Just and Unjust Interventions in World Politics: Public and by Catherine Lu

By Catherine Lu

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In contrast, under an atomistic view, because self-direction is inherent in the individual subject, its freedom lies in being able to think, feel, identify, create and express its own projects without external interference or coercion by others, especially the state. Freedom is located in a private sphere that is off-limits to outsiders and external control or regulation. ’38 When we designate a space, unit or activity as ‘private’ we mean that it is free from intrusion. Similarly, when we say that something is a private matter, we are indicating to other people that they do not have a right to interfere in the matter.

How does this perspective see the structure of the international domain and its players? What is its understanding of the public/private construct that underlies the international system? What contributions can it make to a normative inquiry into the legitimacy of intervention, especially ‘humanitarian intervention’? Before tackling these questions it is important to note that realism is internally varied, with its proponents as well as its critics engaged in a perpetual debate over the substance, meaning and cogency of its fundamental precepts.

If we confuse the descriptive categorization of the state as a public entity with the normative assessment that any and every state manifests the public interest, we are in danger of obscuring issues that arise when states or regimes fall short of these ideals, such as how the political realm may lessen the likelihood of such failure, or be held accountable in such an eventuality. III The private lives of states States are public actors in a few different senses that have implications for their standing, agency and obligations in international society.

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