Gene M. Lyons, Michael Mastanduno, eds. Beyond Westphalia? Sovereignty and International Intervention. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. x + 324 pp. $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8018-4954-1; $59.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8018-4953-4.
Reviewed by David A. Martin (Purdue University)
Published on H-Review (April, 1996)
Do the recent UN-sponsored multilateral humanitarian interventions in the Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti and other political developments represent "the emergence and recognition of a legitimate 'right' to intervene in the domestic affairs of member states in the name of community norms, values or interests?" (p. 3). Gene Lyons and Michael Mastanduno have collected a distinguished group of contributors to analyze this question of international intervention and its consequences for the Westphalian nation-state system.The volume approaches this key question for the discipline of international relations through a variety of analytical approaches, but focuses mainly on examining the legal and normative framework of the current international system for indicators that would suggest a shift in the balance between the rights and authority of the sovereign nation-state vis-a-vis the international community. The volume begins with a section devoted to discussion of the central theoretical concepts of sovereignty, intervention, and community. The conceptual discussion is then linked through a well-selected set of four critical case studies to the final section, in which attempts are made to synthesize the conceptual and empirical investigations into conclusions regarding the status of the international system in the 1990s. In accordance with the past work of the contributors, the arguments are well researched and logically compelling.
The case studies are interesting and timely--covering the four key international political issues facing policy-makers today (humanitarian assistance, human rights, environmental protection, and weapons proliferation). In short, the volume provides a very good benchmark of the current status of mainstream research into sovereignty and intervention. As a benchmark, the book is also significant as an indicator of the condition of the discipline of international relations as a whole. The shortcomings of the volume therefore are symptomatic of problems facing the discipline itself--namely, that it offers little that is new concerning ways of understanding the changes occurring in the international system. The issues that the contributors are attempting to deal with and the framework through which they attempt to understand them are, for the most part, the same ones facing the signatories of the Treaty of Westphalia 350 years ago.
In the beginning chapter, the editors frame the issue of international intervention in terms of the balance between the authority of the sovereign nation-state and the international community. They propose two types of tests to determine this balance--an investigation of critical case studies involving major states in which it can be shown that "some form of international authority significantly constrained major powers in their pursuit of their interests" (p.17), and an analysis of the cumulative effects of incremental changes in structures, perceptions, and cases of intervention. The three chapters that follow engage in an analysis of the historical development of the concepts of sovereignty, intervention, and community. In chapter two, Friedrich Kratochwil analyzes sovereignty as a socially constructed institution that is analogous to the Roman institution of property or dominium in both origin and evolution. He comes to the conclusion that sovereignty is neither an absolute nor a natural right, but one that is constrained by background conditions. In chapter three,Nicholas Onuf engages in a constructivist analysis of intervention in the name of the common good and finds that a decline in the public perception of the state as able to accomplish its goals has led the public to look beyond the state for solutions to political problems, turning instead to non-territorially grounded legal regimes.The fourth chapter, in which Robert Jackson searches for evidence of an operative international community in the conduct of diplomacy and international legal practice, concludes the conceptual section of the book. Jackson's normative analysis finds the international system moving toward a community of citizenries in which human beings have acquired some standing in international law.
Chapters five through eight comprise the case study section of the volume. In chapter five, Thomas G. Weiss and Jarat Chopra argue that the criteria for humanitarian intervention have been codified in international legal documents and that citizens are developing identities that extend beyond the borders of the nation-state. What is needed now, they argue, is a development of legal measures that would prevent the misuse of human rights rhetoric tojustify politically motivated intervention. Jack Donnelly's analysis of the human rights norms embodied in United Nations documents in chapter six parallels the observations made in Jackson's essay--namely, that although a weak international community does exist, the norms of that community still favor the primacy of the nation-state. This trend is further supported by Ken Conca's analysis of international environmental norms found in chapter seven. Despite the involvement of international agencies in monitoring and regulating state activity, environmental norms serve to reinforce the sovereignty and authority of the stateand the dominance of First World notions of development. This theme of biased norms is also key to Janne Nolan's investigation of international efforts to intervene in the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction--the legitimacy of which is threatened, Nolan argues, by the fact that the control over such weapons is the basis of the military security of developed states.
