UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The idea of trusteeship in international society : unity, progress, and the perfection of humankind Bain, William


The idea of trusteeship presupposes a relationship in which a natural person or a legal person is responsible for the general well being of one or more persons who are deemed to be incapable of directing their own affairs without incurring harm to themselves. The purpose of this study is to interrogate the character of trusteeship in international society. By that I mean: I want to discern the assumptions, claims, and justifications that render trusteeship intelligible as a recognised and settled form of human conduct. This investigation will proceed by examining trusteeship in the context of the British East India Company, the partition of Africa, the League of Nations mandates system, the United Nations trusteeship system, the anti-colonial movement, and the contemporary problems presented by failed and unjust states. This investigation concludes by suggesting that the character of trusteeship is intelligible in a particular relation of virtue, inequality, and tutelage. The idea of trusteeship assumes that the fit, that is, the virtuous, shall rule in the interest of the incapable. It assumes that some notion of defect joins ruler and subject in a hierarchical relationship whereby the enlightened instruct the ignorant in the true nature of things. And it assumes that the ends toward which this tutelage is directed are concerned with promoting the welfare of dependent peoples and protecting them from exploitation. The character of trusteeship is also intelligible in the context of other ideas that say something about the nature of the human family, its relation to history, and the possibilities of its future. First, trusteeship is premised on the notion of a universal human family that is joined together by a mutual capacity to understand a common law of humanity. Second, groups within this universal human family may disclose different degrees of development but they are all moving in a common direction called 'progress.' Third, these peoples are moving in a common journey toward some state of enlightenment called 'perfection.' Together, these ideas provide the context in which trusteeship ought to be understood as an obligation imposed on the strong to act on behalf of the weak.

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