Why are some institutional designs perceived as more legitimate than others, and why is the same institutional design sometimes perceived as legitimacy-enhancing in one setting and not in another? In a world in which most international organisations (IOs) do not fully embody societal values and norms, such as democratic participation and equal treatment, why do legitimacy deficits in some organisations lead to pressure for institutional change while in others they are tolerated? These are important questions given that many analysts have diagnosed a legitimacy crisis' of IOs, but we argue that existing approaches are ill equipped to answer them. We show that the existing legitimacy literature has an implicit model of institutional change - the congruence model - but that this model has difficulty accounting for important patterns of change and non-change because it lacks microfoundations. We argue that attributions of legitimacy rest on perceptions and this implies the need to investigate the cognitive bases of legitimacy. We introduce a cognitive model of legitimacy and deduce a set of testable propositions to explain the conditions under which legitimacy judgments change and, in turn, produce pressures for institutional change in IOs.
We develop scholarship on status in international politics by focusing on the social dimension of small and middle power status politics. This vantage opens a new window on the widely-discussed strategies social actors may use to maintain and enhance their status, showing how social creativity, mobility, and competition can all be system-supporting under some conditions. We extract lessons for other thorny issues in status research, notably questions concerning when, if ever, status is a good in itself; whether it must be a positional good; and how states measure it.
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.
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.
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.
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 notion of humanitarian government has been increasingly employed to describe the simultaneous and conflicting deployment of humanitarianism and security in the government of precarious lives' such as refugees. This article argues that humanitarian government should also be understood as the biopolitical government of host populations through the humanitarian government of refugees. In particular, it explores how the biopolitical governmentality of the UK decision to suspend search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean in 2014, and the British rejection and German welcoming of Syrian refugees primarily concern the biological and emotional care of the British and German populations. To this end, the article analyses how dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of refugees have been informed by a biopolitical racism that redraws the boundary between valuable' (to be included) and not valuable' (to be excluded) lives according to the refugees' capacity to enhance the biological and emotional well-being of host populations. This discussion aims to contribute to three interrelated fields of research - namely, humanitarian government, biopolitical governmentality, and responses to the European refugee crisis - by exploring how biopolitics has shaped the British and German responses to the crisis and how it encompasses more meanings and rationalities than currently recognised by existing scholarship on humanitarian government.
This article critically examines recent works on resilience. In so doing, it argues that rather than representing some radical rupture with current practices heralding the dawn of a new era, as David Chandler claims, the emphasis on individuals as resilient subjects simply represents a new phase in the neoliberal shift from the state as provider to state as enabler and promoter of self-reliance. Indeed, our present preoccupation with complexity, uncertainty, and resilience can best be understood as reflecting the consequences of neoliberal policies Moreover, the article further argues that there is an attendant danger that resilience thinking may further promote neoliberal forms of governmentality and encourage a degree of political passivity. The emphasis on resilience is in danger of depoliticising highly political choices, shifting attention toward ex-post policies of survival and recovery rather than challenging the current economic order and resisting the further imposition of neoliberal policies on already beleaguered populations. This article therefore argues for shifting our emphasis towards a Foucauldian analysis of power and resistance.
The rise of China has sparked a debate about the economic and political consequences for the global economy of the internationalisation of the renminbi. We argue that the dominant focus of this literature-primarily the external conditions and requirements for a national currency to become an international currency-misspecifies the connections between the international and domestic requirements for currency internationalisation, as well as the potential to become the dominant international reserve currency. We correct this oversight by developing an integrated theoretical framework that highlights the domestic adjustment costs which a state must accommodate before its currency can carry the weight of internationalisation. These costs constitute a critical element of an international currency's 'political economy', and they force states to negotiate contentious social trade-offs among competing domestic claims on finite public resources in a sustainable manner. Our analysis suggests that the likelihood of China being able to successfully negotiate the social costs associated with running a fully internationalised currency is currently very low, precisely because this will place unacceptable pressure on groups benefiting from the economic and political status quo. This further suggests that the American dollar will remain unchallenged as the global economy's pre-eminent international currency for the foreseeable future.
