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This essay examines novel threats to peace – social and political threats as well as military and technological. It worries that familiar conceptions of state sovereignty cannot sustain a legal order capable of meeting those threats, not even if we understand sovereignty as responsibility to protect human rights. The essay tentatively proposes that recent efforts to reformulate state sovereignty as responsibility to humanity – ‘R2H’ for short – offer a better hope. Under this reformulation, states must take into account the interests of those outside their sovereign territory as well as those of the of their own people – in particular, the shared interest in subduing dire threats to world peace.

Responsibility to humanity raises practical as well as philosophical questions. Some may fear that R2H would become a Trojan horse for powerful interests wishing to impose their will on the less powerful. The essay argues that these fears misunderstand what R2H requires. Alternatively, R2H may sound preposterously utopian, in an era of waning trust in internationalism and an upsurge of reactionary nationalism. In response, I argue that reactionary nationalism is itself a dire mistake – a symptom of our current ills, not a cure.

Publication Citation

Archiv für Rechts-Und Sozialphilosophie, Special Edition (forthcoming)