'Responding to "Delinquent" Institutions: Blame, Punishment and Rehabilitation'

May 14, 2004

Report on the 3rd Workshop of the British Academy Network on Ethics, Institutions and International Relations, 12-14 May 2004, first printed in the January 2005 issue of the British International Studies Association (BISA) News (No. 83).

The problem with trying to punish an institution that is judged to be 'delinquent'—whether the United Nations (UN), a 'rogue state', Shell Oil, or the US Army—might be understood as one of responding to an entity that (to invoke Edward, First Baron Thurlow’s 18th century account of the corporation) 'has no soul to be damned and no body to be kicked'. Yet this conundrum is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when confronting both the conceptual and practical complexities of blaming, and attempting to respond to, formal organizations that are seen to fall foul of their moral responsibilities in international relations.

These complexities were considered by twenty scholars, representing sixteen different universities in North and South America and Europe, who met in New York last May for the final in a series of three workshops on 'Ethics, Institutions, and International Relations'. The meeting—and the challenging debates and discussions that took place over two and a half days—were linked directly to two previous workshops, held in Cambridge, U.K. in November 2000 and Montreal, Canada in May 2002....

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