Social contract theory and the international normative order : a new global ethic?
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Although people establish norms that enable them to live together, some of these have to be coupled with a system of enforcement. This conforms to broad social contract theory and can also be applied to the international sphere. The international community is also based on a system of norms. However, unlike the domestic context, there is no overreaching authority to direct states on what they should do. Rather it is left to states themselves to police this framework. However, this has resulted in one of the conditions envisaged by social contract theorists, namely a stasis between the command order and the state of nature. This may explain, for instance, the indifference to some modern human rights violations. Hence the current system of International law, with its insistence on the Westphalian principle of equality of states has caused a substantial fracture in the enforcement of international law, particularly when it comes to serious human rights breaches, and caused something akin to the state of nature envisaged by social contract theorists. While it may be practically impossible to provide a command system in the international sphere similar to the one in the domestic life, there is some hope that a revised deontological ethic founded on global integration may provide one impetus for change.
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