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Price: $57.95

Paperback 528 pp.
156 mm x 234 mm



Publication date:
May 2007

Imprint: OUP UK

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Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination

Moral Foundations for International Law

Allen Buchanan

Series : Oxford Political Theory

This book articulates a systematic vision of an international legal system grounded in the commitment to justice for all persons. It provides a probing exploration of the moral issues involved in disputes about secession, ethno-national conflict, 'the right of self-determination of peoples,' human rights, and the legitimacy of the international legal system itself. Buchanan advances vigorous criticisms of the central dogmas of international relations and international law, arguing that the international legal system should make justice, not simply peace, among states a primary goal, and rejecting the view that it is permissible for a state to conduct its foreign policies exclusively according to what is in the 'the national interest'. He also shows that the only alternatives are not rigid adherence to existing international law or lawless chaos in which the world's one superpower pursues its own interests without constraints. This book not only criticizes the existing international legal order, but also offers morally defensible and practicable principles for reforming it. Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination will find a broad readership in political science, international law, and political philosophy.

Oxford Political Theory presents the best new work in political theory. It is intended to be broad in scope, including original contributions to political philosophy and also work in applied political theory. The series contains works of outstanding quality with no restrictions as to approach or subject matter.
Series Editors: Will Kymlicka, David Miller, and Alan Ryan

Readership : Scholars and students of Political Theory, International Relations, International Law, Public Law, and Legal Theory; those interested in issues of justice and human rights


  • `Review from previous edition Buchanan is well-known for his work on secession and self-determination, and this work develops some of those themes. It is a work of great, even magisterial, sweep ... A work of seminal importance, even if you do not agree with the author's prescriptions.'
    Journal of the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association
  • `This book should be read not only by international lawyers but by all those who recognize that it is time to fuandmentally rethink international norms and institutions, before mere force becomes the only alternative.'
    Hurst Hannum, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  • `In this original and probing study, Allen Buchanan offers a cogent, justice-based theory of international law that is attuned to institutions and the realities of world politics.'
    Robert O. Keohane, Professor of International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • `Buchanan's book is exceptional among studies by ethicists in the breadth of its engagement with the existing international legal order, in its integration of ideal theory with the possibilities and constraints of the non-ideal world in which international law functions, and in its focus on institutions.'
    Benedict Kingsbury, Director of the Institute for International Law and Justice, New York University Law School

1. Introduction: The Idea of a Moral Theory of International Law
Part I: Justice
2. The Commitment to Justice
3. Human Rights
4. Distributive Justice
Part II: Legitimacy
5. Political Legitimacy
6. Recognitional Legitimacy
7. The Legitimacy of the International Legal System
Part III: Self-Determination
8. Self-Determination and Secession
9. Intrastate Autonomy
Part IV: Reform
10. Principled Proposals for Reform
11. The Morality of International Legal Reform

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Allen Buchanan is a Professor of Public Policy and Philosophy, Duke University.

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Special Features

  • Major new statement from author who defined the field
  • Most systematic moral theory of international law available
  • Brings rigorous ethical analysis to bear on fundamental issues concerning the nature of international law
  • Combines theoretical depth with concrete policy relevance