The concluding section of the book represents an attempt to make sense of the incremental changes in the international system over time. In chapter nine, James Rosenau extends his recent work on the Turbulence Model of international change to the discussion of national sovereignty and international intervention. His model argues that developments in the structures that determine behavior have caused a shift in the behavioral parameters on which international legal norms are based and have created pressures for recodification in ways that further constrain state behavior. Rosenau's liberal interdependence viewpoint is challenged in the following chapter, however. In chapter ten, Stephen Krasner finds no evidence to indicate that recent interventions into the relationships between ruler and ruled represent a new phenomenon in international relations. Lyons and Mastanduno's concluding chapter states that, although nation-states face additional limitations on sovereignty that are possibly indicative of a significant shift in the structure of the international system, there is nothing in the case studies or analyses to indicate clearly a dramatic change in the relationship between states and the international community. The authors conclude that theWestphalian system continues at the moment to operate effectively as an organizing regime for international politics, while significant debate exists regarding whether or not thesystem is in the first stages of a dramatic change.
If shortcomings in the collection are to be found, they are not a product of the research, writing, or organization of the book, but rather in the static nature of the discipline of international relations as a whole in terms of its framing of the debate between state power and the international community. The analyses of the volume operate within a spatial and conceptual framework that has changed little since the Westphalian regime was created. As scholars such as R. B. J. Walker have pointed out, the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia attempted to locate power in the institution of the state through the concept of national sovereignty. This process established two types of spaces--an anarchic external space over which the state had little or no control, and a domestic, state-controlled space in which the possibility existed of achieving the "good life." It was this inside/outside dichotomy on which political identity was based ("us"against "them"), linking political identity with territory and, in the process, forming the paradigm that shaped the majority of the political interactions between states.
As is indicated in the case studies, this system is facing challenges from a variety of forces, but the debate over how to approach this challenge as it is constructed in Beyond Westphalia? represents a choice between only two alternatives. Presented in the concluding section of the volume in the essays by James Rosenau and Stephen Krasner, they provide a starting point for deciphering the conceptual problem that lies at the root of disciplinary paralysis. Krasner's and Rosenau's essays represent the two paths by which the discipline of international relations is attempting to attach political power to a specific location--either to the traditional realist locus of the state (Krasner) or to a newly emergent international community (Rosenau). Realism insists on the persistence of the existing state system even though, as Krasner himself points out, this requires operating under the fiction that state sovereignty is an effective protection from the predation of other states, despite the evidence that it is not and has never been respected by powerful states.
The solution offered by the liberal interdependence approach, despite the logical appeal of James Rosenau's Turbulence Model, offers merely the repetition on a larger scaleof the solution reached by the signatories of the Treaty of Westphalia. As is indicated by Robert Jackson's essay,the use of legal principles to establish a coherent international community based on common principles and values results in the extension of the inside/outside dividing line from the level of the nation-state to the level of the international community. The international community, however, would still be based on a dichotomous division of global territory--those territories that adhere to the norms of society, and are therefore members, versus the outcasts that do not.
However, as the concluding chapter by the editors indicates, neither the nation-state nor the international community enjoys a monopoly on political power in the current international system. The nation-state operates under an increasing number of constraints on its internal as well as external sovereignty, while the international community lacks the resources and authority to operate effectively. The editors propose that the nation-state remains the primary authoritative actor, but their perception is that some significant changes have taken place, and they propose an analysis of the justifications used for international intervention to monitor further developments. What really concerns the editors and contributors to this volume is a question that is as old as the Westphalian international system itself--where to fix the location of power in the relationships between territorially bounded claims to political authority.
The collection of essays is linked by an underlying theme of concern over the perception that power relationships between citizens and states and among the constitutive states of the Westphalian international system are slipping beyond the grasp of the institutional arrangements traditionally relied on--fragmenting into an anarchic mixture of competing institutions, forces, and collectivities that are no longer conceptually tied to specific territories. In the process, political identity is no longer fixed on a given authoritative institution (the territorial state), but becomes instead free-floating, attaching itself to various points of reference--a point made in the essays by Weiss and Chopra and by Nicholas Onuf. However, though both essays make similar observations concerning the deterritorialization of political identity as a result of the emergence of international norms and legal regimes,Weiss and Chopra insist that identity is now fixed in an all-inclusive notion of humanity that must be supplemented through legal codification. Onuf's discussion of the shift of public perceptions of majesty away from the state to a variety of transnational functional groups, on the other hand, is the one essay in the collection that provides a first step toward moving beyond merely repeating the realism/idealism debates of the past. Onuf's constructivist analysis of legal regimes opens the door to an analysis of what is really at stake--the changing nature of power relations.
