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The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs About the Use of Force
     

The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs About the Use of Force

by Martha Finnemore
 

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Violence or the potential for violence is a fact of human existence. Many societies, including our own, reward martial success or skill at arms. The ways in which members of a particular society use force reveal a great deal about the nature of authority within the group and about its members' priorities.

Martha Finnemore uses one type of force, military

Overview

Violence or the potential for violence is a fact of human existence. Many societies, including our own, reward martial success or skill at arms. The ways in which members of a particular society use force reveal a great deal about the nature of authority within the group and about its members' priorities.

Martha Finnemore uses one type of force, military intervention, as a window onto the shifting character of international society. She examines the changes, over the past 400 years, in why countries intervene militarily as well as in the ways they have intervened. It is not the fact of intervention that has altered, she says, but rather the reasons for and meaning behind intervention-the conventional understanding of the purposes for which states can and should use force.

Finnemore looks at three types of intervention: collecting debts, addressing humanitarian crises, and acting against states perceived as threats to international peace. In all three, she finds that what is now considered "obvious" was vigorously contested or even rejected by people in earlier periods for well-articulated and logical reasons. A broad historical perspective allows her to explicate long-term trends: the steady erosion of force's normative value in international politics, the growing influence of equality norms in many aspects of global political life, and the increasing importance of law in intervention practices.

Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
In this superb inquiry into the reasons states use force abroad, Finnemore looks at military intervention over the past four centuries and concludes that the objectives of powerful states have evolved considerably. What the international community deems legitimate has changed over time — and states have tended to adjust accordingly. Traditional explanations for changes in patterns of intervention emphasize the effects of new technologies or material capabilities, focusing on the costs and benefits of intervention. Finnemore does not entirely reject these accounts, but she argues that the utility of force hinges on legitimacy. In short, states calculate their interests according to what is considered acceptable. Today, for example, they try to wrap the use of force in the authority of international bodies such as the United Nations. Finnemore is not entirely successful in identifying the causes of long-term changes in norms, but she breaks new ground in showing the link between state power and purpose.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801438455
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
06/20/2003
Series:
10/16/2004
Pages:
173
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.52(h) x 0.72(d)

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