The Autonomy and Legitimacy of States: A Critical Approach to Foreign Intervention

Dissertation, Columbia University (2004)

Vanessa Neumann
Columbia University (PhD)
This thesis establishes the ethical basis and parameters for intervention by examining what I define as the autonomy and legitimacy of states. In this analysis I draw upon classic contract theory of government, amongst other theories, in order to engage in the current literature. ;First, I discuss the purpose of government and the proper relationship between government and governed. I also clearly define the terms: nation, state and government, setting up a clear vocabulary for use throughout the work and to clarify the discussion of legitimacy and its limits. Second, I argue for the universality of certain political values, by disputing the contentions of Asian values theorists. I also demonstrate why liberal social policies and economic development are not incompatible. Third, I examine the complexities of a legitimate democracy, which I take to be the ideal instantiation of a legitimate and autonomous government, immune from foreign intervention. Chapter 3 builds on chapter 1's description of the purpose of government by discussing why certain legal and political structures are more legitimate than others. Chapter 4 examines some of the problems that can overtake a democracy that gives a low priority to social justice, and how majority rule can become counterproductive by delegitimizing that democracy. In the closing chapter, I discuss some of the real-life complexities and challenges for the moral philosophical theories of intervention. ;The overall contention is that national sovereignty is a human right that is infringed by foreign intervention. However, sovereignty is a right only insofar as it is legitimate. When a government and/or a state has been deemed illegitimate, then intervention is permissible. ;My view of legitimacy is informed by my view of political philosophy as a form of applied ethics, dictating how we live our lives. Political philosophy pertains to the rules for accommodating different moralities of individuals and their collectivities within an ethical system that takes account of the uncertainty of the attainability of moral truth
Keywords Venezuela  democracy  foreign intervention  sanctions  human rights  representative government  autonomy  legitimacy  political theory
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