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A theory of need in international political theory: autonomy, freedom, and a global obligation

O’Casey, Elizabeth (2012) A theory of need in international political theory: autonomy, freedom, and a global obligation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis is concerned with the nature of human action presupposed by normative theory; it is about recognising and articulating the fragility of the human within the context of human needs and assumptions made by international ethical theory. The primary aim of the thesis is to establish the existence of two basic needs necessary for moral action, to determine a global obligation to enable the meeting of those needs, and to articulate a necessary reconceptualisation of the state system in line with the demands of that obligation. The thesis makes this argument in three parts. By exploring and revealing the vulnerability and finitude of the individual actor, looking at the notion and language of ‘need’, and demonstrating what is involved in being held morally responsible, Part One seeks to provide an objective and universalist account of the prerequisites of moral action, establishing two basic needs: autonomy and freedom. The second Part of the thesis is dedicated to showing why there is a corresponding obligation – a ‘Global Principle’ – to meet these needs, an obligation which is cosmopolitan in scope and source. In its attempt to articulate a rationally-derived core and primary principle of justice, the thesis hopes to contribute to the cosmopolitan discourse of IPT. Part Three shows in what way the international system, with an emphasis on the state, needs to be reconceived; it argues that the state needs to be reconceptualised as a transparent enactor of the derivative duties of the Global Principle (through political and socio-economic reform) ensuring identification of the individual as the primary actor of responsibility within the international. Overall, the thesis aims to identify and acknowledge the limitations of the human and the necessity of some external provisions in order to enable her to become a normatively accountable actor. It aims to highlight what normative theory both assumes and reinforces about human action, arguing that only once the discourse of IPT has recognised the uniquely needing nature of the individual can she become a meaningful and free actor within the international arena.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Elizabeth O’Casey
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Brown, Chris and Ainley, Kirsten

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