Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Reading Habermas in Anarchy: Multilateral Diplomacy and Global Public Spheres


States routinely justify their policies in interstate forums, and this reason-giving seems to serve a legitimating function. But how could this be? For Habermas and other global public sphere theorists, the exchange of reasons oriented toward understanding—communicative action—is central to public sphere governance, where political power is held accountable to those affected. But most global public sphere theory considers communicative action only among nonstate actors. Indeed, anarchy is a hard case for public spheres. The normative potential of communicative action rests on its instability: only where consensus can be undone by better reasons, through argument, can we say speakers are holding one another accountable to reason. But argument means disagreement, and especially in anarchy disagreement can mean violence. Domestically, the state backstops argument to prevent violence. Internationally, I propose that international society and publicity function similarly. Public talk can mitigate the security dilemma and enable interstate communicative action. Viewing multilateral diplomacy as a legitimation process makes sense of the intuition that interstate talk matters, while tempering a potentially aggressive cosmopolitanism.

Corresponding author
Jennifer Mitzen, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, 2140 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210-1373,
Hide All
Alvarez José. 2001. “Do Liberal States Behave Better? A Critique of Slaughter's Liberal Theory.” European Journal of International Law 12 (April): 183246.
Anderson M. S. 1966. The Eastern Question, 1774–1923: A Study in International Relations. New York: St. Martin's.
Anderson M. S. 1993. The Rise of Modern Diplomacy 1450–1919. New York: Longman Group.
Asquith Ivon. 1978. “The Structure, Ownership, and Control of the Press, 1790–1855.” In Newspaper History: From the 17th Century to the Present Day, ed. George Boyce, James Curran, and Pauline Wingate. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 98116.
Black Jeremy. 1999. Eighteenth-Century Europe. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's.
Bohman James. 1994. “Complexity, Pluralism, and the Constitutional State: On Habermas' Faktizitat und Geltung,” Law & Society Review 28 (4): 897930.
Bohman James. 1997. “The Public Spheres of the World Citizen.” In Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant's Cosmopolitan Ideal, ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 179200.
Bohman James. 1999. “International Regimes and Democratic Governance: Political Equality and Influence in Global Institutions.” International Affairs 75 (July): 499513.
Brunkhorst Hauke. 2002. “Globalising Democracy without a State: Weak Public, Strong Public, Global Constitutionalism.” Millennium 31 (3): 67590.
Brunnée Jutta, and Stephen J. Toope. 2000. “International Law and Constructivism: Elements of an Interactional Theory of International Law.” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 39 (19): 1973.
Buchanan Allen. 2001. “From Nuremburg to Kosovo: The Morality of Illegal International Legal Reform.” Ethics 111 (July): 673705.
Bull Hedley. 1977. The Anarchical Society. New York: Columbia University Press.
Cederman Lars-Erik. 2001. “Back to Kant: Reinterpreting the Democratic Peace as a Macro-Historical Learning Process,” American Political Science Review 95 (March): 1532.
Checkel Jeffrey. 2001. “Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change.” International Organization 55 (Summer): 55388.
Cochran Molly. 2002. “A Democratic Critique of Cosmopolitan Democracy.” European Journal of International Relations 8 (December): 51748.
Cunningham Allan. 1978. “The Philhellenes, Canning and Greek Independence.” Middle Eastern Studies xiv: 15181.
Doyle Michael. 1986. “Liberalism and World Politics.” American Political Science Review 80 (December): 115169.
Doyle William. 1992. The Old European Order 1660–1800. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
Duchhardt Heinz. 2000. “War and International Law in Europe Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries.” In War and Competition between States, ed. Philippe Contamine. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 27999.
Dunn Frederick Sherwood. 1929. The Practice and Procedure of International Conferences. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press.
Ellis Jaye. 2002. “International Regimes and the Legitimacy of Rules: A Discourse-Ethical Approach.” Alternatives 27 (July–September): 273300.
Elster Jon. 1995. “Strategic Uses of Argument.” In Barriers to Conflict Resolution, ed. Kenneth Arrow et. al. New York: W. W. Norton, 23658.
Erikson Erik Oddvar, and John Erik Fossum, eds. 2000. Democracy in the European Union: Integration through Deliberation. New York: Routledge.
Fine Robert, and Will Smith. 2003. “Jürgen Habermas's Theory of Cosmopolitanism.” Constellations 10 (4): 46987.
Finnemore Martha. 2003. The Purpose of Intervention. New York: Cornell University Press.
Flyvbjerg Bent. 1998. Rationality and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fraser Nancy. 1992. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 10942.
Gilbert Felix. 1951. “The ‘New Diplomacy’ of the 18th Century,” World Politics 4 (October): 138.
Habermas Jürgen. 1984. Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 2. Boston: Beacon Press.
Habermas Jürgen. 1994a. The Past as Future. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Habermas Jürgen. [1962] 1994b. Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Habermas Jürgen. 1996. Between Facts and Norms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Habermas Jürgen. 1997. “Kant's Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the Benefit of 200 Years' Hindsight,” In Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant's Cosmopolitan Ideal, ed. James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 11353.
Habermas Jürgen. 1998. “The European Nation-State: On the Past and Future of Sovereignty and Citizenship.” In The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory, ed. Ciaran Cronin and Pablo de Grieff. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 10527.
Habermas Jürgen. 1999a. “Bestiality and Humanity: A War on the Border between Legality and Morality.” Constellations 6 (3): 26372.
