Ethics & Political Violence Series

Ethics and Political Violence

The McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society and the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) are jointly organizing a year-long initiative on “Ethics & Political Violence” during the 2021-22 academic year.  The series of seminars and public lectures will feature philosophers, lawyers, historians, social scientists, human rights activists, soldiers and political leaders grappling with vexing moral questions raised by uses of violence in international relations and domestic politics.

The whole of human history is marked by violence and coercion employed to achieve political ends. Law and ethics are designed to regulate the use of violence, but do we have the best laws and norms for this task? And are such legal rules and ethical principles effective? The January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, continued incidents of police brutality in American cities, and the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan all remind us that violence is linked to both political order and political change in complex ways. 

·      What is the relationship between war abroad and political violence at home?

·      When, if ever, is it ethical to use violence to achieve political ends?

·      Are the laws of war and domestic laws legitimate and effective in producing justice?

·      Who has responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of violence in politics at home and abroad?

·      What are the roots of political extremism?

It is impossible to think of using violence for political ends without also thinking about what is right and what is wrong. This year-long initiative will bring together Stanford scholars and leading thinkers from around the world to address these important ethical and political questions.


Some confirmed events that are part of this initiative include:

·      Pulitzer Prize finalist and journalist Carla Power speaking on her new book Home, Land, Security: Deradicalization and the Journey Back from Extremism, in conversation with Sharika Thiranagama (Stanford, Anthropology) - September 29, 12-1 PM PDT, virtual event.

·      CISAC scholars Amy ZegartAsfandyar Mir and Joseph Felter speaking on “9/11 and Afghanistan, Twenty Years Later: Successes, Failures, Surprises and Lessons” - October 5th, 1-2 PM PDT, virtual event.

·      Deakin University Associate Professor Shiri Krebs will be speaking on her new paper “Drone-Cinema, Data Practices, and the Developing New Scope of IHL Jurisdiction,” on October 19th, 3-4 PM, virtual event.

·      Yeshiva University Professor of Law Deborah Pearlstein will speak on “Lawyering the Presidency: Legal Counsel and Constraints on the Use of Force” – December 9th, 3:30-5 PM PT.

·      Princeton University Professor Gary Bass will be speaking on his forthcoming book on the Tokyo War Crimes tribunal on April 21st, 2022, 3:30-5 PM.

·      AEI Senior Fellow Kori Schake, member of the Confederate-named base renaming commission, will speak on “Justice Deferred: War Termination and the Lost Cause Myth” -  May 5th, 2022, 3:30-5 PM.

·      Oxford University political philosopher Cécile Fabre speaking on "Snatching Something From Death – Value, Justice, and Humankind’s Common Heritage" with commentators Lynn Meskell (UPenn, Anthropology), Anna Stilz (Princeton, Politics), Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU, Philosophy And Law), and Leif Wenar (Stanford, Philosophy) - May 10, 11, 12, 2022. 

·      Yale University Professor Samuel Moyn will be speaking on his new book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, on June 2nd, 2022.

·      New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch , writer for the New Yorker, will discuss his new book You Hide That You Hate Me And I Hide That I Know - Spring quarter 2022, date to be announced.

Other speakers and contributors to this initiative will be announced throughout the year. Please check the CISAC events webpage for updates.