Sociology of Humanitarian Intervention: Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia Compared

  • Jan Nederveen Pieterse
Part of the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague book series (ISSTH)


‘Humanitarian intervention’ deserves to be put in quotation marks because it is a deeply ideological notion. Marking out new frontiers of international relations in the age of globalization, humanitarian intervention raises the question of political responsibility in this age. Since we are aware of and connected to events taking place in distant parts of the world, informed of the sufferings of people in distant lands, what are the consequences for our way of being in the world, for our sense of political engagement? The emotion involved may be termed long-distance compassion’; the realities are murkier. On the one hand, humanitarian intervention inaugurates a new kind of citizenship, the citizenship of humanity, while on the other it treads in the footsteps of conventional interstate politics which, however, itself is in transition. Humanitarian intervention is a two-faced operation, idealism caught in the wheels of realism, realism outflanked by realities.


Security Council Humanitarian Intervention State Sovereignty Ethnic Conflict Statist Paradigm 
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© Institute of Social Studies 1998

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  • Jan Nederveen Pieterse

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