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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article offers an explication and evaluation of the ethics of critical international relations theory. It highlights the distinctive contribution to cosmopolitan ethical inquiry of the Habermasian branch of critical international relations theory, while also pinpointing certain unresolved ethical tensions and inadequacies associated with the discourse ethic. It shows that tensions arise, in part, from the fact that critical theory's ultimate purpose — emancipation — is not exhausted by the procedural requirements of the discourse ethics. The article also examines critical theory's reluctance to ‘do ethics’ in the applied sense of the term. The purpose is not to reduce the ethics of critical theory to applied ethics, nor to discount the importance of critical theory's procedural normative ethics. Rather, it is merely to suggest that, once critical theory acknowledges the extradiscursive underpinnings of its normative ethics, the door is opened to engagement in applied ethical debates.

Keywords: critical theory, international relations, Habermas, ethics, emancipation, ethical inquity

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