How can the materialist turn' contribute to the reshaping of critical geopolitics? This article draws attention to the limits of an approach that emphasises the representational, cultural, and interpretive dimensions of geopolitics, while acknowledging the difficulties of an ontological shift to materiality for many scholars of critical geopolitics. It draws on the work of Karen Barad and Annemarie Mol in order to advance three arguments for the reshaping of critical geopolitics as a field of research. First, it argues for an approach to the analysis of power that examines materialdiscursive intra-actions and that cuts across various ontological, analytical, and disciplinary divides. Second, it argues for an analysis of boundary-production that focuses on the mutual enactment or co-constitution of subjects, objects, and environments rather than on performance. Third, it argues for an analytical approach that engages the terrain of geopolitics in terms of a multiplicity of cuts' that trouble simplifying geopolitical imaginations along with the clear-cut boundaries that these often imply. In so doing, the article makes the case for a more-than-human approach that does not overstate the efficacy of matter, but rather that engages processes of materialisation and dematerialisation without assuming materiality to be a determinant force.
The article presents a top-down approach to the study of the empirical legitimacy of international institutions. It starts from the observation that international institutions' representatives are engaged in various strategies aimed at cultivating generalised support. The article asserts that such strategies should be taken into account to gain deeper insights into the legitimation process of international institutions. To systematise these legitimation efforts and facilitate their empirical analysis, the article introduces the concept of legitimation strategies, which are defined as goal-oriented activities employed to establish and maintain a reliable basis of diffuse support. An analytical differentiation between three types of legitimation strategies is introduced depending on the addressees of legitimation strategies, that is, member state governments, international institutions' staff, and the wider public. The applicability of the concept and the relevance of legitimation strategies for international institutions' communication, behaviour, and institutional design is demonstrated by an empirical analysis of the G8's and the IMF's reaction to legitimation crises in the recent past of both institutions. In addition, the case studies suggest that a balanced set of legitimation strategies that takes into account the legitimacy concerns of all three constituencies is more likely to be successful in improving legitimacy perceptions.
Increasingly, private companies – including Twitter, airlines, and banks – find themselves in the frontline of fighting terrorism and other security threats, because they are obliged to mine and expel suspicious transactions. This analytical work of companies forms part of a chain, whereby transactions data are analysed, collected, reported, shared, and eventually deployed as a basis for intervention by police and prosecution. This article develops the notion of the Chain of Security in order to conceptualise the ways in which security judgements are made across public/private domains and on the basis of commercial transactions. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, this article understands the security chain as the set of practices whereby commercial transactions are collected, stored, transferred, and analysed, in order to arrive at security facts. Understanding the trajectory of the suspicious transaction as a series of translations across professional domains draws attention to the processes of sequencing, movement, and referral in the production of security judgements. The article uses the chain of financial suspicious transactions reporting as example to show how this research ‘thinking tool’ can work. In doing so, it aims to contribute to debates at the intersection between International Relations (IR) and Science-and-Technology Studies (STS).
This article intends to contribute to the theorising of institutional change. Specifically, it asks how dynamics in the deep structure' of international society correspond to changes in more specific institutions as embodied by regimes and international organisations. It does so by taking up the distinction of primary and secondary institutions in international society advocated by scholars of the English School. It argues that, while the differentiation offers analytical potential, the School has largely failed to study secondary institutions such as international organisations and regimes as autonomous objects of analysis, seeing them as mere materialisations of primary institutions. Engaging with the concepts of structuration and path dependence will allow scholars working in an English School framework to explore more deeply the relation between the two kinds of institutions, and as a consequence devise more elaborate theories of institutional change. Based on this argument, the article develops a theoretical model that sees primary and secondary institutions entangled in distinctive processes of constitution and institutionalisation. This model helps to establish international organisations and regimes as a crucial part of the English School agenda, and to enlighten the political mechanisms that lead to continuity and change in international institutions more broadly.
Regional powers are often conceived of as 'regional leading powers', states which adopt a cooperative and benevolent attitude in their international relations with their neighbours. The article argues that regional powers can follow a much wider range of foreign policy strategies in their region. Three ideal-typical regional strategies are identified: empire, hegemony, and leadership. The article is devoted to a theory-led distinction and clarification of these three terms, which are often used interchangeably in the field of International Relations. According to the goals pursued, to the means employed, and to other discriminating features such as the degree of legitimation and the type of selfrepresentation by the dominant state, the article outlines the essential traits of imperial, hegemonic, and leading strategies and identifies sub-types for better classifying hegemony and leadership.
