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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: December 2016

4 - The New International Paternalism: International Regimes

from Part II - Paternalism, Old and New


It is taken as a truism that today we live in a globalized and interconnected world, but what has been less analyzed are the implications that this has for liberal modernist understandings of political and ethical responsibility. Particularly problematic today is the distinction between public political responsibility and personal moral responsibility. The boundaries between the public and the personal, and the political and the ethical, appear much less clear in a world in which we are all more interconnected and interdependent. This blurring is crucial to understanding the emergence of new paternalist approaches to international regimes. Paternalist approaches imply that some actors have a duty of responsibility or a duty of care for others. In formal paternalist regimes this duty is formalized in law and formal powers and responsibilities are constituted (see the Introduction to this volume). New paternalism claims concern an informal understanding of a duty of care and can thus be made over a wide range of issues or problems, including concerns over the environment. The key point of this chapter is to highlight that this approach implies a very different technique of governance that works on the basis not of assumptions of direct duties and responsibilities but of indirect ones.

The paternalist duty of responsibility for others is less likely to be applied directly through formal political and legal authorization but indirectly through consideration of the unintended outcomes of policy frameworks and social interactions. However, it is important to analyze these discussions of more mediated forms of policy influence which are both part of the process of reshaping and legitimizing the paternalist discourse of international policy responsibilities and the duty of governance over others. Whereas direct paternal duties involve governance over the other and deny to the other the formal rights of equality and autonomy, indirect paternal duties involve a different technique of governance, operating on the basis of a reflexive, responsive governance of the self through a new sensitivity or awareness of the embedded, relational consequences that our self-governance has for others.

New paternalism puts the other at the center of the ethico-political duties of international regimes and international actors but does not imply the problematic claims of Western moral and political superiority, nor incur the resistance, which old paternalist techniques of governance incite (see Autesserre, Chapter 5, this volume).