Universality, Ethics and International Relations: A Grammatical Reading, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Universality, Ethics and International Relations

A Grammatical Reading, 1st Edition

By Véronique Pin-Fat


158 pages

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Paperback: 9780415492065
pub: 2009-10-06
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pub: 2009-10-13
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Universality Ethics and International Relations introduces students to the key debates about ethics in international relations theory. This book explores the reasons why grappling with universality and ethics seems to be a profound endeavour and where we end up when we do.

By offering a new way of thinking about ethics in International Relations, Pin-Fat shows that there are several varieties of universality which are offered as the answer to ethics in global politics; the divine universality of Hans Morgenthau, the ideal universality of Charles R. Beitz and the binary universality of Michael Walzer.  Taking the reader on a grammatical odyssey through each, the book concludes that profound searches for the foundations of universality can’t fulfil our deepest desires for an answer to ethics in global politics. Pin-Fat suggests that the failure of these searches reveals the ethical desirability of defending universality as (im)possible.

An ideal text for use in a wide variety of courses, including ethics in international relations, international relations theory, and international political theory, this work provides a valuable new contribution to this rapidly developing field of research.


'A sophisticated and refreshing argument against the metaphysical seductions of universalism in IR theory. Pin-Fat's Wittgensteinian 'grammatical reading' takes theories of international ethics back to the rough ground in ways that challenge realist, cosmopolitan and communitarian approaches.' - Kimberly Hutchings, London School of Economics, UK

'Central to critical discourses in International Relations are questions related to what constitutes the ‘universal’, how it is used in political thought, and the ways in which it relates to operations of power in global politics. Veronique Pin-Fat’s ‘grammatical’ reading is one of the most original interventions on the relationship between ethics, universality, and international politics, bringing not only Wittgenstein, but her own voice to our deliberations. This is one of the most challenging contributions to international relations theory in general and to critical thought in particular.' - Vivienne Jabri, Kings College London, UK

Table of Contents

1. Reading Grammatically:Reading, representation and the limits of language 2. Universality as Conjunctive Solution: Ethics 'and' International Relations 3. Divine Universality: Morgenthau, alchemy and the national-interest 4. Ideal Universality: Beitz, reason and the ghost of Houdini 5. Binary Universality: Walzer, thinning the thick and fattening up the thin 6. In Defence of Universality: (Im)possible univeralism

About the Author

Véronique Pin-Fat is senior lecturer in International Relations in the Centre for International Politics at the University of Manchester. She is co-editor of Sovereign Lives: Power in Global Politics (2004) with Jenny Edkins and Michael J. Shapiro.

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:

‘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 / Civics & Citizenship
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General