Practical Judgement in International Political Theory: Selected Essays, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Practical Judgement in International Political Theory

Selected Essays, 1st Edition

By Chris Brown


312 pages

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Chris Brown is a prominent international political theorist who has contributed to debates on pluralism, justice and human rights. This book draws together seventeen of his most important and influential articles from the last twenty years.

These essays include influential statements on the role of normative theory and international ethics, the so-called ‘cosmopolitan-communitarian debate’ and anti-foundationalist thought in international relations, as well as important contributions to Rawlsian and Post-Rawlsian theories of international and global justice. The most recent papers address subjects such as the notion of global civil society, and controversies over the ethics of pre-emptive warfare, and the inevitably selective nature of humanitarian interventions.

The book includes a framing introduction written for this volume, in which Brown discusses his own influences, and the evolution of his thinking throughout his career. Although this evolution has involved a progressively less critical viewpoint towards liberal thought and liberal internationalism, and a greater commitment to universal values, some things have remained constant – in particular a focus on the importance of political judgement and scepticism directed towards the idea that there are simple solutions to complex problems. The collection ends fittingly with a critique of the popular cosmopolitanism of figures such as Bono and Bob Geldof.

This collection will be essential reading for all scholars and graduates with an interest in international political theory.


'Chris Brown is what many scholars wish to be - a writer whose lucid expositions never fail to engage, challenge, and enlighten. For thoughtful students of international affairs, these essays are an education in the subject at its self-reflective best.' - Terry Nardin, National University of Singapore

'I urge every student of international relations and political thought to read this book. You will find yourself on an amazing journey through the essential currents of contemporary intellectual history. Chris Brown is an incomparable guide. He shows us his subject in all of its magnificent scope. His clarity, discernment and charming wit carry you lightly through even the heaviest of arguments. It is a rare collection of essays that can re-cast an entire genre of literature. This volume does so. Like all great essayists, Chris Brown gives us ideas, characters and stories that delight and instruct.' - Joel H. Rosenthal, President, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

This is an invaluable volume. Each essay is immensely insightful, unfailingly engaging, and boldly provocative. Moreover, the collection as a whole maps the evolution in thinking of an eminently important scholar who has done no less than pioneer the field of study variously known as a ‘international political theory’, ‘normative international relations (IR) theory’ and ‘international ethics.’ - Toni Erskine, Aberystwyth University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: A Life in Theory Part I. Communitarians and Cosmopolitans 2. The Modern Requirement: Reflections on Normative Theory in a Post-Western World 3. Ethics of Co-Existence: The International Theory of Terry Nardin 4. International Theory and International Society: The Viability of the Middle Way 5. Universal Human Rights: A Critique 6. Towards a Neo-Aristotelian Resolution of the Communitarian Cosmopolitan Debate 7. Cultural Diversity and International Political Theory 8. The Construction of a Realistic Utopia: John Rawls and International Political Theory Part II. The Discourse of International Relations 9. Not my Department? Normative Theory and International Relations 10. Hegel and International Ethics 11. Turtles all the way down: Antifoundationalism, Critical theory and International Relations 12. Liberalism and The Globalisation of Ethics 13. Tragedy, Tragic Choices and International Political Theory Part III. The Exercise of Judgement 14. Cosmopolitanism, World Citizenship and Global Civil Society 15. On Morality, Self-Interest and Foreign Policy 16. Selective Humanitarianism: In Defence of Inconsistency 17. Practical Judgement and the Ethics of Pre-emption 18. Bob Dylan, Live Aid, and the Politics of Popular Cosmopolitanism

About the Author

Chris Brown is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a former Chair of the British International Studies Association. He is the author of Understanding International Relations (4th ed. 2009, with Kirsten Ainley), Sovereignty, Rights and Justice (2002), International Relations Theory: New Normative Approaches (1992), editor of Political Restructuring in Europe: Ethical Perspectives (1994) and co-editor of International Relations in Political Thought: Texts from the Ancient Greeks to the First World War (2002).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory