Journal of Applied Philosophy - Early View Articles

The Ethics of Boycotting as Collective Anti‐Normalisation

Published online on Feb 01, 2018


Boycotts of various types and forms have become in recent years an increasingly common feature of political life. And yet, despite both their ubiquity and clear ethical grounding, they remain to date under‐explored in academic philosophy. I examine in this article the question of the ethics of boycotting, using the academic and cultural boycott of Israel as a case study. I propose that the boycott exhibits an intriguing pattern of continuous tension between its own stated principles and its realised practices, and suggest that this tension is not a dysfunction of the boycott but rather a structural feature, which emanates from its primary commitment to the idea of anti‐normalisation as an ethical imperative. I explore the complex cross‐linguistic political pragmatics of the notion of (anti‐)normalisation, and argue that the commitment to it on the part of the boycott movement, as a group actor, effectively amounts to a capricious form of arbitrary treatment of the boycotted. I then propose that the effective validation of arbitrary treatment constitutes, first, a harm in itself; and, second, that it hinders the capacity of the campaign to draw on and contribute to a general theory of the ethics of boycotting.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

10.1111/japp.12299 About DOI

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