World politics is often presented as a field of activity in which ethical behavior will be trumped by considerations of self-interest. It is a realm of war and of economic inequality. Surely it is also the realm of aid-giving, but we often get the impression that foreign aid is no more than a fig-leaf or a lever of political influence. At the same time, civil and political discourse about world politics, as about politics in general, typically takes on a moral flavor. As citizens we condemn the rampancy of power politics and we feel ashamed about the weak development efforts of our governments. To the extent that we are citizens of the world, we might ridicule the continuing significance of borders. Our descriptions of the world always have an ethical, evaluative dimension. The purpose of this course is to help students grapple with the normative constitution of international politics and bring nuance to their normative evaluation of global conditions and events.
More tangibly, we will also be talking and thinking about a range of pressing issues in world politics. “How should the European refugees crisis be handled?” “Can terrorist violence ever be legitimate?” “Do humanitarian interventions suffer from a deep-seated paternalism?” etc. The purpose will not be to answer these questions definitively – that’s impossible anyway – but to further equip students to engage in intelligent debate about them.