Journal of International Political Theory

Publisher:
Sage Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
2021-09-06
ISBN:
1755-0882

Latest documents

  • The balance of power and the power struggles of the polis

    The balance of power is fundamental to the discipline of international relations, but its accuracy in explaining the historical record has been disputed. For international relations, balance of power theory represents a distinct approach which details the behaviour of states to counter hegemonic threats within an anarchic system. This article reimagines the balance of power tradition by highlighting its early modern foundations. Through providing a historical contextualization of the balance of power, this article shows how republican thinkers sought to balance against concentrations of power in order to safeguard political liberty. Early modern republics grappled with the challenge of maintaining a division of power within the polis in a co-constitutive relationship with the international. A republican polis could not secure liberty if under external domination or if the polis itself expanded to imperial proportions. Imperial expansion and the martial politics this entailed have traditionally been understood as incompatible to the safeguarding of political liberty. Recognizing this republican influence can uncover the co-constitutive connections between the internal power dynamics of the polis and the international sphere.

  • Cosmopolitan disobedience

    Increasingly, protests occur across borders and are carried out by non-nationals. Many of these protests include elements that break the laws of their host country and are aimed at issues of global concern. Despite the increasing frequency of transnational protest, little ethical consideration has been given to it. This article provides a cosmopolitan justification for transnational disobedience on behalf of self and others. The article argues that individuals may be justified in illegally protesting in other states, and that in some circumstances they may do so even when laws have been legitimately constituted by the domestic constituencies of those states. Using a cosmopolitan reading of the notion of civility and of the civil realm, the article argues that transnational protests are capable of conforming to the normative and conceptual standards necessary for them to be labelled civil disobedience. As a result, they ought to carry a privileged moral status compared with other forms of protest. The article applies the All Affected Principle to argue that a democratic deficit can provide transnational protesters and resident migrants with a right to civil disobedience even where that right is not held by members of the demos they protest within.

  • On the global politics of “decency” and “restraint”

    This essay offers a review of both Roach’s Decency and Difference: Humanity and the Global Challenge of Identity Politics and Steele’s Restraint in International Politics. Exploring the concept-driven modes of analysis employed in each of these two texts, this essay investigates how Roach and Steele theorize the moral, socio-psychological, and political struggles inherent to the notions of decency and restraint. This review is not only devoted to understanding Roach’s and Steele’s respective arguments about how global politics has been conditioned by the tensions inherent to decency and restraint but, also, to reflecting on how these two scholars suggest we deal—theoretically and practically—with the complexities of these two notions in today’s world. At a time when various forces of indecent, unrestrained behavior have arguably led to an exclusionary politics of identity, rancor, and enmity, Roach’s and Steele’s books demonstrate—conceptually, empirically, and normatively—how we can understand the global politics of decency and restraint, as well as how people(s) around the world can begin to take more dignified steps in a just, democratic direction.

  • On the relevance of Carl Schmitt’s concept of Großraum in contemporary international politics

    Since the end of the Cold War, a number of authors have affirmed the relevance of Carl Schmitt’s concept of Großraum for contemporary international politics. This article reviews those claims and argues that Großraum has little to offer in analytical terms to enhance our understanding of the international political situation in this early twenty-first century. Those authors who wish to revive Großraum for the sake of their theoretical work overlook vitally important components of this concept. Furthermore, their claims fail to meet the criteria of Reinhart Koselleck’s structural iterability.

  • Ciceronian international society

    This article explores what Cicero as a political thinker can offer to the study of international relations. Although previous readings of Cicero have emphasized his Stoic influences and his natural law teaching as the basis of a cosmopolitan world society, I emphasize the way in which Cicero can deepen the concept of international society. International society relies on certain norms and institutions to function properly, such as international law, sovereignty, and the use of war to restrain violence and redress injustice. We find all these concepts articulated clearly in Cicero’s moral and political thought. Cicero also shows the limits of these institutions and norms, explaining why none of them is absolute. Finally, Cicero adds to our theorizing about international society by drawing attention to the role of honor, ruling, and inequality in international society. As such, classical political thought, and Cicero’s in particular, provide a valuable resource for future thinking about international theory.

