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Moral and Historical Perspectives

James Turner Johnson

Publication Year: 2014

Sovereignty generally refers to a particular national territory, the inviolability of the nation's borders, and the right of that nation to protect its borders and ensure internal stability. From the Middle Ages until well into the Modern Period, however, another concept of sovereignty held sway: responsibility for the common good. James Turner Johnson argues that these two conceptions -- sovereignty as self-defense and sovereignty as acting on behalf of the common good -- are in conflict and suggests that international bodies must acknowledge this tension.

Johnson explores this earlier concept of sovereignty as moral responsibility in its historical development and expands the concept to the current idea of the Responsibility to Protect. He explores the use of military force in contemporary conflicts, includes a review of radical Islam, and provides a corrective to the idea of sovereignty as territorial integrity in the context of questions regarding humanitarian intervention. Johnson's new synthesis of sovereignty deepens the possibilities for cross-cultural dialogue on the goods of politics and the use of military force.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-6

The idea of sovereignty, in present-day usage, almost always has reference to the state and to the international system based on states, known alternatively as “the Westphalian system” or as “the United Nations system.” The meaning of the latter is obvious; that of the former refers back to...

Part I: Sovereign Authority and the Right to Use Armed Force in Classic Just War Tradition

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1. Sovereignty as Responsibility: The Coming Together and Development of a Tradition

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pp. 9-27

While the origins of the idea of sovereignty as responsibility for the common good of the political community can be traced further back in history, the coming together of the specific tradition on this idea that is the focus of this book traces to the same beginnings as the just war tradition...

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2. Sovereign Authority and the Justified Use of Force in Thomas Aquinas and His Early Modern Successors

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pp. 28-60

Thomas Aquinas’s concise treatment of the idea of just war is far better known today than the work of his intellectual predecessors, the twelft-hand thirteenth-century canonists on whom his conception depended. On the specific subject of sovereignty, the core of Aquinas’s conception of

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3. Sovereign Authority and the Justified Use of Force in Luther and the Reformation

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pp. 61-80

The parameters of Luther’s thought on war are defined by four of his writings: Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523),1 Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants (1525),2 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved (1526),3 and On War against the Turk (1529...

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4. Grotius and His Impact: The Westphalian Settlement, the Idea of the “Law of Nations,” and the Emergence of the Territorial Idea of Sovereignty

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pp. 81-100

The work of the Spanish Neo-Scholastic theologian Francisco de Vitoria and of the Dutch jurist and philosopher Hugo Grotius mark the beginning and the completion of a shift from medieval to modern understandings of sovereignty, the relations among political communities, and the idea...

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5. Transitions in the Conception of Sovereignty

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pp. 101-114

Why did the older conception of sovereignty found in Western thought about politics and the use of force not endure? Daniel Philpott, in his Revolutions in Sovereignty, argues that two historical revolutions in ideas account for the rise of the modern conception of sovereignty: first, in a...

Part II: Engaging the Westphalian Idea of Sovereignty

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6. Finding Common Ground in the Diversity of Civilizations

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pp. 117-136

In the story of change in the conception of sovereignty told in the first part, we noted how two major challenges to consensus on the common ground provided by natural law led to an effort to locate a new common ground for morality and political life. That new common ground...

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7. The Two Conceptions of Sovereignty and the “Responsibility to Protect” Doctrine

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pp. 137-154

We have been examining two conceptions of sovereignty. To summarize: The one that held sway from the high Middle Ages till the seventeenth century was defined in terms of the responsibility of the sovereign authority for the common good of the people governed and for maintaining...

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pp. 155-164

Where do all these investigations leave us? The general answer, I think, is that the current status quo on the matter of sovereignty is somewhat unsettled and that various kinds of work remain to be done to determine how best to move forward from this. I have argued that something of...


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pp. 165-170


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pp. 171-181

E-ISBN-13: 9781626160576
E-ISBN-10: 1626160570

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014