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Power Transitions, Global Justice, and the Virtues of Pluralism

  • Andrew Hurrell

Broad comparisons of international relations across time—of the prospects for peace and of the possibilities for a new ethics for a connected world—typically focus on two dimensions: economic globalization and integration on the one hand, and the character of major interstate relations on the other. One of the most striking features of the pre-1914 world was precisely the coincidence of intensified globalization with a dramatic deterioration in major power relations, the downfall of concert-style approaches to international order, and the descent into total war and ideological confrontation—what T. S. Eliot termed “the panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” Today's optimists stress the degree to which globalization appears much more firmly institutionalized than it was a hundred years ago, the rather striking success of global economic governance in responding to the financial crisis of 2007–2008 (compared to, say, the Great Depression), and the longer-term trend within international society to move away from major-power war. Pessimists are less sure. They worry that we have had to re-learn just how unstable global capitalism can be, both in terms of the wrenching societal changes produced by economic success and of the political strains produced by slowdown and recession. And they point to the abiding or resurgent power of nationalism in all of the core countries in the system, the return of balance-of-power thinking (above all in Asia), and the renewed salience of major power politics.

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1 For a powerful argument about the centrality of major power politics and the need for mutual accommodation between the United States and China, see White, Hugh, The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power (Collingwood, Aus.: Black Inc., 2012).

2 Mackinder stressed the closing of the frontier and the notion of the international system as “a closed political space. . . . Every explosion of social forces, instead of being dissipated in a surrounding circuit of unknown space and barbarian chaos, will be sharply re-echoed from the far side of the globe, and weak elements in the political and economic organism of the world will be shattered in consequence.” Mackinder, Halford, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” The Geographical Journal 23, no. 4 (1904), p. 422.

3 Bull, Hedley and Watson, Adam, eds., The Expansion of International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).

4 Bell, Duncan, ed., Victorian Visions of Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

5 Gong, Gerrit W., The Standard of “Civilization” in International Society (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

6 Ludden, David, “Modern Inequality and Early Modernity,” The American Historical Review, 107, no. 2 (April 2002), p. 470.

7 Bull and Watson, The Expansion of International Society.

8 See Ferguson, Niall et al. , The Shock of the Global. The 1970s in Perspective (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010).

9 Kagan, Robert, The Return of History and the End of Dreams (New York: Vintage, 2009).

10 James Traub, “Will the Good BRICS Please Stand Up?” Foreign Policy, March 2012.

11 “Rethinking the ‘third world’: Seeing the world differently,” Economist, June 12, 2010, p. 65.

12 See, for example, Gideon Rachman, “China can no longer plead poverty,” Financial Times, October 25, 2010.

13 See in particular Beitz, Charles R., Political Theory and International Relations, rev. ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).

14 Pagden, Anthony, “Stoicism, Cosmopolitanism, and the Legacy of European Imperialism,” Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory 7, no. 1 (2000).

15 For an incisive critique see Rao, Rahul, Third World Protest: Between Home and the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

16 Michael Hardt, “Porto Alegre: Today's Bandung?” New Left Review 14 (March/April 2002).

17 The literature is enormous, but see especially: on transnational deliberative democracy, Bohman, James, Democracy across Borders: From Dêmos to Dêmoi (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007); and on the democratic roles of NGOs, Macdonald, Terry, Global Stakeholder Democracy: Power and Representation Beyond Liberal States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

18 Traditions always seem clearer and more coherent when looking back. Much has been done to focus attention on gaps and silences, as in the role of empire and race within the liberal tradition. See Vucetic, Srdjan, The Anglosphere: A Genealogy of a Racialized Identity in International Relations (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011). In other cases, the question is not so much silences as unrecognized assumptions, as with the links between liberalism, the modern moral order, and Christianity. See Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007).

19 Buchan, Alastair, “A World Restored?Foreign Affairs 50, no. 4 (1972), p. 657.

20 Philip Pettit, “Legitimate International Institutions: A Neorepublican Perspective,” Princeton Law and Public Affairs Paper Series, Paper No. 08-012 (2009).

21 Shue, Henry, “Rawls and the Outlaws,” Politics, Philosophy & Economics 1, no. 3 (2002), pp. 307323.

22 Ibid., p. 318.

23 See Andrew Hurrell, “Kant and Intervention Revisited,” in Stefano Recchia and Jennifer Welsh, eds., Modern Classics and Military Intervention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, in press).

24 Waldron, Jeremy, “What is Cosmopolitan?The Journal of Political Philosophy 8, no. 2 (2000), pp. 227243.

25 Here there is much to be said for the Kantian view that sees the sustained consolidation of democracy within the particular civic community as being linked to, if not dependent on, its willingness to respect the judgments of other nations and the effective institutionalization of universal principles at the level of international and cosmopolitan right. As long as international anarchy continues, the consolidation of full and sustained political liberty domestically, even in developed, prosperous liberal states, remains under threat—including, of course, from the temptation to violate human rights in the name of national security. This link was well understood by the Founding Fathers but forgotten or displaced by the temptations of empire and by moral self-righteousness. As Golove and Hulsebosh note in relation to Madison, “Reflecting the common sense epistemology characteristic of so much contemporary constitutionalist thought, [Madison] insisted that no nation was so enlightened that it could ignore the impartial judgements of other states and still expect to govern itself wisely and effectively.” Golove, David and Hulsebosch, Daniel, “A Civilized Nation: The Early American Consititution, the Law of Nations, and the Pursuit of International Recognition,” NYU Law Review 85, no. 4 (2010), p. 987.

26 This form of “middle ground ethics” has long characterized English School writing—and underpinned many pluralist critiques of Kant. See, for example, Cochran, Molly, “Charting the Ethics of the English School: What ‘Good’ is there in a Middle-Ground Ethics?International Studies Quarterly 53, no. 1 (2009), pp. 203225; and Hurrell, Andrew, On Global Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). On the recent emergence of so-called new political realism in political theory see, for example, Galston, William, “Realism in political theory,” European Journal of Political Theory 9, no. 4 (2010), pp. 385411.

27 Smith, Adam, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 6th ed. (London: A. Millar, 1790), quoted in Sen, Amartya, The Idea of Justice, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), p. 125.

28 Lowenthal, Abraham F., “The United States and Latin America: Ending the Hegemonic Presumption,” Foreign Affairs, 55, no. 1 (1976), pp. 190213.

29 Hurrell, Andrew, “Cardoso and the World,” in Martins, Herminio and D'Incao, Maria Angela, eds., Democracia, crise e reforma. Estudos sobre a era Fernando Henrique Cardoso (São Paulo: Editora Paz e Terra, 2010), pp. 473499.

30 On this theme see, in particular, Harvey, David, Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), especially chapters 7 and 8.

31 Douglas, Mary, How Institutions Think (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1986).

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Ethics & International Affairs
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