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Special Responsibilities
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Book description

The language of special responsibilities is ubiquitous in world politics, with policymakers and commentators alike speaking and acting as though particular states have, or ought to have, unique obligations in managing global problems. Surprisingly, scholars are yet to provide any in-depth analysis of this fascinating aspect of world politics. This path-breaking study examines the nature of special responsibilities, the complex politics that surround them and how they condition international social power. The argument is illustrated with detailed case-studies of nuclear proliferation, climate change and global finance. All three problems have been addressed by an allocation of special responsibilities, but while this has structured politics in these areas, it has also been the subject of ongoing contestation. With a focus on the United States, this book argues that power must be understood as a social phenomenon and that American power varies significantly across security, economic and environmental domains.


‘This outstanding book is the first serious attempt to think through the idea of 'special responsibilities' and the meaning of legitimacy in the context of world politics today. Conceptually innovative and empirically wide ranging, the study with its star-studded cast of leading scholars is bound to become the defining text on the subject for many years to come.’

Michael Cox - London School of Economics

‘This important study provides a systematic and highly sophisticated analysis of special responsibilities - conceptually, historically, and applied to climate change, nuclear proliferation and global finance. It argues convincingly for the existence of a distinctive politics of responsibility constituted both by material power and social norms. A major contribution to international relations theory and to the analysis of global order.’

Andrew Hurrell - University of Oxford

‘‘With great power there must also come great responsibility.’ That basic idea - popularized by Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spiderman) - has been as ubiquitous in international relations practice as it is poorly understood in scholarship. Until now. Bukovansky and her co-authors illuminate the concept in both normative and positive theoretical terms and illustrate their arguments with superb case studies. An intelligent, important study.’

William C. Wohlforth - Dartmouth College

'This fine book, in effect, creates a new area of study. It is the first explicit engagement with the idea that there are special responsibilities in world politics.'

Jonathan Joseph Source: International Affairs

'This fascinating, groundbreaking study provides an in-depth analysis of special responsibilities and legitimacy in world politics. The authors successfully analyze the practice of evoking special responsibility, explicating with theory and evidence how special responsibilities have been allocated and contested in important global problems in world politics. Summing up: recommended. All readership levels.'

K. M. Zaarour Source: Choice

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