If one rereads the critical case studies by Weiss and Chopra, Donnelly, Conca, and Nolan in terms of the structure of power relations, a very different dynamic of power emerges, one in which power is not exercised only between states or even between a state and some form of international community. Whether one focuses, as Donnelly does, on the structure of regional human rights regimes, or on the power relationships established through the discourse of environmental norms and weapons proliferation restrictions, as Conca and Nolan do, one finds that the structure of power relationships is not one in which a specific authoritative center can be found. All of the case studies demonstrate that the points from which power is exercised in the international system have proliferated. To explain adequately the interactions of international politics with regard to the issues that face policy-makers in the 1990s, one must move beyond the debate over whether the system is one in which either the nation-state or a cohesive international community wields power.
The conceptualization of power as a property that can be fixed in a given institution by nature of the possession of rights or authority is inadequate to understanding the processes at work in the international system. It is this inadequacy that is responsible for the inability of mainstream international relations theory to offer an explanation for the dynamic behind the changes in the international system. If one looks beyond the standard conceptualization of power, one finds that the evidence provided by the case studies indicates that power in the international system is more closely related to Michel Foucault's definition of a fluid set of power relationships that are based on multiple, mobile, and inegalitarian relationships between myriad actors (nation-states, NGOs, MNCs, IGOs, arms merchants, ethnic groups, etc.). In such a definition, power is not an attribute to be attained but a product of the existence of inequality. Thus, the analysis of international political relationships can move beyond the limiting attempts to discover whether the state or the international community actually holds power.
An additional drawback of the volume is its limited treatment of the fact that the Westphalian system of sovereign nation-states is one that has been forcibly imposed on territories outside of Western Europe. For many non-European states, as Robert Jackson's essay points out, nationhood (the gaining of sovereign status) and membership in the international community were predicated on maintaining the territorial boundaries imposed by colonial powers. This raises the very real, though unexplored, possibility that the concepts of sovereignty and intervention in a post-colonial state may be related very differently than we assume in the First World. If so, it seems logical that this would influence the receptiveness of the majority of the international community's members to intervention in ways that have not been anticipated. Freidrich Kratochwil's conceptualization of sovereignty as a socially constructed institution analogous to the Roman institution of dominium indicates that the past development of sovereignty has been historically determined by European political events. Even though Kratochwil acknowledges the more diverse range of influences being brought to bear in the current system, the specifics of these new influences are never discussed. A similar European bias emerges in Weiss and Chopra's claim that the legal debate over international intervention that took place within the Western academy during the 1960s and 1970s "settled" the issue of humanitarian assistance.
Despite these and other references in the essays to the Eurocentric nature of international norms and legal regimes as a potential problem, an extended discussion of the post-colonial state perspective would have made the volume much stronger. Indeed, most of the critical cases assume that the issues of sovereignty and intervention in post-colonial states can be adequately explained through the projection of European conceptions as universally valid. This is an all too common tradition in the majority of international relations literature. It seems to be a particularly significant oversight for a collection focusing on issues surrounding the development of an international community based on common norms and values.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Beyond Westphalia? presents an excellent picture of the current mainstream international relations research on sovereignty. The many disagreements among the contributors regarding whether or not the international system is in the early stages of moving beyond the Westphalian system should provide excellent material for further developing the debate between the realist and neo-idealist models. Given the complexity of the conceptual discussion in the first third of the book and the subtle differences in the contributors' positions, the book appears to be best suited to teaching in graduate seminars or possibly an advanced undergraduate course.
Foucault, Michel .The History of Sexuality: Volume 1--An Introduction. New York: Vintage, 1978.
Walker, R. B. J. Inside/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
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David A. Martin. Review of Lyons, Gene M.; Mastanduno, Michael, eds., Beyond Westphalia? Sovereignty and International Intervention.
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