Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Susan Stoudinger Northcutt, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn DiPalma, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Gibbons, Ph.D.


peace, morality, ethics, feminism, war


This paper studies the history of just war theory and critiques it from various feminist perspectives. Using a definition of war as inseparable from the system within which it is embedded, the paper contends that just war theory has been incorporated into the realist paradigm that predominates current political thought, making it susceptible to manipulation. Most importantly, this usurpation has shifted just war theory's focus from jus ad bellum to jus in bello considerations, seriously weakening its deterrent effects on war. The paper proposes its replacement with a just peace theory, discussing several existing frameworks and explaining the important part women are playing to achieve its principles. It concludes that although just war principles might still be helpful as a framework for limiting the worst excesses of war, current applications do not adequately meet the presumption against war and for peaceful settlement of disputes that the theory's originators envisioned. Just peace theory is an active theory that promotes practices leading to the reduction of violence in all arenas and at all levels, from fights in the schoolyard to ethnic conflicts and beyond, offering concrete examples that can strengthen the last resort criteria of just war theory.