A genealogy of the ethical subject in the Just War tradition

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis draws upon Michel Foucault’s understanding of the ethical subject as being at once both code-constituted (in conforming to code-oriented moralities) and creatively self-constituted (in relation to ethics-oriented moralities) to investigate ethical subjectivity in time of war, specifically within just war discourses. The thesis conducts a genealogical search to unravel this dual representation of the ethical subject of war, starting with the writings of Jean Bethke Elshtain and Michael Walzer which, in turn, prompt a re-reading of iconic figures of just war theorizing on whom they rely: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and Emer de Vattel. In focusing on the formation of ethical subjectivity, this genealogical inquiry is not constrained by normative distinctions within just war – such as the ad bellum/in bello dichotomy that frames current debate. The genealogy reveals that contemporary use of historical discourses both includes and, importantly, excludes aspects of subjectivity that have emerged previously in the just war tradition.
Date of AwardAug 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorVivienne Jabri (Supervisor)

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