Against the Beitzian consensus: why international political theory is not beyond realist skepticism


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    Widespread agreement exists among international political theorists that realist skepticism - a once-dominant philosophical doctrine that disputes the relevance of moral principles for international conduct - has been discredited. Charles Beitz (1999[1979]) and, in his wake, Marshall Cohen (1984) have been praised for having proven realist skepticism wrong and thereby having paved the way for the emergence and philosophical supremacy of normative international political theory. The present article argues that realist skepticism has not been successfully refuted, but is still a viable position. The argument is twofold. First, realist skepticism should be understood as a position that rejects the idea that international relations is a domain suitable for ‘ethical discourse’ (Gustafson 1988), that is, philosophically precise, technical ethical reasoning. Second, the above-mentioned attempt to refute realist skepticism fails for question-beggingly assuming the appropriateness of ‘ethical discourse’ and thereby for insufficiently addressing realism’s key political objections. The upshot is that normative, ethical international political theory, its popularity notwithstanding, rests on an insecure foundation.
    Keywords: international ethics; international political theory; international skepticism; political realism
    Originele taal-2English
    Aantal pagina's11
    StatusPublished - 2015

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