War By Agreement: A Contractarian Ethics of War

Yitzhak Benbaji, Daniel Statman

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


In the last two decades, traditional just war theory has been under attack. Critics, known as ‘revisionists’, have argued that its most fundamental principles are morally suspect. However, so far they have failed to propose a convincing alternative. These developments have resulted in a stalemate. While almost everybody would like to maintain the legal order set by the UN Charter and by the Geneva Conventions, there is currently no moral outlook that convincingly substantiates it. The purpose of the present book is to forge a way through this stalemate and show that wars can be morally justified at both the jus ad bellum level (the political decision to go to war) and the jus in bello level (its actual conduct by the military). It does so by developing a contractarian account of the rules governing war, according to which they are best interpreted as a mutually beneficial and fair agreement between the relevant players. The book relies on the long social contract tradition and illustrates its fruitfulness in understanding the morality and the law of war.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages215
ISBN (Print)9780199577194
StatePublished - 2019


  • Just war theory
  • contractarianism
  • jus ad bellum
  • jus in bello
  • the Geneva conventions
  • revisionism


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