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Article

Andreas Papamichail and Anthony F. Lang Jr.

The concept of security is central to the study of international relations (IR), yet it remains heavily contested, both in theory and in practice. In part, this is because the concept contains intractable tensions and contradictions. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a result of this, security—if understood as a state of being that is a function of war and peace—has been the subject of ethical reflection for millennia. Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions, among others, all have their own conceptions of how war and violence ought to be addressed. One of the more prominent ideas drawn from these debates is the concept of the just war, which emerged from the Christian tradition. It became an influential source of critical reflection upon both legal and practical dilemmas in international security, informing a wide range of debates around the world, and it has persisted at the heart of the field of Security Studies that emerged post-World War II. However, in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, changing notions of legitimate authority and broadened conceptions of conditions that cause harm and insecurity led to challenges to state-centrism and war-centrism in Security Studies. Issues such as global health security, counterterrorism, and humanitarian intervention have demonstrated the inherent tensions within security practices and demand novel ethical engagement. Approaching the issue of security from the perspective of international political theory (IPT) allows us to probe the ethical dimensions of security and ask how justice, authority, and security are linked and with what consequences.

Article

Thomas Hickmann

Much of the contemporary literature in the field of international studies deals with the concept of authority. Scholars concerned with global policymaking often suggest that the increasing importance of transnational actors, such as subnational networks, nonprofit organizatons, and business associations, leads to a loss of authority at the expense of state-based forms of governance. This perspective is closely linked to the concept of global governance and challenges classical approaches to international politics and conventional concepts of authority in world politics. However, other scholars take a different view and contend that the development of transnational governance initiatives does not imply a one-sided shift of authority from national governments and international institutions to sub- and nonstate actors. While these authors recognize the emergence of novel forms of authority in global policymaking, they stress the persistent authority of nation-states and underline the centrality of established modes of interstate cooperation. In terms of a theoretical middle ground between these two perspectives, one can argue that we observe a reconfiguration of authority across various actors and levels of decision making. This development does not automatically question the prevailing position of national governments and their institutions. Instead, state power seems to be expressed and rearticulated in new ways within a changing global environment. This ongoing debate pertaining to the changing patterns of authority is key to our understanding of the role and function of state and sub- and nonstate actors as well as their interactions in contemporary global politics.

Article

Luis L. Schenoni

Somewhere in between unipolar and imperial orders, hegemonies divide the continuum from anarchy to hierarchy in world politics, connoting interstate systems of the highest concentration of authority. However, depending on the author, hegemony might denote the concentration of relative capabilities in a single state, the presence of a state that seeks international leadership, general consent in the international society regarding subordination to a central order, or a combination of these phenomena. Similarly, scholars debate the extent to which the relation of authority entailed by hegemony should encompass the economic, military, and/or ideational domains. Given this multiplicity of meanings, this review of extant definitions illuminates some issues that must be addressed explicitly when dealing with this concept. Although hegemony might mean different things for different intellectual traditions, these understandings are interconnected in a family resemblance structure that has facilitated mutual intelligibility. A mapping of this network of meanings suggests that special attention needs to be paid to how scholars have thought about the capabilities that would-be hegemons have, the roles they play, and the type of response they elicit from subordinate states. It also suggests the economic, military, and ideational dimensions of hegemony should be explicitly considered in theoretical discussions. Finally, it highlights the importance of avoiding ambiguity by connecting theory with empirics and providing clear measurement strategies. Measurement is essential to delineate the geographical and temporal scope of hegemonies with more precision, to compare them, and to evaluate their effects on certain outcomes. Debates about hegemony have undergone important empirical progress throughout the decades rendering this a promising area for future research.

Article

The concept of sovereignty has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. Sovereignty presents the discipline of international law with a host of theoretical and material problems regarding what it, as a concept, signifies; how it relates to the power of the state; questions about its origins; and whether sovereignty is declining, being strengthened, or being reconfigured. The troublesome aspects of sovereignty can be analyzed in relation to constructivist, feminist, critical theory, and postmodern approaches to the concept. The most problematic aspects of sovereignty have to do with its relationship to the rise and power of the modern state, and how to link the state’s material reality to philosophical discussions about the concept of sovereignty. The paradoxical quandary located at the heart of sovereignty arises from the question of what establishes law as constitutive of sovereign authority absent the presumption or exercise of sovereign power. Philosophical debates over sovereignty have attempted to account for the evolving structures of the state while also attempting to legitimate these emergent forms of rule as represented in the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf, Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. These writers document attempts to grapple with the problem of legitimacy and the so-called “structural and ideological contradictions of the modern state.” International law finds itself grappling with ever more nuanced and contradictory views of sovereignty’s continued conceptual relevance, which are partially reflective and partially constitutive of an ever more complex and paradoxical world.

