Peter J. Hoffman and Thomas G. Weiss, Humanitarianism, War, and Politics: Solferino to Syria and Beyond (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017).

What is humanitarianism? This authoritative book provides a comprehensive analysis of the original idea and its evolution, exploring its triangulation with war and politics. Peter J. Hoffman and Thomas G. Weiss trace the origins of humanitarianism, its social movement, and the institutions (international humanitarian law) and organizations (providers of assistance and protection) that comprise it. They consider the international humanitarian system’s ability to regulate the conduct of war, to improve the wellbeing of its victims, and to prosecute war criminals. Probing the profound changes in the culture and capacities that underpin the sector and alter the meaning of humanitarianism, they assess the reinventions that constitute “revolutions in humanitarian affairs.”

The book begins with traditions and perspectives—ranging from classic international relations approaches to “Critical Humanitarian Studies” —and reviews seminal wartime emergencies and the creation and development of humanitarian agencies in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The authors then examine the rise of “new humanitarianisms” after the Cold War’s end and contemporary cases after 9/11. The authors continue by unpacking the most recent “revolutions”—the International Criminal Court and the “Responsibility to Protect”—as well as such core challenges as displacement camps, infectious diseases, eco-refugees, and marketization. They conclude by evaluating the contemporary system and the prospects for further transformations, identifying scholarly puzzles and the acute operational problems faced by practitioners.

About the Authors
Peter J. Hoffman is Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Julien J. Studley Faculty Fellow in the Graduate Program in International Affairs at The New School, and Research Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. His work spans the fields of international organization, strategic and security studies, international relations theory, and comparative historical sociology. Peter’s central focus is on the dynamics of war and global responses, concentrating primarily on the international humanitarian system. Other major areas of his work encompass the United Nations; the private military and security sector; human rights; US foreign policy; and global commodity chains. His scholarship has appeared in academic journals and books, including Sword & Salve: Confronting New Wars and Humanitarian Crises (2006). He has been a consultant for a variety of nongovernmental organizations, conducting research and writing reports for the Future of the United Nations Development System, the Open Society, the Fund for Peace, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, the Stanley Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and the Humanitarianism & War Project. He was also a member of the research team of the International Commission for Intervention and State Sovereignty.

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at The CUNY Graduate Center and Director Emeritus (2001–2014) of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, who was named 2016 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. Past president of the International Studies Association (2009–2010) and recipient of its “IO Distinguished Scholar Award 2016,” he also directed the United Nations Intellectual History Project (1999–2010) and was research professor at SOAS, University of London (2012–2015), chair of the Academic Council on the UN System (2006–2009), editor of Global Governance, research director of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, research professor at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, executive director of the Academic Council on the UN System and of the International Peace Academy, a member of the UN secretariat, and a consultant to public and private agencies. He has written extensively (over fifty books and 250 articles and book chapters) about multilateral approaches to international peace and security, humanitarian action, and sustainable development. Recent authored volumes include The United Nations and Changing World Politics (2017); Humanitarianism Intervention: Ideas in Action (2016); What’s Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It (2016); Governing the World? Addressing “Problems without Passports” (2014); Global Governance: Why? What? Whither? (2013); Humanitarian Business (2013); Thinking about Global Governance: Why People and Ideas Matter (2011); Humanitarianism Contested: Where Angels Fear to Tread (2011); Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (2010); and UN Ideas That Changed the World (2009).