How China assumes its position of superpower is one of the most important questions regarding global order in the twenty-first century. While considerable and sustained attention has been paid to China's growing economic and military might, work examining how China is attempting, if at all, to influence the ecosystem of global norms is in its earlier stages. In this article we examine China's actions in an important venue for the development of global norms, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Using a unique dataset that captures how other countries move into or out of alignment with China on UNGA resolutions that are repeated over time, we find statistical evidence that China used diplomatic and economic means in an attempt to subtly alter international norms. We further illustrate these findings by examining four states that made substantive moves toward China on resolutions concerning national sovereignty, democracy, international order, non-interference, and human rights.
This article explores how analysis of material objects offers insights into international intervention and reactions to that intervention. Building on studies that examine the 4x4 as emblematic of intervention, the article argues that the 4x4 can also be seen as an object of resistance and agency. To do so, it uses the case study of 4x4 usage in Darfur and draws on primary data including interviews and a UN security incident database. The article is mindful of the limitations of a material turn' in the study of International Relations, especially in relation to how it might encourage us to overlook agency and structural power. While finding new materialism arguments largely convincing, the case study encourages a note of caution and proposes the notion of materialism+', which allows for the further investigation of the human/non-human interface, but is circumspect about tendencies towards neophilia, dematerialism, and posthumanism.
The emergence of the transnational as a site and object of governance has triggered concern amongst both affected publics subject to these effects, and scholars keen to locate the democratic potentials therein. Increasingly, public sphere theory is being promoted as a lens for interrogating the democratic potential of the transnational. However the project of transposing public sphere theory from its Westphalian origins to the transnational has been frustrated by a lack of empirical examples in which the properties of a transnational public sphere can be easily identified. In this article, examining the encounter between La Via Campesina and the UN Committee on World Food Security, I argue for the existence of a nascent transnational public sphere in the specific domain of transnational food and agricultural policymaking. The existence of this concrete example, I argue, defends public sphere theory's transnational turn against either the charge of utopianism, or the need to suspend some of the framework's core conditions in order to accommodate the actually possible'. It also allows us to advance public sphere theory's empirical research agenda, and in this article I introduce an analytical framework to take this further.
The literature of recent UK policy toward Syria focuses on the 2013 chemical weapons crisis. We examine policy discourses leading up to that. The government supported the removal of Assad but faced the challenge of explaining how that would be realised. Given its unwillingness and inability to mobilise support for military intervention, or to tailor policy goals to match available means, government strategy arguably lacked credibility. Our purpose is to examine how the government tried to close this ends means gap and how, having failed to do that, its discursive strategy' legitimised its approach. We argue the resources for the government's discursive strategy on Syria can be found in the earlier articulation of liberal conservatism'. A policy that from an ideal-liberal or ideal-conservative position might have been criticised as half-baked was maintained by a strategy that gave consideration to, but did not completely follow through on, either archetype. Drawing on an analysis of 2,152 sources and supplemented by elite interviews, we illustrate how this strategy managed the interplay of two basic discourses: a liberal insistence that the UK should support the Arab Spring' and a conservative insistence that military intervention was imprudent because Syria was not Libya'.
The development of a practice turn' in International Relations promises to reconstitute IR theory around the study of embodied practices. Despite occasional references to Judith Butler's work, the contributions of feminist and queer theory are under recognised in existing work. In this piece I note the distinctive approach to gender as a practice represented by Butler and other feminist/queer theorists for its emphasis on intelligibility and failure, particularly the importance on competently' practising gender in order to established as an intelligible subject. Given the centrality of competency' in practice turn' literature, theorising practice from the perspective of gender failures' sheds light on the embedded exclusions within this literature. To demonstrate the stakes of this critique, I discuss airport security practices, a growing area of interest to IR scholars, in terms of the experiences of trans- and gender non-conforming people. I argue that such practices ultimately complicate success/failure binaries. I conclude by considering the political stakes of practising theory in IR and how competency in theory is similarly marked by the exclusion of feminist/queer work.
Many states partially relinquish sovereignty in return for physical protection from a more powerful state. Mainstream theory on international hierarchies holds that such decisions are based on rational assessments of the relative qualities of the political order being offered. Such assessments, however, are bound to be contingent, and as such a reflection of the power to shape understandings of reality. Through a study of the remarkably persistent US-led security hierarchy in East Asia, this article puts forward the concept of the 'epistemic community' as a general explanation of how such understandings are shaped and, hence, why states accept subordinate positions in international hierarchies. The article conceptualises a transnational and multidisciplinary network of experts on international security 'The Asia-Pacific Epistemic Community' - and demonstrates how it operates to convince East Asian policymakers that the current US-led social order is the best choice for maintaining regional 'stability'.
