Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Professor Jason Ralph

Professor in International Relations; Head of School

Jason Ralph is Professor of International Relations and Head of the School of Politics and International Studies.  He is also Honorary Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland.  He is author of three books including America’s War on Terror (OUP 2013) and Defending the Society of States (OUP 2007).

His most recent work is on the Responsibility to Protect and international society, including “What Should be Done? Pragmatic Constructivist Ethics and the Responsibility to Protect” International Organization 2018, and (with Jess Gifkins) ‘The purpose of UN Security Council Practice. Contesting Competence Claims in the Normative context created by the Responsibility to Protect”, which was awarded best article to be published by the European Journal of International Relations in 2017. 

Research Interests

He has been the recipient of research awards from the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy, Research Councils UK, and the European Union, including a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship 2014-2016.  His work during this fellowship was nominated for a Marie Curie Prize Award in the area of “contributing to society”.  Central to this was the creation of the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which is based at the University of Leeds, where he continues to serve as Co-Director.  

His current project (with Jess Gifkins) is funded by the British Academy and examines the role, reputation and responsibilities of the United Kingdom as a permanent member of the UN Security Council after its decision to leave the European Union.  This is one part of a broader research agenda that asks how a pragmatic constructivist ethic informs global governance in the context of shifting power balances.


I teach on the following modules:

  • International Politics
  • US Politics and Foreign Policy
  • Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute

PhD Supervision

I am able to supervise in the following areas:

  • International Relations, in particular those informed by an English School and Constructivist approaches
  • American and British Foreign Policy
  • Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute

Key Publications


  • Ralph JG, Special Issue Symposium: The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute, ed. by Ralph JG, Criminal Law Forum (Springer, 2015), 26, 1-179

  • Ralph JG, America's War on Terror. The State of the 9/11 Exception from Bush to Obama (Oxford University Press, 2013)

  • Ralph JG, Defending the Society of States: Why America Opposes the International Criminal Court and Its Vision of World Society (Oxford University Press, 2007), 254p

    The literature on the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been dominated by legal texts. This is the first single authored book length project to address the issues raised by the ICC from an International Relations perspective. It addresses this shortcoming of the IR literature with an in-depth empirical analysis of the Court and American opposition to it. The book also explicitly addresses significant theoretical questions in the study of international society, which have been given a high profile in the International Relations community thanks mainly to the reconvening of “the English School” by Barry Buzan and Richard Little. The book develops the English School research agenda by using its theoretical framework to analyse recent developments in the field of international criminal justice. It offers a concise definition of ‘world society’, which helps to resolve a longstanding problem of English School theory. America’s opposition to the ICC has exposed key characteristics of America’s political identity. The book discusses these at length and thus makes an important contribution to the contemporary debate on the nature of American power. Finally, the war on terrorism has had a major impact on the US approach to international law and international humanitarian law. Making use of the documentary evidence released after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the book examines how these policy debates, the subsequent scandal and the 2004 Supreme Court decision influences the future debate on the ICC.

Journal articles

  • Ralph J, ‘The responsibility to protect and the rise of China: Lessons from Australia's role as a 'pragmatic' norm entrepreneur’, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 17.1 (2017), 35-65
    DOI: 10.1093/irap/lcw002, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/95961/

    © The Author 2016. The purpose of this article is to explore the development of a norm that emerged during a period of unqualified American hegemony - the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) - and to ask what the rise of China means for R2P norm entrepreneurs like Australia. It argues that by underpinning great power identity claims, which are instantiated by the assertion of normative positions occasionally at odds with liberal states, the rise of China has helped to highlight the contested nature of the R2P norm, in particular the license it notionally gives to the pursuit of externally imposed regime change. Drawing on an innovative combination of critical constructivism and philosophical pragmatism the paper argues that liberal states can better promote R2P in this increasingly pluralist international order by adopting a pragmatic approach to norm diffusion. This balances the demands of a dialog that is sensitive to Chinese concerns with the defense of the substantive core of the norm, human protection. It is further argued that Australia's geopolitical position to Chinese power and an embedded identity narrative of Australia as a 'middle power' demonstrates a potential to act as a pragmatic norm entrepreneur. Indeed, Australia's recent activity on the UN Security Council can be characterized in these terms.

  • Ralph J, Souter J, ‘A special responsibility to protect: The UK, Australia and the Rise of Islamic State’, International Affairs, 91.4 (2015), 709-723
    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2346.12339, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87282/

    In the summer of 2014 Islamic State (IS) emerged as a threat to the Iraqi people. In this article we ask whether the UK and Australia had a ‘special’ responsibility to protect (R2P) those being threatened. We focus on two middle-ranking powers (as opposed to the US) because we seek to highlight the significance of special responsibilities that flow only from principle rather than capability. Despite casting their response in terms of a general responsibility, we contend that the UK and Australia did indeed bear a special responsibility based on the widely-held principle of reparation. Rather than making the argument that the 2003 coalition that invaded Iraq created IS, we argue that it is the vulnerable position in which Iraqis were placed as a consequence of the invasion that grounds the UK and Australia’s special responsibility to protect. We address the claim that the UK and Australia were not culpable because they did not act negligently or recklessly in 2003 by drawing on Tony Honoré’s concept of ‘outcome responsibility’. The finding of a special responsibility is significant because it often thought of as being more demanding than a general responsibility. In this context, we argue the response of these two states falls short of reasonable moral expectations. This does not mean the UK and Australia should be doing more militarily. R2P does not begin and end with military action. Rather we argue the special responsibility to protect can be discharged through humanitarian aid and a more generous asylum policy.

