World Government, International Law and The Ethics of Care

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The chances of the United States relinquishing its sovereignty to a world government in the foreseeable future seem approximately nil. And the likelihood of there being a world government without the United States, even given the U.S.'s current decline, seems comparably low for the foreseeable future. So I will not even consider the desirability, or not, of a world government that might turn tyrannical, or homogenize all distinctive cultural achievements into marketable products, or multiply corrupt bureaucracies on a global scale. Or keep the peace and save the environment.

I will consider instead a much more feasible substitute, and that is international law. After a grievous hiatus, especially damaging during the administration of George W. Bush, the trend in United States policy may again turn toward greater acceptance of international law. And if so, this will go some distance toward dealing with the violent conflicts that some look to world government to control.

We need to be concerned with the world as it is, here and now, and with how to prevent and alleviate its terrible ills. Futile hopes for an ideal future contribute relatively little. Support for international law, however, is badly needed and may be worth providing. I will argue that for the foreseeable future, violence should be contained through the use of international law. I will pursue the arguments from the perspective of the ethics of care.

I have come to believe that the ethics of care can provide the basis for a comprehensive moral theory, though many aspects of this new approach in moral theorizing remain to be developed. The ethics of care can provide moral guidance for people in all their connections with others, from their closest connections as members of families and small groups to their most distant and even global relations as members of states and as fellow human beings. Care is most obviously a familiar practice and primary value in the personal interactions of family and friendship. It can immediately be recognized as essential in its most direct form, since no child can survive without a great deal of care for many years. We all have experience with what we can recognize as the values of care. Care is increasingly recognized as relevant also for political and international interactions and for both the close and the most general ties of civil society.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • World Governance: Do We Need It, Is It Possible, What Could It (All) Mean?
    One of the main objections raised against world governance is not that it is impractical, but that it is unnecessary and even undesirable. There is a fear that world government would be or become tyrannical. German philosopher Immanuel Kant devised a project of "perpetual peace," but he was against a world state, advocating instead a kind of confederation of the states in the world. Finally, if a world government is indeed formed, how far should the instruments and tools of such a body reach? These and other issues have been explored in this book. Covering a wide range of disciplines - from philosophy to jurisprudence, ethics, and social science - the book explores how theorists have reflected upon the necessary components of an effective global order.
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