Habermas Jürgen. 1999b. “A Short Reply.” Ratio Juris 12 (December): 44553.
Habermas Jürgen. 2001. The Post-National Constellation, ed. Max Pensky. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hatton Ragnhild. 1980. “Nijmegen and the European Powers.” In The Peace of Nijmegen 1676–1679, ed. J. A. H. Bots. Amsterdam: Holland University Press, 117.
Huntington Samuel. 1993. “The Clash of Civilizations.” Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer): 2249.
Jelavich Barbara. 1991. Russia's Balkan Entanglements 1806–1914. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Johnston Alastair Iain. 2001. “Treating International Institutions as Social Environments.” International Studies Quarterly 45 (December): 487515.
Johnstone Ian. 2004. “US-UN Relations after Iraq: The End of the World (Order) as We Know It?European Journal of International Law 15 (December): 81338.
Kann Robert A. 1960. “Metternich: A Reappraisal of his Impact on International Relations,” The Journal of Modern History 32 (December): 33339.
Keene Edward. 2002. Beyond the Anarchical Society. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Keohane Robert. 1984. After Hegemony. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kissinger Henry A. 1957. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812–22. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Koskenniemi Martti. 2002. “‘The Lady doth Protest too Much’: Kosovo, and the Turn to Ethics in International Law.” The Modern Law Review 65 (March): 15975.
Krasner Stephen, ed. 1983. International Regimes. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.
Kratochwil Friedrich. 1989. Rules, Norms, Decisions: On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Langhorne Richard. 1981–82. “The Development of International Conferences, 1648–830.” Studies in History and Politics, Special Issue: Diplomatic Thought 1648–1815, 2: 6175.
Legro Jeffrey. 1996. “Culture and Preferences in the International Cooperation Two-Step.” American Political Science Review 90 (March): 11837.
Linklater Andrew. 1998. The Transformation of Political Community. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Lynch Marc. 1999. State Interests and Public Spheres: The International Politics of Jordan's Identity. New York: Columbia University Press.
Mitzen Jennifer. 2001. “Toward a Visible Hand: The International Public Sphere in Theory and Practice.” Ph.D. diss. University of Chicago.
Mitzen Jennifer. n.d.Ontological Security in World Politics.” Manuscript, Ohio State University.
Müller Harald. 2001. “International Relations as Communicative Action.” In Constructing International Relations, ed. Karin Fierke and Knud Erik Jorgensen. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 16078.
Neumann Iver B., and Jennifer Welsh. 1991. “The Other in European Self-Definition.” Review of International Studies 17: 32748.
Nichols Irby C., Jr. 1961. “The Eastern Question and the Vienna Conference, September 1822.” Journal of Central European Affairs 21 (April): 5366.
Nicolson Harold. 1954. The Evolution of Diplomatic Method. New York: Macmillan.
Osiander Andreas. 1994. The States System of Europe 1640–1990. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Ostrom Elinor. 2000. “Collective Action and the Evolution of Social Norms.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 14 (Summer): 13758.
Payne Rodger. 2001. “Persuasion, Frames, and Norm Construction.” European Journal of International Relations 7 (March): 3761.
Rendall Matthew. 2000. “Russia, the Concert of Europe, and Greece, 1821–29: A Test of Hypotheses about the Vienna System.” Security Studies 9 (Summer): 5290.
Reus-Smit Christian. 1999. The Moral Purpose of the State. NJ: Princeton University Press.
Risse Thomas. 2000. “‘Let's Argue!’ Communicative Action in World Politics.” International Organization 54 (Winter): 139.
Rosato Sebastian. 2003. “The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory.” American Political Science Review 97 (November): 585602.
Rubin James P. 2003. “Stumbling into War.” Foreign Affairs (September/October): 4666.
Ruggie John G. 1998. “What Makes the World Hang Together? Neo-Utilitarianism and the Social Constructivist Challenge.” International Organization 52 (Autumn): 85586.
Samhat Nayef, and Rodger Payne. 2003. “Regimes, Public Spheres, and Global Democracy,” Global Society 17 (July): 27395.
Satow Ernest. 1925. “Pacta Sunt Servanda or International Guarantee.” Cambridge Historical Journal 1 (3): 295318.
Schimmelfennig Frank. 2001. “The Community Trap: Liberal Norms, Rhetorical Action, and the Eastern Enlargement of the EU.” International Organization 55 (Winter): 4780.
Schroeder Paul. 1994. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848. New York: Oxford University Press.
Simpson Gerry. 2004. Great Powers and Outlaw States. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Slaughter Ann-Marie. 1995. “International Law in a World of Liberal States.” European Journal of International Law 6: 50338.
Sofka James R. 1998. “Metternich's Theory of European Order: A Political Agenda for ‘Perpetual Peace.’The Review of Politics 60 (Winter): 11549.
Suganami Hidemi. 1978. “A Note on the Origin of the Word ‘International.’British Journal of International Studies 4: 22632.
Vagts Alfred, and Detlev F. Vagts. 1979. “The Balance of Power in International Law: A History of an Idea.” American Journal of International Law 73 (October): 55580.
Wendt Alexander. 1999. Social Theory of International Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wendt Alexander. 2004. “The State as Person in International Theory.” Review of International Studies 30 (April): 289316.
White Stephen K. 1994. The Recent Work of Jürgen Habermas. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed