Contention, Resistance, and International Institutions

Lecture Series "Beyond Anarchy: Rule and Authority in the International System"

Prof. Clifford Bob, Duquesne University

22 January 2014, 6.15pm
Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main
Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ 10

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Abstract
Recent decades have seen a proliferation of international institutions. Realists dismiss these as existing merely at sufferance of states and as having little independent effect—a normative order of power. By contrast, liberals highlight the growth of centralized authority and cooperation a normative order of law. Using empirical examples, my paper argues that international institutions today offer new forums and objects of contention, not only for states but also and just as importantly for national interest groups. Even domestic actors that have traditionally eschewed international organizations/laws because of their alleged threat to sovereignty or tradition increasingly use them to advance their goals or to stymie their foes. On one hand, this shows the growing influence of international institutions. But it does not necessarily indicate that we are entering a period in which law rules. Instead, international law and organizations are one more arena of conflict, one more means to an end. Even when law is contentiously “made,” it is seldom stable, with opponents seeking the law’s reversal, evisceration, or perversion. Even those who use international institutions scorn their authority and legitimacy, if the institutions do not serve crucial interests. The ideal of law as a settled and revered moral ideal—seldom in fact the case within states—is even less so internationally.

CV
Clifford Bob is Professor of Political Science and holds the Raymond J. Kelley Endowed Chair in International Relations at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He studies human rights,  globalization, and transnational networks. His book, The Global Right Wing and the Clash of World Politics, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. His 2005 book, The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism (Cambridge), won the International Studies Association Best Book Award. He has written for political science, law, and policy journals. Among his current projects is “Rights as Weapons in Political Conflict,” on the use of rights claims to camouflage ulterior motives, break opposing coalitions, and attack despised institutions. These include deployment of women’s rights against Muslim  communities in France, of animal rights in Catalonia’s bullfighting ban, and of parental rights by Italian secularists seeking to eject crucifixes from classrooms. In a prior incarnation, Dr. Bob worked as a litigator, including pro bono refugee and human rights work for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and as a law teacher at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Bob holds a Ph.D. from MIT, a J.D. from NYU, and a B.A. magna cum laude in social studies from Harvard.

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