Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation

“Fighting Justly” in the XXth century, why do weapons disappear from the battlefield?

Abstract : The dissertation investigates why certain weapons continue, or cease to be employed on the battlefields. Employing an interpretivist perspective, it investigates an aspect largely overlooked by the extant literature: the impact of the meta-norm of 'fighting justly' on actors' weapons utilizations. The meta-norm of fighting justly is defined as the collective preconceptions shared by actors, on how and when the extant laws of war (jus in bello) either ban or allow weapons utilization. My work reveals that the significant shift in the utilization of three weapons (chemical weapons, incendiary weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles) can be explained by shifts in the dominant perceptions of the meta-norm of fighting justly. It is when actors believe that they cannot justify their weapons utilization with regards to their own meta-norm of fighting justly, that they decrease (or pretend to decrease by hiding) this utilization, or vice versa. In fine, when engaged in a war, militaries and states constantly seek to justify their actions, and the basis of these justifications is their understanding of the meta-norm of fighting justly. Because the meta-norm of fighting justly impacts on weapons variations, it is crucial to understand who shapes the norm, at the international level. My work reveals that states are engaged in a constant argument, where they defend, articulate and promote their own conception of fighting justly. In this 'battle for legitimacy', states are more likely to enshrine their own conception as the most legitimate one, under two conditions: namely, when their argument does not disrupt the extant symbolic order, and when it does not foster the inherent contradictions of the laws of war. Ultimately, this work aims to shed new light on how the laws of war influence practices of war. It also explores and provides new insights into the 'logic of arguing' and into the symbolic power in international relations.
Document type :
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Hélène Saint-Gal Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 4:41:14 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, April 20, 2022 - 3:40:21 AM


  • HAL Id : tel-03646355, version 1



Marine Guillaume. “Fighting Justly” in the XXth century, why do weapons disappear from the battlefield?. Political science. Institut d'études politiques de Paris - Sciences Po; Columbia University, 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015IEPP0052⟩. ⟨tel-03646355⟩



Record views