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Cover Issues in Political Theory

3. Crime and punishment  

Massimo Renzo

This chapter focuses on crime and punishment. Punishment involves the imposition of hardship or suffering on a supposed offender for a supposed crime, by a person or body who claims the authority to do so. Criminal punishment is problematic in at least three respects: it harms those who are punished; it also harms, indirectly, their families and friends; and it imposes significant costs on the rest of the political community. There are two strategies for the justification of punishment: instrumental and non-instrumental justifications. The instrumental strategy has been traditionally pursued by endorsing some version of consequentialism, the moral theory according to which the rightness or wrongness of a given conduct, practice, or rule depends only on its consequences. Non-instrumental justifications, on the other hand, have been traditionally defended by retributivist theories, according to which, wrongdoers deserve to suffer in proportion to the gravity of the wrong they have committed.


Cover International Relations Theories

13. Normative International Relations Theory  

Toni Erskine

This chapter deals with normative international relations theory, a field of study that relies on a variety of approaches and theories to explore moral expectations, decisions, and dilemmas in world politics. Normative IR theory has adopted—and adapted—conceptual categories such as communitarianism and cosmopolitanism from political theory. It also borrows from moral philosophy to designate different types of ethical reasoning, such as deontology and consequentialism. The chapter begins with an overview of the history, influences, and some of the categories that normative IR theory brings to the study of international relations. It then examines the ways in which normative IR theory engages with the hidden ethical assumptions of a range of IR approaches. The case study considers the ethics of war in the Iraq war.


Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

2. Utilitarianism  

This chapter examines the practical implications of utilitarianism as a political morality. It first considers two features of utilitarianism that make it an attractive theory of political morality. First, the goal being promoted by utilitarians does not depend on the existence of God, or a soul, or any other dubious metaphysical entity. The second attraction is utilitarianism’s ‘consequentialism’. The chapter proceeds by breaking utilitarianism into two parts: an account of human welfare, or ‘utility’, and an instruction to maximize utility, giving equal weight to each person’s utility. It also discusses the two main arguments for viewing utility maximization as the standard of moral rightness: equal consideration of interests, and teleological utilitarianism. Finally, it evaluates utilitarians’ claim that every source of happiness, or every kind of preference, should be given the same weight, if it yields equal utility. The chapter argues that utilitarianism is inadequate as an account of equal consideration.