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The Liberal International Order is in crisis. While the symptoms are clear to many, the deep roots of this crisis remain obscured. We propose that the Liberal International Order is in tension with the older Sovereign Territorial Order, which is founded on territoriality and borders to create group identities, the territorial state, and the modern international system. The Liberal International Order, in contrast, privileges universality at the expense of groups and group rights. A recognition of this fundamental tension makes it possible to see that some crises that were thought to be unconnected have a common cause: the neglect of the coordinating power of borders. We sketch out new research agendas to show how this tension manifests itself in a broad range of phenomena of interest.
The international community often seeks to promote political reforms in recalcitrant states. Recently, some scholars have argued that, rather than helping, international law and advocacy create new problems because they have negative spillovers that increase rights violations. We review three mechanisms for such spillovers: backlash, trade-offs, and counteraction and concentrate on the last of these. Some researchers assert that governments sometimes “counteract” international human rights pressures by strategically substituting violations in adjacent areas that are either not targeted or are harder to monitor. However, most such research shows only that both outcomes correlate with an intervention—the targeted positively and the spillover negatively. The burden of proof, however, should be as rigorous as those for studies of first-order policy consequences. We show that these correlations by themselves are insufficient to demonstrate counteraction outside of the narrow case where the intervention is assumed to have no direct effect on the spillover, a situation akin to having a valid instrumental variable design. We revisit two prominent findings and show that the evidence for the counteraction claim is weak in both cases. The article contributes methodologically to the study of negative spillovers in general by proposing mediation and sensitivity analysis within an instrumental variables framework for assessing such arguments. It revisits important prior findings that claim negative consequences to human rights law and/or advocacy, and raises critical normative questions regarding how we empirically evaluate hypotheses about causal mechanisms.
This article takes the challenges of global governance and legitimacy seriously and looks at new ways in which international organizations (IOs) have attempted to ‘govern’ without explicit legal or regulatory directives. Specifically, we explore the growth of global performance indicators as a form of social control that appears to have certain advantages even as states and civil society actors push back against international regulatory authority. This article discusses the ways in which Michael Zürn's diagnosis of governance dilemmas helps to explain the rise of such ranking systems. These play into favored paradigms that give information and market performance greater social acceptance than rules, laws, and directives designed by international organizations. We discuss how and why these schemes can constitute governance systems, and some of the evidence regarding their effects on actors’ behaviors. Zürn's book provides a useful context for understanding the rise and effectiveness of Governance by Other Means: systems that ‘inform’ and provoke competition among states, shaping outcomes without directly legislating performance.
Pandemics are imbued with the politics of bordering. For centuries, border closures and restrictions on foreign travelers have been the most persistent and pervasive means by which states have responded to global health crises. The ubiquity of these policies is not driven by any clear scientific consensus about their utility in the face of myriad pandemic threats. Instead, we show they are influenced by public opinion and preexisting commitments to invest in the symbols and structures of state efforts to control their borders, a concept we call border orientation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, border orientation was already generally on the rise worldwide. This trend has made it convenient for governments to “contain” the virus by externalizing it, rather than taking costly but ultimately more effective domestic mitigation measures. We argue that the pervasive use of external border controls in the face of the coronavirus reflects growing anxieties about border security in the modern international system. To a great extent, fears relating to border security have become a resource in domestic politics—a finding that does not bode well for designing and implementing effective public health policy.
Globalization, accountability, and technology are changing important aspects of global governance. While coercion, enforcement, and material sanctions have often taken pride of place as major movers of interstate relations, scholars and policy agents alike have come to appreciate the multifaceted nature of power exerted more subtly and gradually.
The proliferation of global performance indicators (GPIs) is one example of such power. They contain ideas and worldviews, and they attempt to “regulate” through non-coercive but nonetheless powerful means. They do not merely measure qualities and practices in order to understand or inform, they pressure their targets to perform and conform. In wielding such tools, a diverse set of actors insert themselves in the governing process, in some cases even shifting policy parameters. When promulgated by authoritative actors, GPIs can name and categorize information in new ways and have what anthropologists like Merry and others have referred to as “knowledge effects,” or the ability to influence how people think about socially legitimate or best practice. Their proliferation and evolution define and contest what is worth knowing, measuring and achieving.