In this article, we critique the Eurocentric character of security studies as it has developed since World War II. The taken-for-granted historical geographies that underpin security studies systematically misrepresent the role of the global South in security relations and lead to a distorted view of Europe and the West in world politics. Understanding security relations, past and present, requires acknowledging the mutual constitution of European and non-European worlds and their joint role in making history. The politics of Eurocentric security studies, those of the powerful, prevent adequate understanding of the nature or legitimacy of the armed resistance of the weak. Through analysis of the explanatory and political problems Eurocentrism generates, this article lays the groundwork for the development of a non-Eurocentric security studies.
This article investigates the recent New Materialisms' turn in social and political thought and asks what the potential theoretical and methodological significance might be for the study of International Relations (IR). To do so we return to debates about the theoretical status of discourse in IR as it is in this context that the question of materiality - particularly as it relates to language - has featured prominently in recent years. While the concept of discourse is increasingly narrow in IR, the New Materialisms' literature emphasises the political force of materiality beyond language and representation. However, a move to reprioritise the politics of materiality over that of language and representation is equally problematic since it perpetuates rather than challenges the notion of a prior distinction between language and materiality. In response, we draw on earlier poststructural thought in order to displace this dichotomy and articulate an extended understanding of what analysing discourse' might mean in the study of IR.
Best practices are increasingly used to govern a range of global issues. Yet, the rise of global governance through best practices has received scant attention in the International Relations literature. How do best practices differ from other modes of governance? How are they constructed? And to what end? We offer a novel conceptualisation of best practices as a unique mode of global governance principally distinguished by basing claims of political authority on existing practices. Belying their apolitical terminology, best practices in global governance are purposively constructed by political actors to steer targeted actors toward desired ends. We illustrate the characteristics of governance through best practices with reference to state and non-state global governance initiatives in a wide range of issue areas, ranging from finance and development to human rights and the environment, and through an in-depth case study of the ISEAL Alliance, a disseminator of best practices for transnational sustainability standard-setters. We find that governance through best practices has both positive and negative consequences. While it offers a pragmatic approach to global governance under conditions of fragmentation and polycentricity, it can also mask underlying power dynamics and political agendas and therefore requires ongoing critical scrutiny.
In this article, the introduction to this Special Issue, we underline the importance of the dynamics of misrecognition for the study of world politics. We make the case for shifting the focus from 'recognition', where it has long been cast in social, political and, more recently, International Relations theory, to misrecognition. We do so by returning to the original theorisation of misrecognition, Hegel's dialectic of the master and servant. Our point of departure is not only that the desire for recognition is key social dynamic, but that the failure to obtain this recognition is built into this very desire. It is a crucial factor for understanding how international actors behave, including, but not only, states. Thus understood, the desire for recognition is not simply a desire for social goods, for status or for statehood, but for more agency-more capacity to act. We explore the logic of misrecognition and show how the international system is a symbolic structure that is ordained by an unrealisable ideal of what we call 'sovereign agency'.
In this article, I argue that Antonio Gramsci's concept of passive revolution makes a foundational contribution to International Relations (IR), yet has been relatively under appreciated by the broader discipline. Within the Historical Sociology of International Relations, uneven and combined development has recently been postulated as a key trans-historical law that provides a social theory of the 'international'. Drawing from, but moving beyond these debates, I will argue that passive revolution is a key conditioning factor of capitalist modernity. I will demonstrate how the concept of passive revolution is the element that explains the connection between the universal process of uneven development and the manner in which specific combinations occur within the capitalist era as geopolitical pressures, in tandem with domestic social forces become internalised into geographically specific state forms. It therefore offers a corrective to the frequently aspatial view that is found in much of the literature in IR regarding uneven and combined development. Additionally, passive revolution provides a more politicised understanding of the present as well as an important theoretical lesson in relation to what needs to be done to affect alternative trajectories of development.
This article proposes a framework for empirical research on contested meaning of norms in international politics. The goal is to identify a design for empirical research to examine associative connotations of norms that come to the fore when norms are contested in situations of governance beyond-the-state and especially in crises. If cultural practices shape experience and expectations, they need to be identified and made 'account-able' based on empirical research. To that end, the proposed qualitative approach centres on individually enacted meaning-in-use. The framework comprises norm-types, conditions of contestation, types of divergence and opposition-deriving as a specific interview evaluation technique. Section one situates the problem of contestation in the field of constructivist research on norms. Section two introduces distinctive conditions of contestation and types of norms. Section three details the methodology of conducting and evaluating interviews and presents the technique of opposition-deriving with a view to reconstructing the structure of meaning-in-use. Section four concludes with an outlook to follow-up research.
