Dignity Promotion and the Revenge of Honour
Security and Morality in Russia-West Relations
This article argues that the West’s neoliberal ‘dignity promotion’ in other parts of the world is counter-productive and leads to the resurgence of a primordial culture of honour, a concept too often an ignored in international relations research. The author shows how the West has hijacked and neoliberalized the concept of dignity to include abstract notions of individual freedom and, above all, property rights and free trade. The concept of dignity is thus deprived of any social content. The strategy of dignity promotion, i.e. the effort to spread the idea of every individual’s inherent, inalienable worth, is based on the conviction that this will lead to a more secure world. However, sociological and anthropological research on moral cultures and honour has shown that security shapes moral cultures, not the other way round. The rise of dignity culture in the modern West was possible only when security, including social security, was provided. Conversely, honour dominates in insecure environments and resurfaces quickly when security disappears. The case study is Russia, where radical neoliberal restructuring in the early 1990s led to an anarchic brutalization of society, giving rise to a widespread culture of honour in Russian politics. On another level, Western dignity promotion in the former Soviet Union, epitomized by its support for ‘colour revolutions’, is perceived as an affront threatening Russian security by damaging its reputation for resolve. Within the culture of honour, the only moral answer to this is aggressive counter-attack.
Copyright (c) 2020 Jardar Nuland Østbø
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal, for non-commercial purpose, no derivatives are permitted. (Please not that this license has been used since 1.10.2018 and will be used in the future. Articles published between 1.1.2017-and 30.9.2018 are licensed under CC BY license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).