International Relations

The goal of the OLBIOS Advisory Group is to help you ask the right questions, raise awareness and inform you on the ethical issues you are confronted with, using ethics not as a constraint machine but as a basis for a stronger, deeper, more conscious and creative approach to your field.

International relations based on an erroneous distinction between practical and « amoral » realism and normative liberalism.

Differences between neo-positivist, critical realist, analytic, and reflexive approaches to the study of world politics.

The « Sovereign State », and the almost mystical way that this object of belief inspires attachment.

The State-centric theories and the absence of roles for non-state actors and international institutions.

Is the international system governed by anarchy, with no central authority whatsoever? Is international politics a mere struggle for power between self-interested states?

Politics as epitome of ethics, having the capacity to legislate over domestic / international society, prescribing what we are to do and from what we are to abstain, always aiming towards an ultimate end.

The war on terror.

The self-help argument: can one believe that there are no other nation states that can be relied upon to help guarantee one’s own state’s survival?

States : competition, self-interest, security, sovereignty and survival.

Are states inherently aggressive, and is territorial expansion constrained only by opposing powers?

Weapons of mass destruction: consequences and deterrence.

Is ethical discourse suddenly irrelevant against hatred crusades?

Humanitarian (non-)intervention issues and the States as persons.

Can IGOs, NGOs or MNCs become primary actors in international affairs?

Opportunities for collaboration, interdependence and co-operation, and the possibility to achieve peace thereby.

When does increasing one’s own security entail greater instability? Is security a zero-sum game?

The case for pacifism.

Is interaction between states limited to political and security issues?

« High » and « low » politics and the role of economic and cultural exchanges.

Is sovereignty a right or a duty? Is sovereignty co-produced among sovereign states? Do international organisations really hold sovereign states to account?

What is the importance of the goals, threats, fears, identities, and other elements of perceived reality that influence states and non-state actors within the international system?

Is it true that a core of modern industrialized countries exploit systematically a periphery of « Third World » countries?

On ends to serve and means by which to achieve it: what kind of « good » we ought to do and the ways to achieve it.

« Spill-over » and the invisible hand of the integration phenomenon.

Where different nations claim the right to self-determination in the same territory, whose claim should we support?

Do women’s experiences continue to be excluded from the study of international relations?

What is to be learned by the experience of European Integration? Focus on common interests shared by states.

Anarchic world reality and the exact potential for cooperation.

What should we do about famine in other states? What should be done about other states, groups, individuals who seriously damage our global environment?

The very little explicit normative theorizing about what ought to be done in world politics : description versus explanation or strategy.

How should we treat the thousands of people who arrive in our country as political and/or economic refugees?

International politics in Cold War terms. The naked battle between « Good and « Evil » and the implacable foe named the Other.

What may we legitimately do against a state which infringes another state’s rights?

Just wars and justice in bello.

May we use armed force to stop human rights abuses in other states?

Identifying Actors and Events: how major events in international relations, wars, revolutions, national liberation struggles, terrorist campaigns, interventions, secessions, irredentist activities, turn on disputes about the structure of powers of institutions (political parties, markets, churches, states, international organisations, and their relations to other institutions).

The ethical standing of international institutions and which values they should advance.

Admission of interdependency and primacy of actors and relations between actors: system, society or community? On Minimal Cooperation.

« Irrational » movements as common practice in international politics.

Freedom fighters and guerrilla warfare.

On Nationalist movements – fundamentalist states and groups – international terrorism – and the far right wing.

How to protect the international environment without interfering?

Why should we risk/sacrifice our lives to protect States? (and never corporations?)

On Torture.

Ethical importance of States as opposed to other institutions such as families – corporations – churches – trade unions.

The sovereignty of Islamic states.

North/South, Aid/ Trade.

The Priority issue: Which nation should we assist first? Ethics of assistance.

Absolute/relative poverty & Cost/Benefit Analysis.

Lifeboat ethics.

The short and long-term Foreign Aid issues.

Developed and Third World countries, exploring their gap. An extensive reading of the Human Development Index: closing the gap?

Duties to the victims of famine? Duties of the rich and rights of poor states? On increasing one’s own trade and economy by helping others.

The limits of the right to self-determination which entitle a group/movement to draw maps according to its preferences.

Responsibility and obligations outside own borders.

Is the « natural law/community of humankind » approach satisfactory?

Ethics of High Casualties.

How can the application of force resulting in a large number of innocent victims be justified? On the excuse of « collateral damages ».

Liberal, socialist, realist accounts of international reality and their normative components.

Examination of order-based, utilitarian, rights-based theories on international relations.

On actions too weak – or too strong.

International Law and the study of the diversity of human cultures, ways of life, values.

Can nation-states only volunteer to abide by international law?