Find this publication at:
Cian O’Driscoll, ‘James Turner Johnson’s Just War Idea: Commanding the Headwaters of Tradition’, Journal of International Political Theory, 4(2) 2008: 189-211.
James Turner Johnson is the foremost scholar of the just war tradition working today. His treatment of the historical development of the just war tradition has been hugely important, influencing a generation of theorists. Despite this, Johnson’s work has not generated much in the way of critical commentary or analysis. This paper aims to rectify this oversight. Engaging in a close and critical reading of Johnson’s work, it claims that his historical reconstruction of the just war tradition is bounded by two key thematic lines — the imperative of vindicative justice and the ideal of Christian love — and occasionally betrays an excessive deference to the authority of past practice. By way of conclusion, this paper sums up the promise and limits of Johnson’s approach, and reflects upon its contribution to contemporary just war scholarship.