents the problem of an ethical foreign policy in a new light. Bulley’s analysis is a joy to read because it is a critique in the best possible sense of the word: he systematically questions the possibility of ethics and yet it is at the same time clear that he is inspired by a profound desire for the very possibility he so elegantly dismantles.

Maja Zehfuss, University of Manchester, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Ethics And Foreign Policy? 2. Deconstruction: Reading, Foreign Policy, Text 2. Subjectivity: Failing And Supplementing 3. Responsibility: Protecting And Saving 4. Hospitality: Home And Family 5. Negotiation: Invention And Im-Possibility 6. Negotiating Undecidability 7. Conclusion: Ethical Foreign Policy To Come?

About the Author

Dan Bulley is a Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. His research focuses on international political theory and the possibility of international ethics. He has contributed articles to the Review of International Studies and the British Journal of Politics and International Relations.

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General