Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention

  • Bhikhu Parekh
Part of the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague book series (ISSTH)


Thanks to the influence of both classical natural law doctrine and Christianity, Western moral and political thought has long been dominated by a strongly-held belief in the unity of humankind and the consequent duties human beings ‘naturally’ owe one another. The emergence of the modern state, a uniquely European invention subsequently exported to the rest of the world, seemed to challenge that belief and led to much agonized debate. While many were worried that the state broke up humankind into independent and morally self-contained units, and wondered if and how it could be accommodated as a mediating institution within the universal human community, some writers welcomed the state and all it entailed, including the loss of what they regarded as an untenable belief in the universal human community. The debate on the subject generated a wide variety of views, of which three respectively represented, often equivocally, by Vitoria, Grotius and Hobbes became the most influential.


Social Identity Moral Obligation Humanitarian Intervention Political Community Internal Affair 
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© Institute of Social Studies 1998

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  • Bhikhu Parekh

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