Time is politics: Temporalising justifications for war and the political within moral reasoning

Piki Ish-Shalom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article explores the intertwining of the political and the moral, focusing on just war theory (JWT). It argues that a crucial venue through which adversarial politics infiltrates moral reasoning is the latter's need of temporalisation, especially when called upon to perform moral judgment. Temporalisation is facilitated by temporal contexts and narratives so that the temporal boundaries of the situations-to-be-judged become essentially contested. The essential contestedness of temporal boundaries can subjugate normative language and moral reasoning to the dictates of adversarial politics and relativism. Temporalisation can change morality into an instrument of politics, rather than the other way around. To overcome these problems and salvage morality from relativism, the article suggests that we focus on the structural facilities of international institutions. It argues that international institutions can salvage moral reasoning by changing the structure of incentives facing politicians and encouraging politicians not to aim predominantly at their own, domestic audience, but equally at international and universal audiences.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)126-152
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier versions of this paper were presented on 25 August, 2011 in the ECPR General Conference, University of Iceland, and on 15 May, 2012 at Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. The author would like to thank Viki Auslender and Or Israeli for their research assistance and for Mathias Albert, Nicole Deitelhoff, Aviv Melamud, Harald Müller, Shaul Shenhav, Jonas Wolff and the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments. The research for this article was supported by the Israel Science Foundation, Grant Number 1548/11.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.


  • argumentation
  • international institutions
  • just war theory
  • moral reasoning
  • narratives
  • temporalisation


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