Rule and Rules in International Relations

Ringvorlesung "Beyond Anarchy: Rule and Authority in the International System"

Prof. Nicholas Onuf, Florida International University

5. Februar 2014, 18.15 Uhr
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ 3



Twenty-five years ago, when I published a book with the subtitle, Rules and Rule in International Relations, scholars in the field had little enough interest in rules (and norms—rules by another name). They had even less to say about rule - the condition of rule in any political society, including international society - because of the inside/outside binary (as R B J Walker would soon call it) and the assumption that anarchy prevails ´outside.´ In my book, I claimed that three kinds of rules eventuate in three forms (ideal types) of rule. I called them hierarchy, hegemony and heteronomy, and I found them everywhere in international relations. While hierarchy and hegemony were then well known and subsequently much discussed as recurrent phenomena in an unruly world, heteronomy was not - at least not as I conceptualized it. Since then, it has been ignored or confused with anarchy as a general condition. More generally, few scholars in the field are comfortable with the language of rule, however much they now talk about rules. On review, these developments in the world of scholarship do nothing to challenge my claim that international relations constitute a condition of rule. Conversely, globalization has significantly altered ruling practices from top to bottom, inside and out. Rules proliferate. Where there are rules, there is rule. Insofar as International Relations theory is social theory, we could hardly think otherwise.

Nicholas Onuf is Professor Emeritus, Florida International University, Miami, and Professor Associado, Instituto de Relações Internationals, Pontificia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. He holds an honorary Ph.D. from Panteion University, Athens. His latest book, Making Sense, Making Worlds: Constructivism in Social Theory and International Relations (2013) was published in conjunction with the republication of World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations (1989).

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