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The concept of violence in international theory : a Double-Intent Account.

Finlay, Christopher J. (2017) 'The concept of violence in international theory : a Double-Intent Account.', International theory., 9 (01). pp. 67-100.


The ability of international ethics and political theory to establish a genuinely critical standpoint from which to evaluate uses of armed force has been challenged by various lines of argument. On one, theorists question the narrow conception of violence on which analysis relies. Were they right, it would overturn two key assumptions: first, that violence is sufficiently distinctive to merit attention as a category separate from other modes of human harming; second, that it is troubling in a special way that makes acts of violence peculiarly hard to justify. This paper defends a narrow understanding of violence and a special ethics governing its use by arguing that a distinctive form of ‘Violent Agency’ is the factor uniting the category while partly accounting for the fearful connotations of the term. Violent Agency is defined first by a double intention (1) to inflict harm using a technique chosen (2) to eliminate or evade the target’s means of escaping it or defending against it. Second, the harms it aims at are destructive (as opposed to appropriative). The analysis offered connects the concept of violence to themes in international theory such as vulnerability, security, and domination, as well as the ethics of war.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article has been published in a revised form in International Theory This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press 2017.
Date accepted:16 October 2016
Date deposited:30 November 2017
Date of first online publication:15 February 2017
Date first made open access:30 November 2017

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