  • John Stuart Mill and the practice of colonial rule in India

    John Stuart Mill’s justification for British rule in India is well known. Less well known and discussed are Mill’s extensive writings on the practice of British rule in India. A close engagement with Mill’s writings on this issue shows Mill was a much more uncertain and anxious imperialist than he is often presented to be. Mill was acutely aware of the difficulties presented by the imperial context in India, he identified a number of very demanding conditions that would have to be met if Britain’s imperial mission was to be successful, and he was very troubled by the dangers posed to this mission from politics in Britain. Toward the end of his life, Mill become much more pessimistic about the progressive possibilities of British colonialism, in part because of what he thought had happened after the transfer of British rule from the East India Company to the British state. A focus on Mill’s arguments about the practice of British rule in India goes some way to providing a more nuanced account of what Mill thought about colonialism.

  • Conceptualising peace and its preconditions: The anti-Pelagian imagination and the critical turn in peace theory

    This article examines the conceptualisations of peace and its preconditions manifested in the critical turn in peace theory: bottom-up approaches which begin with particular contexts and postulate diverse local actors as integral to the process of peace-building. This article argues that the turn is at an impasse and is unable to address the crucial charge that its conceptualisation of peace is inconsistent. To explain the persistence of inconsistency and to move us forward, the article analyses, evaluates and responds to the turn through the lens of Nicholas Rengger’s work on the anti-Pelagian imagination in political theory. This is defined as a tendency to begin theorising from non-utopian, anti-perfectionist and sceptical assumptions. Through this examination the article argues that the critical turn is anti-Pelagian but not consistently so because it often gives way to perfectionism, adopts naïve readings of institutions and postulates demanding conceptions of political agency and practice. This inconsistency with its own philosophical premises makes the turn’s conceptualisation of peace and its preconditions incoherent. Finally, the article sketches an alternative account of peace which draws upon a number of anti-Pelagian scholars and mobilises Rengger’s particular defense of anti-Pelagianism. The suggested alternative, the article argues, provides us with a more coherent theory of peace and a way out of existing dead ends.

  • De-colonizing the political ontology of Kantian ethics: A quantum perspective

    This article explores the relevance of ontological assumptions for justifications of agency and ethics. It critiques Kantian ethics for being based upon an ontological imaginary that starts from the substantialism of Newtonian physics. Substantialism shapes Western political philosophy’s view about who we are as subjects and how the world works. In this ontological imaginary, validation of ethics is based upon universality and abstractions. Furthermore, Kantian ethics underscores an anthropocentric and theocratic vision of how to govern societies. I argue Kantian criteria are not only insufficient to make good choices but are also conducive to wrong ones, since they elicit self-appeasement in international intervention, and contribute to the conceptual repertoire of coloniality. I propose that an ontology of entanglements opens possibilities for overcoming the shortcomings of an ethos based upon abstractions and possibly for correcting some of its moral failures. In a quantum ontological imaginary, the validation of ethical choices relies instead upon the exploration of the apparatuses we deploy, as well as upon careful situational evaluation. Specific practices, rather than an abstract humanity, are the referents for devising such ethos. This position, I argue, resonates with the critical project of decoloniality and its acknowledgment of the political salience of ontological imaginaries.

  • What is a minor international theory? On the limits of ‘Critical International Relations’

    This article argues that ‘Critical International Relations’, often counterpoised to ‘mainstream IR’, has come to function as a major theoretical category in its own right. It argues that critique involves ‘minor theorising’, defined as the practice of disturbing settled theoretical assumptions in the discipline. The article examines the role and significance of ‘minor theories’ in the context of ongoing debates about Critical IR. It argues that critique is defined by context, and is politically and ethically ambiguous. The article concludes that the scope for critique could be advanced if the terms ‘Critical IR’ and ‘Critical IR Scholar’ are dropped from scholarly parlance.

