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Emanuel Adler’s 1997 article ‘Seizing the Middle Ground: Constructivism in World Politics’ is the most highly cited effort to position constructivism on a terrain between the dominant mainstream theories of neorealism and neoliberalism and their critical theoretic challengers. More than this, it is a constellation point for ideas Adler had advanced in earlier writings, and that he would develop to great effect over the coming two decades, most notably in his magnum opus, A Social Theory of Cognitive Evolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). This chapter explores the difficulties of holding the middle ground through a reading of Emanuel’s writings over the past three decades. I draw a distinction between two different approaches to seizing the middle ground, which I term, for want of better words, singular and dualist. The former, as part one details, is found in Martin Wight’s tripartite distinction between realism, rationalism, and revolutionism. This distinction is noteworthy because it is at once a typology of different ontological positions, arraying theories with very different assumptions about the nature of the political universe, and a classification of different views of the potential for normative change, or progress. The second, dualist approach separates questions of ontology from those of progress, imagining two middle grounds. Exemplified in Alder’s work, the first middle ground is between the ideal and the material and the individual and structural. But when Adler discusses progress, which is a prominent and enduring theme in his work, he introduces a second, less remarked upon, middle ground. In his early work he called this position ‘humanist realism’, locating it between stasis, on the one hand, and utopianism, on the other. The difficulties of holding the middle ground in singular approaches is apparent in Hedley Bull’s constant back and forth over the relative priority of the values of order and justice, a relationship central to rationalism’s location between realism and revolutionism. The difficulties of the dualist approach are evident in Emanuel’s shifting reconciliations between his two middle grounds. In his early work, reconciliation was to come through a condominium between constructivism and communitarian normative theory. In his most recent work, it comes through the concept of practice. Neither of these reconciliations are entirely satisfactory, however, and I conclude by suggesting three possible ways of better combining the ontological and the normative.
This chapter concludes Culture and Order in World Politics. It summarizes the book’s central claims, and it considers two implications. It begins by explaining the contribution that the book can make beyond the discipline of international relations, and what it offers for the fields of anthropology, sociology, history, and law, in particular. It then considers the implications of the book’s argument for thinking about contemporary problems of international order.
This chapter sets out the central argument of Culture and Order in World Politics. It provides definitions of cultural diversity and international order, and makes the case for an expansive conception of the latter. It then revisits four key propositions from Reus-Smit’s On Cultural Diversity (2018), on which this volume builds. It goes on to detail four elaborations of these propositions, informed by the analyses provided in contributors’ chapters. These concern the productive power of diversity regimes, the connection between cultural diversity and legitimacy crises, the complex relationship between political centralization and intolerance, and the plural and multiscalar nature of diversity regimes.
This chapter introduces the book, Culture and Order in World Politics. After explaining the problems with current perspectives on cultural diversity and international order, it stresses the importance of interdisciplinary dialogue, and the book’s ambition to move debate forward through an engagement between international relations, anthropology, sociology, history, and international law. It summarizes the main arguments of the book, explains its organization, and overviews the contributions of the contributors’ chapters.
Understanding how cultural diversity relates to international order is an urgent contemporary challenge. Building on ideas first advanced in Reus-Smit's On Cultural Diversity (2018), this groundbreaking book advances a new framework for understanding the nexus between culture and order in world politics. Through a pioneering interdisciplinary collaboration between leading historians, international lawyers, sociologists and international relations scholars, it argues that cultural diversity in social life is ubiquitous rather than exceptional, and demonstrates that the organization of cultural diversity has been inextricably tied to the constitution and legitimation of political authority in diverse international orders, from Warring States China, through early modern Europe and the Ottoman and Qing Empires, to today's global liberal order. It highlights the successive 'diversity regimes' that have been constructed to govern cultural difference since the nineteenth century, traces the exclusions and resistances these projects have engendered and considers contemporary global vulnerabilities and axes of contestation.