The Next Great Hope: The Humanitarian Approach to Nuclear Weapons

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This article examines the humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons, which has reinvigorated the efforts to achieve their prohibition. It explores the fundamental arguments made by the ‘Humanitarian Initiative’ and their grounding in a relationship between international law and international politics. The analysis draws on the emphasis that classical realists put on the political nature of international problems, primarily shaped by considerations of power. Such approach is useful because the humanitarian approach attempts to address the political problem of nuclear weapons by recourse to claims about morality and through the means of international law, most notably the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, deliberately choosing to circumvent politics and its concern with power. The classical realist perspective suggests that to overlook the power political dimension and to consider the problem of nuclear weapons chiefly as a moral and legal issue is likely to lead to yet another failure in efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of International Political Theory
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2018


  • nuclear weapons
  • nuclear abolition
  • humanitarian approach
  • Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
  • classical realism
  • international law


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