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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

For much of the history of academic International Relations, foreign policy has understated the role of ethics in the theory and practice of statecraft. As discussed in the first part of the chapter, it was not until the critical and normative turn of the 1980s and 1990s that ethics assumed a significant role in the study of foreign policy. Ethics also rose to prominence in the language and commitments of a number of modernizing centre-left governments claiming to be agents of the common good. The second part of the chapter treats humanitarianism as a case study because it illustrates how ethics and foreign policy are configured in practice. While it is true that human rights significantly contributed to the end of the Cold War, it is also the case that erosion of the liberal international order poses stark questions for the resilience of humanitarianism in a deeply divided world.

Keywords: normative theory, Helsinki process, humanitarianism, responsibility, liberalism, multipolarity

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