The prediction of America's decline is a regularly recurring phenomenon; this also pertains to the pivotal field of global finance. This article argues that, first we have to consider the United States together with the other Anglophone countries. The English-speaking countries and territories Anglo-America - have deep common political and socioeconomic roots, of which the unique global Five Eyes intelligence cooperation is merely one manifestation. In finance, New York and London (NY-LON) constitute the decision-making core of this transnational formation. Second, to analyse the highly complex phenomenon of structural power in the globalised international political economy we have to dig deeper to uncover truly meaningful data. Thus, this article evaluates data for nine central segments of global finance from around the year 2000 to 2014. Contrary to the assertions of many declinists, these data show that Anglo-America's dominant structural power has been persistent during this period. Moreover, four novel visualisations show that the US-UK axis is the fulcrum of the international financial system. However, contemporary global finance is characterised by a high degree of latent fragility; significant imbalances, inequalities and contradictions persist and are even likely to grow, potentially undermining the legitimacy and the stability of the whole system.
The meaning of norms is empirically contested. Supposing an inherent instability of norm meaning, contestation, therefore, represents a fundamental conceptual challenge to the mainstream view on norms as shared understandings. By offering a grammatical reading of Antje Wiener's approach to contestation, we examine how norm research addresses this challenge to its theoretical core assumption. We argue that the grammar of Wiener's approach, despite its reflexive starting point, ultimately reintroduces an understanding of norms as facts and leads to a normative 'politics of reality'. This effectively turns contestation into a disruption of the 'normal' state of norms. Demonstrating the challenges of theorising norms with rather than against contestation, the article concludes that norm research has yet to find ways to account for contestation 'all the way down' in order to sustain norms as a productive analytical concept in IR.
In recent years there has been a 'turn' to thinking about war through the experiences of those touched by it. While this scholarship has generated numerous important insights, its focus has tended to remain on wars' violences, those responsible for enacting them, and the effects of such violence. In this article, the experiences of pleasure and joy in war that simultaneously take place are placed centre stage. Drawing on three war novels, the article tracks three recurring themes of pleasurable and joyful experiences related to war: bodily pleasures, the 'togetherness' of war, and moments of joy that escape war's reach. Through this focus, war is shown to work across a range of affective registers and as never totalising or universalising in its experience. The article argues that paying attention to joy and pleasure can work to displace war as a focus of analysis, directing attention instead to the experiences of those who live through war and how they survive, sustain, and resist it.
This study examines the effects of contestation on individual norms that are embedded in larger norm clusters. We define norm clusters as collections of aligned, but distinct norms or principles at the center of a regime. Norm clusters include multiple norms that can be insulated from contestatory challenges by degrees of cohesion, institutionalisation, and legalisation. While some constructivists argue that the most important dynamic to study is 'robustness' of individual norms, we contend that 'resiliency' of norm clusters offers a richer assessment of prospects for international cooperation and long-term impact on state behaviours. Thus, this study distinguishes conceptually between different structural layers that can generate various effects in conjunction with norm contestation. We add a third, or intervening layer of explanation with norm clusters, between the intersection of norms (lowest layer) and normative structures (broadest layer). To explore this argument, comparative case studies examine the resiliency of two prohibitionary norms - the nuclear disarmament norm within the non-proliferation regime and the norm banning assassination of foreign adversaries, which is not embedded in a regime structure. While the robustness of individual norms may be challenged, our results suggest a role for resilient structures in promoting overall longevity of norm clusters.
From a critical security studies perspective – and non-traditional security studies more broadly – is the concept of human security something which should be taken seriously? Does human security have anything significant to oner security studies? Both human security and critical security studies challenge the state-centric orthodoxy of conventional international security, based upon military defence of territory against 'external' threats. Both also challenge neorealist scholarship, and involve broadening and deepening the security agenda. Yet critical security studies have not engaged substantively with human security as a distinct approach to non-traditional security. This article explores the relationship between human security and critical security studies and considers why human security arguments – which privilege the individual as the referent of security analysis and seek to directly influence policy in this regard – have not made a significant impact in critical security studies. The article suggests a number of ways in which critical and human security studies might engage. In particular, it suggests that human security scholarship must go beyond its (mostly) uncritical conceptual underpinnings if it is to make a lasting impact upon security studies, and this might be envisioned as Critical Human Security Studies (CHSS).