  • The lex of the earth? Arendt’s critique of Roman law

    How political communities should be constituted is at the center of Hannah Arendt’s engagement with two ancient sources of law: the Greek nomos and the Roman lex. Recent scholarship suggests that Arendt treats nomos as imperative and exclusive while lex has a relationship-establishing dimension and that for an inclusive form of polity, she favors lex over nomos. This article argues, however, that Arendt’s appreciation occurs within a general context of more reservations about Rome than Roman-centric interpretations admit. Her writings show that lex could not accommodate the agonistic spirit and Homeric impartiality that helped the Greeks achieve human greatness and surpassing excellence. Arendt also points out that Roman peace alliances occurred at the expense of disclosive competition among equals and assumed some form of domination. Indeed, although Arendt appreciates lex’s relationship-establishing aspect, she is undoubtedly critical of anti-political practices accompanying lex, manifested when the Romans required enemies’ submission to terms of peace the Romans themselves set. In the end, Arendt’s statements regarding nomos and lex highlight the fundamental challenge in free politics: balancing the internal demand of agonistic action with the external need to expand lasting ties.

Featured documents

  • The balance of power and the power struggles of the polis

    The balance of power is fundamental to the discipline of international relations, but its accuracy in explaining the historical record has been disputed. For international relations, balance of power theory represents a distinct approach which details the behaviour of states to counter hegemonic...

  • Cosmopolitan disobedience

    Increasingly, protests occur across borders and are carried out by non-nationals. Many of these protests include elements that break the laws of their host country and are aimed at issues of global concern. Despite the increasing frequency of transnational protest, little ethical consideration has...

  • On the global politics of “decency” and “restraint”

    This essay offers a review of both Roach’s Decency and Difference: Humanity and the Global Challenge of Identity Politics and Steele’s Restraint in International Politics. Exploring the concept-driven modes of analysis employed in each of these two texts, this essay investigates how Roach and...

  • On the relevance of Carl Schmitt’s concept of Großraum in contemporary international politics

    Since the end of the Cold War, a number of authors have affirmed the relevance of Carl Schmitt’s concept of Großraum for contemporary international politics. This article reviews those claims and argues that Großraum has little to offer in analytical terms to enhance our understanding of the...

  • Ciceronian international society

    This article explores what Cicero as a political thinker can offer to the study of international relations. Although previous readings of Cicero have emphasized his Stoic influences and his natural law teaching as the basis of a cosmopolitan world society, I emphasize the way in which Cicero can...

  • A Niebuhrian pacifism for an imperfect world

    This article considers the role that might be played by the political thought of Reinhold Niebuhr in contemporary debates over pacifism. It begins with an overview of Niebuhr’s changing position on pacifism, showing how his early commitment to anti-war principles gradually faded over time and was...

  • John Stuart Mill and the practice of colonial rule in India

    John Stuart Mill’s justification for British rule in India is well known. Less well known and discussed are Mill’s extensive writings on the practice of British rule in India. A close engagement with Mill’s writings on this issue shows Mill was a much more uncertain and anxious imperialist than he...

  • Imagining new dialogues about human rights: The implications of Charles Taylor’s theory of recognition for global feminism

    This article explores the implications of Charles Taylor’s politics of recognition for a global feminist theory. The main contention is that Taylor’s thought implies an innovative dialogue about human rights that assists a flexible understanding of diverse women’s needs. This central claim is...

  • Conceptualising peace and its preconditions: The anti-Pelagian imagination and the critical turn in peace theory

    This article examines the conceptualisations of peace and its preconditions manifested in the critical turn in peace theory: bottom-up approaches which begin with particular contexts and postulate diverse local actors as integral to the process of peace-building. This article argues that the turn...

  • De-colonizing the political ontology of Kantian ethics: A quantum perspective

    This article explores the relevance of ontological assumptions for justifications of agency and ethics. It critiques Kantian ethics for being based upon an ontological imaginary that starts from the substantialism of Newtonian physics. Substantialism shapes Western political philosophy’s view about ...

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