In this contribution to the forum marking the publication of Andrew Linklater's remarkable book on Violence and Civilization in the Western States-Systems we first locate the book in the context of Linklater's overarching intellectual journey. While best known for his contribution to a critical international theory, it is through his engagement with Martin Wight's comparative sociology of states-systems that Linklater found resonances with the work of process sociologist, Norbert Elias. Integrating Wight's insights into the states-system with Elias's insights into civilising processes, Violence and Civilization presents a high-level theoretical synthesis with the aim of historically tracing restraints on violence. The article identifies a tension between the cosmopolitan philosophical history which underpins the argument of the book, and which has underpinned all Linklater's previous works, and the 'Utrecht Enlightenment' that offers a conception of 'civilized statecraft' at odds with a universal conception of morality and justice. The article then examines Linklater's argument about the 'global civilizing process' as it applies to post-Second World War efforts to build greater institutional capability to protect peoples from harm. It is argued that Linklater overestimates the extent to which solidarism has civilised international society, and that the extension of state responsibilities and development of civilised statecraft owe more to pluralism than solidarism.
The central argument of this article is that constructivists in particular underestimate or even ignore the importance of the 'real' structural inheritance that shapes state (and the political elites that represent them) behaviour. Even though the future is indeterminate, some outcomes are decidedly more likely than others, especially where policymakers believe they inhabit a strategic universe of zero sum outcomes and where self-reliance and assertion remain important. I suggest that 'critical realism' offers a way of accounting for the institutional structures that shape international behaviour. The first half of this article makes the case for a critical realist approach. The second half illustrates the possible importance of this claim with reference to the contemporary geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.
The concept of world society has elicited sharp criticism for being too diffuse and amorphous owing to its synonymy with all transborder social relations, equability with humankind, or conflation with solidarist international society. To overcome these shortcomings, this article reconfigures world society by attaching otherwise unmoored social activity to an understanding of the world as comprised of shared social spaces. This spatialised reading foregrounds constellations of relations that have emerged in conjunction with discrete geographies - natural, economic, cyberspatial, cultural, anthropic - within which humans interact, and demonstrates that the world has become an actionable, political concept generative of activities peculiar to the space itself. A review of English School literature extracts four theses - purposive, plural, spatial, and stewardship - that invite conceptual reconstruction of world society. The article then addresses the discursive construction of cultural heritage as a worldly space populated with distinctive institutions and cognitive and normative commitments, and is followed by reflections on the added value of such an approach and directions for future research.
This article considers what the nineteenth century can tell us about the nature of great power management under conditions of ambiguity in relation to the holders of great power status. It charts the development of an institutionalised role for the great powers as managers of international society but with a specific focus on the mutual recognition, and conferral, of status. Such a focus highlights the changing, and sometimes competing, perceptions of not only which states should be thought of as great powers, but also therefore whether the power structure of international society remained multipolar or shifted towards bipolarity or even unipolarity. The article argues that a 'golden age' of great power management existed during a period in which perceptions of great power status were in fact more fluid than the standard literature accounts for. This means that predictions surrounding the imminent demise of the social institution of great power management under an increasingly ambiguous interstate order today may well be misplaced.
The summer of 2014 saw several campaigns to name the dead of Gaza. This article aims to explore these initiatives through the idea of the 'human'; understood both in terms of grievability, as a life that matters, and as a litigious name' employed by subaltern groups to make political demands. My argument in this article is that politically not all attempts at nomination are equivalent and that a distinction needs to be drawn between those carried out on behalf of the 'ungrievable' and those engaged in by them. Only the latter enables a critical politics of the human potentially capable of transforming the prevailing order of grievability in order to make their lives count. After exploring the interventions that occurred in Gaza in 2014, I turn to how the Western (and Israeli) media represent international deaths to consider what that reveals about the differential valuation of human life. To help make my case I elaborate the idea of an order of grievability. I then explore various attempts by others to name Gaza's dead, and the limitations of their ensuing politics, before finally examining the activities of Humanize Palestine as an example of a more radical, critical politics of the human.