  • Ralph J, Gallagher A, ‘Legitimacy Faultlines in International Society. The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute after Libya’, Review of International Studies, 41.3 (2015), 553-573
    DOI: 10.1017/S0260210514000242, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/87280/

    There is a perceived legitimacy deficit in contemporary international society. A symptom of this is the political contestation surrounding the 2011 Libyan crisis and its influence on the 2011–13 Syrian crisis. This involved criticism being levelled at the coalition led by the so-called Permanent-3 for the way they implemented the protection of civilians mandate, as well as for the referral of the Libyan situation to the International Criminal Court. How the P3 respond to these developments will be driven in part by how this ‘legitimacy fault line’ is interpreted. The purpose of this article is to first give an interpretation that is informed by the work of contemporary English School scholars and the political theorists they draw on; and second to provide the context in which specific policy recommendations may guide the response of the P3 states. We argue that because the new legitimacy fault line divides on the procedural question of who decides how international society should meet its responsibilities rather than substantive disagreements about what those responsibilities are (that is, human protection and justice) the challenge to the liberal agenda of the P3 is not radical. However, we also argue that ignoring the procedural concerns of the African and BRICS states is not outcome neutral and could in fact do harm to both the ICC and the wider implementation of R2P. We consider two proposals for procedural reform and examine how the P3 response would impact on their claim to be good international citizens.

  • Ralph JG, ‘The liberal state in international society. Interpreting recent British foreign policy’, International Relations Journal 2013
    DOI: 10.1177/0047117813486822, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/76525/

    The question of who decides when a state has not met its international responsibilities (and therefore forfeits the right to non-intervention) and what kind of international action should be taken (from limited intervention to full-blown regime change) divides liberal foreign policy thinking. To understand the nature of that division, and what is at stake, this article distinguishes ‘neoliberal’ from ‘liberal internationalist’ approaches and locates them in an English School understanding of international society. Where the latter stresses the importance of observing the procedural norms centred on the United Nations, the former contests the legitimacy of such norms if they fail to deliver substantive liberal outcomes. The article then interprets British foreign policy discourse either side of the 2003 Iraq conflict through the prism of this debate. The central claim is that a more cautious approach to the use of force and American unilateralism has not silenced the critique of the UN system and that the international reaction to the Libyan intervention prompts the kind of reflection that continues to separate neoliberal from liberal internationalist approaches.

  • Ralph JG, ‘After Chilcot. The doctrine of international community and the UK decision to invade Iraq’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 2011
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-856X.2010.00444.x

    This article draws on the publicly available oral and documentary evidence produced by the Iraq Inquiry to interrogate the policy impact of the ‘doctrine of international community’, which Tony Blair first articulated during the 1999 Kosovo campaign. Guided by that doctrine, the UK's objective was to reconcile US policy and the UN Security Council. There were two ways to do this: to convince the Bush administration that disarming Iraq was enough and that regime change was a step too far; or to convince the Security Council that disarmament was insufficient and that regime change was necessary. Unfortunately both these strategies failed to deliver the UK objective. To go to war under these circumstances revealed a flaw in the original doctrine, which was to assume that individual states could speak for international society even when they were opposed by a majority of states on the UN Security Council.

  • Ralph JG, ‘The Laws of War and the State of the American Exception’, Review of International Studies 2009, 631-649

    The article examines the US response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks using the Carl Schmitt’s concept of the exception. It argues that the Bush administration's response is consistent with Schmitt’s view that US policy replicates the historical practice of drawing lines that separate ‘civilisation’ from zones of exception where the normal laws governing warfare do not apply. This suggests that the state of exception declared after 9-11 is not contingent on the rise and fall of the terrorist threat, rather it is the latest manifestation of ‘global linear thinking’ and therefore a permanent feature of American hegemony. However, the article does not accept this pessimistic conclusion. US policy since 9-11 fits squarely with a Schmittian explanation only because conservative nationalists have used the war on terror to help reconstruct a sense of American 'exceptionalism'. An alternative reading of how American liberalism should respond to terrorism can be found in the manner in which the administration’s policy has been rejected by the US Supreme Court.

Internet publications

  • Niblett R, Hudson K, Oulds R, Codner M, Davies S, Bagnall A, Viewpoints: What should the UK's future global role be?, (BBC News, 2013)

    Author URL [www.bbc.co.uk]

    Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has said the UK must avoid "knee-jerk interventionism" and "knee-jerk isolationism", during a discussion about the future global role of the UK at Labour's conference on Monday. What should that role be?


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