Article

Matthew Weinert

Literature concentrated on sovereignty’s location laid the groundwork for the distinctive sort of ethical detachment that has characterized sovereignty in international relations (IR). While it is customary to refer to sovereign absolutism as linking a logic of prerogative with sovereignty, mainstream IR theory has reproduced its own variation on the theme and done little until recently to decouple the two. Yet beginning in the late 1970s, the literature began to entertain the idea that interdependence and globalization impede, constrain, corrode, or diminish the core assumptions of sovereignty: the centralization of power and authority, the supremacy of the state, the state’s capabilities to achieve its objectives, and the degree of permissiveness afforded by an anarchical system. Put differently, the space within which sovereignty could operate unencumbered rapidly diminished in size and scope, and the sovereign state, by losing control over various functions, was becoming incoherent at minimum, and irrelevant at maximum. If these arguments focused on a narrow question, then a new literature emerged in the mid to late 1990s that focused on, and questioned, sovereignty as authority. Moreover, the debates about globalization underscored sovereignty’s disjunctive nature. Yet by linking it so closely with material structures and factors, the literature generally elided consideration of the constitutive effect of international norms on sovereignty and the ways the institution of sovereignty has changed over time.

Article

The social contract tradition derives its ethical force from the hypothetical agreement that parties would reach in an initial choice situation. This initial choice situation brings together a description of the circumstances of justice, various extra-contractarian moral assumptions, and an instrumental theory of rational choice. The circumstances of justice refer to the conditions that require principles of justice. These conditions include the existence of social cooperation along with moderate scarcity. In the absence of such conditions, principles of justice are either unnecessary or impossible to sustain. Social cooperation generates both benefits and burdens, and it is the allocation of those components of social cooperation that requires principles of justice. The application of the social contract to the domestic context dates back to the ancient Greeks, though their version of the contract was somewhat crude and rather one-sided in favor of state authority. Later versions of the social contract would oblige the state to provide much more to citizens in return for their allegiance. John Rawls is widely credited with resurrecting the social contract tradition in the twentieth century. His thought holds special significance for the international social contract, as he extends the contractual approach ethics into the international system where his predecessors declined to do so.

Article

The reality of war has always been connected with political, economic, and social dynamics, as opposed to the notion that it is held within the confines of the battlefield. International political sociologists argue that practices of war and peace are positioned at the crux of institutional continuities and societal change, and that it is wrong to presuppose a dichotomy between the domestic and the international. As a result, scholars have become interested in the study of warfare, which, apart from military history, encompasses various themes such as the nature of human conflict and issues of defense policy, logistics, operations, and strategic planning. One particular study is International Political Sociology (IPS), a field of research that is concerned with how wars draw boundaries, how they influence political authority and trajectories of power, and how these are integrated in the global sphere. Meanwhile, International Relations (IR) is a formal subject that addresses the origin of war, how it impacts the dealings of the international system, and the institutional arrangements that might restrict or enhance war as a determinant of state relations. The study of International Relations is rife with various analytical perspectives, from realism to neo-realism and liberal internationalism, all of which exhibit how war continues to have a central place in scholarly disciplines.

Article

Structural realism, or neorealism, is a theory of international relations that says power is the most important factor in international relations. First outlined by Kenneth Waltz in his 1979 book Theory of International Politics, structural realism is subdivided into two factions: offensive realism and defensive realism. Structural realism holds that the nature of the international structure is defined by its ordering principle, anarchy, and by the distribution of capabilities (measured by the number of great powers within the international system). The anarchic ordering principle of the international structure is decentralized, meaning there is no formal central authority. On the one hand, offensive realism seeks power and influence to achieve security through domination and hegemony. On the other hand, defensive realism argues that the anarchical structure of the international system encourages states to maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security. Defensive realism asserts that aggressive expansion as promoted by offensive realists upsets the tendency of states to conform to the balance of power theory, thereby decreasing the primary objective of the state, which they argue is ensuring its security. While defensive realism does not deny the reality of interstate conflict, nor that incentives for state expansion do exist, it contends that these incentives are sporadic rather than endemic. Defensive realism points towards “structural modifiers” such as the security dilemma and geography, and elite beliefs and perceptions to explain the outbreak of conflict.

Article

Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonization period. Faith or submission to the will of God was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophet who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of God’s message. Since in reality the Prophet is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalized authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualized as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dar al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’anic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Shari’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’an meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolizes God’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.

Article

Thomas E. Doyle II

Deontological international ethics describes, analyzes, and assesses the principles governing the interactions of actors at and across various levels of society; focuses on the relations between states and other international actors; and is concerned with identifying and specifying the moral duties that each kind of international actor bears toward all others. The core theoretical elements of deontological international ethics include accounts of individual and collective agency, moral reason, the moral nature of action, and respect for the moral law as a necessary feature of ethical action. There are three historical phases of deontological international ethics: divine command and natural law ethics prior to Kant, late-modern thinker Immanuel Kant’s international ethics, and contemporary neo-Kantian approaches to nuclear ethics and transnational economic relations. The divine command ethical theories posit divine authority as the absolute and incontrovertible source of moral obligation. Meanwhile, natural law focuses on the intrinsically moral nature of military action and the centrality of moral agency and intention in the rightful use of force. On the other hand, Kant’s systemic deontological ethical theory posits individuals and states as autonomous and rational moral agents, identifies the categorical imperative as the supreme rational principle or morality and the concept of public right as its political corollary, describes a formal method for actors to determine their moral duty in ideal and non-ideal contexts, and applies this theory to the problems of interstate conflict and commerce.