Moral Obligations and Sovereignty in International Relations: A Genealogy of Humanitarianism, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Moral Obligations and Sovereignty in International Relations

A Genealogy of Humanitarianism, 1st Edition

By Andrea Paras


186 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138560178
pub: 2018-11-06
SAVE ~$28.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203711958
pub: 2018-12-07
from $27.48

FREE Standard Shipping!


How has contemporary humanitarianism become the dominant framework for how states construct their moral obligations to non-citizens? To answer this question, this book examines the history of humanitarianism in international relations by tracing the relationship between transnational moral obligation and sovereignty from the 16th century to the present. Whereas existing studies of humanitarianism examine the diffusion of such norms or their transmission by non-state actors, this volume explicitly links humanitarianism to the broader concept of sovereignty. Rather than only focusing on the expansion of humanitarian norms, it examines how sovereignty both challenges and sets limits on them. Humanitarian norms are shown to act just as much to reinforce the logic of sovereignty as they do to challenge it.

Contemporary humanitarianism is often described in universalist terms, which suggests that humanitarian activity transcends borders in order to provide assistance to those who suffer. In contrast, this book suggests a more counterintuitive and complex understanding of moral obligation, namely that humanitarian discourse not only provides a framework for legitimate humanitarian action, but it also establishes the limits of moral obligation. It will be of great interest to a wide audience of scholars and students in international relations theory, constructivism and norms, and humanitarianism and politics.

Table of Contents


1. An Identity-based Theory of Sovereignty and Moral Obligation

2. Religious Obligation, the Huguenots and the Emergence of English Sovereignty

3. Abolitionist Obligation, Liberty, and the Purpose of Empire

4. Colonial Obligation, Missionaries and the Civilizing Mission

5. Rights-based Obligation, the Responsibility to Protect and Conditional Sovereignty

6. Conclusion: Sovereignty and the Future of Moral Obligation

About the Author

Andrea Paras is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph. She is a cross-disciplinary international relations scholar whose research contributes to political science, international development studies, history, intercultural studies, and the scholarship of learning and teaching. Her work focuses on understanding how different political actors derive their legitimacy through languages of morality. In addition to studying the history and politics of international humanitarianism, she conducts research on religion and humanitarianism, intercultural studies, and international education.

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Diplomacy