What should we do?
The politics of humanitarian exceptionalism
in Cosmopolitan dystopia
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This chapter uses a conceptual framework developed by Jef Huysmans to show how political exceptionalism transforms the character of liberal internationalism, with the result that humanitarian emergency is seen as a permanent condition of international order, necessitating the institutionalised and recurrent use of global military force. As a result, international institutions have been restructured around destructive anti-diplomacy and a new form of law as embodied in human rights doctrine. The chapter begins by justifying the application of exceptionalism to international politics, despite the fact that it is more commonly used in relation to domestic politics. In this framework of international exceptionalism, military force to rescue imperilled humanity is taken to represent a higher vision of solidarity, superior to a world of state-based interests, institutions and egotistical national politics. This explains specific characteristics of the global humanitarian order, in which political pluralism is suppressed in favour of a cosmopolitan monism, and the superpower claims limitless and universal jurisdiction.

Cosmopolitan dystopia

International intervention and the failure of the West


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