Review of International Studies

Research Article

Dying for the state: the missing just war question?



This article introduces the problem of having to risk one's life for the state in war, asking first why this question is no longer asked in the just war literature and then suggesting five issues that relate to this question: 1) that of individual consent, 2) whether or not any state can be justified in obliging its citizens in this regard and whether or not the type of government is important, 3) whether or not the problem of the obligation differs between conscript and volunteer armies, 4) the problem of political obligation and how any individual could be justifiably obliged to risk his or her life for the state in war, and 5) the question of whether a citizen may be obliged to go into any war. The argument is that these questions are no longer given much attention in the just war literature because of the way that the concept of proper authority has come to be understood. The article concludes by suggesting that the problem of the ‘obligation to die’ should be included in our understanding and use of just war theory and the ethics of war.

Ilan Zvi Baron is a lecturer in International Political Theory at Durham University.