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Towards a feminist ethics of war: rethinking moral justifications for contemporary warfare

Terry, Jillian (2015) Towards a feminist ethics of war: rethinking moral justifications for contemporary warfare. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis begins by arguing that dominant ethical approaches to the study of war in International Relations have failed to illuminate the moral and ethical complexities present in contemporary war practices such as drone warfare, private military contracting, and counterinsurgency. Such approaches are unable to account for the changing nature of war and resultant shifts in the ethical landscape of modern conflict. In particular, there has been a tendency amongst mainstream perspectives on the ethics of war (including here just war theory as well as traditions based in conceptions of rights and justice) to continue to view contemporary political violence in an abstract and individuated sense, whereby subjectivity and agency are constituted in isolation from other actors. This viewpoint obscures a central realm of ethical activity in war: the relational and experiential aspects of modern warfare where moral knowledge and understanding are constituted in relation to the needs of others, through a sense of responsibility, awareness, and connectedness with those around us. As an alternative to these existing approaches, this thesis engages in a redescription of feminist ethics premised on the notion of care. The theoretical framework constructed therein articulates a feminist care ethical vision based in four key areas: relationality, experience, empathy, and responsibility. These points assert the need for a relational ontology; recognize the importance of lived reality and experience; demonstrate a commitment to responsiveness and connectedness to others; and acknowledge a responsibility to the needs of particular others as central to morality. Using this framework, the remainder of the thesis explores the ethical nature of drone warfare, private military contracting, and counterinsurgency to demonstrate the usefulness of such a feminist ethical lens to our understandings of morality in post-9/11 conflict. In so doing, the framework exposes the complex web of relationships and experiences that are at work in the ethical decision-making processes of those who participate in and are impacted by war. It uncovers a new articulation of how ethics plays out in international conflict – one that acknowledges our constant interactions as social beings in the world, which continuously shape and reshape moral action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Jillian Anne Terry
Library of Congress subject classification: U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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