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The Closure of the International System
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Book description

As global governance appears to become more inclusive and democratic, many scholars argue that international institutions act as motors of expansion and democratization. The Closure of the International System challenges this view, arguing that the history of the international system is a series of institutional closures, in which institutions such as diplomacy, international law, and international organizations make rules to legitimate the inclusion of some actors and the exclusion of others. While international institutions facilitate collective action and common goods, Viola's closure thesis demonstrates how these gains are achieved by limiting access to rights and resources, creating a stratified system of political equals and unequals. The coexistence of equality and hierarchy is a constitutive feature of the international system and its institutions. This tension is relevant today as multilateral institutions are challenged by disaffected citizens, non-Western powers, and established great powers discontent with the distribution of political rights and authority.


‘In this outstanding book, Lora Ann Viola shows that inclusion and exclusion are two faces of the same coin. Institutional processes that foster equality in world politics inevitably enshrine forms of inequality in parallel. This insightful argument makes for a particularly lucid account of the tragic and antagonistic nature of international history and society.'

Vincent Pouliot - James McGill Professor, Department of Political Science, McGill University

‘The Closure of the International System is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the broad changes in global governance since the emergence of the modern state-system. Viola skillfully builds on the Weberian idea of social closure to offer an innovative and comprehensive theoretical approach that explains simultaneous trends towards greater equality and inequality in world politics. The long historical time-frame and detailed accounts of the evolution of diplomacy, international law, and international organizations offer convincing evidence to support the study's main arguments. Through an excellent mix of theoretical analysis and empirical evidence, the book generates important insights regarding potential future developments in international relations.'

Alexandru Grigorescu - Professor, Department of Political Science, Loyola University Chicago

‘Lora Anne Viola has written what will certainly become the go-to text for anyone interested in international clubs and social closure in the international system. Theoretically rich and historically well-grounded, this book is also an absolute pleasure to read. I have been recommending it everyone since I first came across it…'

Ayşe Zarakol - Reader in International Relations, University of Cambridge

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