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International Pecking Orders


  • 6 b/w illus. 4 colour illus. 5 tables
  • Page extent: 352 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.68 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9781107143432)

In any multilateral setting, some state representatives weigh much more heavily than others. Practitioners often refer to this form of diplomatic hierarchy as the 'international pecking order'. This book is a study of international hierarchy in practice, as it emerges out of the multilateral diplomatic process. Building on the social theories of Erving Goffman and Pierre Bourdieu, it argues that diplomacy produces inequality. Delving into the politics and inner dynamics of NATO and the UN as case studies, Vincent Pouliot shows that pecking orders are eminently complex social forms: contingent yet durable; constraining but also full of agency; operating at different levels, depending on issues; and defined in significant part locally, in and through the practice of multilateral diplomacy.

• Explains how international hierarchies are a result of multilateral diplomatic processes • Reconciles the practice of multilateral diplomacy with the production of inequality and social stratification • Spans different dimensions of the social - situational, dispositional, relational and positional - in making sense of international politics


Introduction: all the world's a stage; Part I. Situations: 1. The politics of multilateral diplomacy; 2. A practice theory of social stratification; Part II. Dispositions: 3. The diplomatic sense of place; 4. A working consensus: the negotiation of the 2010 Strategic Concept and the NATO pecking order; Part III. Relations: 5. Permanent representation: relational structure and practical logics; 6. Clan politics: Security Council reform and the UN pecking order; Part IV. Positions: 7. State practices and multilateral fields; 8. The field logics of multilateral pecking orders: NATO and the UN compared; Conclusion: the miracle of multilateral pecking orders; Appendix: research design, methods and data.


'Pouliot's book is a welcome contribution to the international relations (IR) literature on the practice of diplomacy. Few works in the scholarly study of IR attempt to rigorously explain how multilateral diplomacy works and its larger effects. Pouliot's framework for understanding seeks to move beyond structural and agency approaches by integrating social theories to explain diplomacy and outcomes in world politics … In essence, the book seeks to explain 'social theater' by looking closely at the practice of diplomacy … Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' J. Fields, Choice

'Overall, International Pecking Orders represents a significant contribution to the literature on international practices; the theoretical analysis is innovative, with meticulous, multimethod research on NATO and the UN.' Miles Evers, International Studies Review

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