Stewart Prest, Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
Jan Lüdert, Associate Professor, Director Center for Curriculum and Instruction, City University of Seattle
Proposal Submission Deadline: 30 April 2021
Completed Chapter Submission Deadline: 30 September 2021
Anticipated Publication Date: 2022 (The book is under contract with Springer Publishing)
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
In an era of increasing great power rivalry, the international system nonetheless continues to provide examples of relatively weak states employing diverse strategies in pursuit of desired outcomes in the face of significant disparities in available resources. While important work has been done on the subject in recent years, there remains no volume that attempts to exhaustively theorize and illustrate the varied strategies such states employ to desired ends. This edited volume seeks to do just that by inviting scholars to submit proposed chapters that consider the varied roles, relevance, and strategies of weak state actors in global politics.
International relations theory and research pays relatively little attention to non-great powers. For all their differences, both realist and Marxian discourses focus on the periphery only to the extent that its members may be considered “emerging powers”; otherwise, it rates—at best—as an arena for contestation, to be fought over, or co-opted or exploited by states in the core. Liberal conceptions open the possibility of more complex and multifaceted positive relationships and progressive economic and economic change, though here too assumptions of Whig history too often tend to inform analysis, with assumptions that global progression will tend to converge on Western political and economic models lurking in the background. Even the constructivist turn, despite its focus on a broader set of actors and ideas, tends to ignore marginal states. The turn away from state-centric theorizing has often taken the form of a focus instead on non-state actors headquartered in the Global North as central agents of norm reproduction and change.
Innovation is possible, however. It is also necessary, for it is clear that seemingly powerless states often manage to get by in the international environment despite the seemingly overwhelming power discrepancies we observe in the world today. From gaining membership on important UN committees, to placing new issues squarely on the international trade agenda, to shaping global discourse around climate action, and much more, “weak states” find ways to survive, and sometimes even thrive in a system designed by and for others.
In this context, a “weak state” is defined contextually. It is one that cannot hope to achieve desired outcomes in a particular situation through use of force or other direct deployments of material power such as economic retaliation, whether on their own or in coordination with existing allies. They are states that must find other, less direct ways to exercise agency in pursuit of national interests as understood by the country’s leadership. Thus, a state may be conceivably be weak in one relationship—for instance when its interests clash with some regional or global hegemon—but able to act from a position of relative strength in other situations. When the state is contextually weak, it turns to covert and non-material forms of power.
Drawing cues from James Scott’s celebrated book Weapons of the Weak, in this edited volume, contributors articulate and illustrate alternative perspective that treats weak and peripheral states as purposeful agents in their own right in the international arena, adopting characteristic and at times successful repertoires of resistance, innovation and subversion when confronted with the apparently overwhelming nature of existing of international governance institutions and the power relations on which they are based. Employing a threefold analytical framework distinguishing between material, institutional, and discursive approaches, the volume maps out and empirically supports the range of strategies employed by weak states to, in the words of the Rolling Stones, get what they need.
The book also responds to calls and examples provided by Acharya (2011, 2014) and Acharya and Buzan (2019) in building a global theory of IR, one that acknowledges the ability of the weak states to exercise agency in diverse circumstances, particularly (but not solely) in the realm of norm negotiation and implementation. It likewise builds on innovative research of the last decades looking at specific instances of weak and small state agenda setting and advocacy. For instance, Sikkink (2014), building on the work of authors such as Dominguez (2007), argues that Latin American states played an important role as early advocates for an international human rights and democracy. Coleman and Tieku (2018) and their coauthors explore the ways in which African state and non-state actors shape security norms on the continent. And de Águeda Corneloup and Mol (2014) consider the role of small island states in shaping global climate negotiations. Similar studies exist in a number of other subfields as well.
In doing so, the volume both brings together and moves beyond a range of existing studies that consider specific case dynamics, to provide a frame within which such actors can be understood more generally. The method of the volume includes the articulation of a general analytical frame and typology that will bring coherence to the various topical chapters. The selection of cases will ensure that, by the conclusion of the work, we will be able to offer collection of comparative studies that collectively enable us to offer tentative conclusions regarding the conditions under which weak states are more or less likely to succeed in advancing interests using such weapons. Factors the cases will explore include the effects of great power competition, the degree of issue salience for great powers, the “hardness” of the core issue, and so on.
While many of these cases have been previously studied in various formats, it is our goal to demonstrate the distinctive and recurring patterns of resistance inherent in each case, and to draw out insights as to what influences the relative success or failure of such “weak states” in achieving desired outcomes. None of the cases can be considered unalloyed successes from the perspective of the weak states in question, and yet each illustrates how states lacking the traditional measures of power nonetheless manage to exert a measurable influence on global politics.
This book will be suitable for scholars, students and practitioners working and studying in the fields of political science including the fields of international relations and comparative politics, along with allied substantive and methodological subfields such as international political economy and security studies, political communication and political psychology, international policy studies, environmental policy, critical theory, and discourse analysis.
· Responses to international sanctions programs (e.g. Iraqi Oil for Food Program)
· Adaptation to and of global security norms
· Building of alternative international alliances, fora, and institutions
· Adaption of and to the UN system (e.g. UN Human Rights Council)
· Responses to World Bank and IMF conditional grants and loans programs
· International trade strategies (e.g. rise of alternative groups in the Doha round, innovative use of dispute resolution mechanisms, etc.)
· Role of small states in international climate and other environmental negotiations
· Small states responses to the global financial crisis (eg. Iceland’s responses to UK and the Netherlands in the Icesave dispute)
Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before 30 April 2021 a chapter proposal of ~1000 words clearly explaining the mission and concerns of the proposed chapter. The proposal should clearly indicate 1) the subfield that the chapter addresses, 2) the empirical case(s) under consideration, and 3) how the chapter’s contents fits within the larger themes of the volume.
Subject Line: Call for Chapter Proposals – Weapons of the Weak States
Editors will determine the suitability of the submission, and communicate decisions to all accepted authors by 15 May, 2021. If accepted, chapter manuscripts will be due 30 September 2021. Following submission, chapters will be subjected to external peer review, and an internal editorial process to ensure consistency of quality and tone of the overall volume.
Acharya, A. 2011. Norm subsidiarity and regional orders: Sovereignty, regionalism, and rule‐making in the Third World. International Studies Quarterly, 55(1): 95-123.
Acharya, A., 2014. Who Are the Norm Makers-The Asian-African Conference in Bandung and the Evolution of Norms. Global Governance, 20, p.405.
Acharya, A. and Buzan, B., 2019. The Making of Global International Relations. Cambridge University Press.
Coleman, K.P. and Tieku, T.K., 2018. African actors in international security: four pathways to influence. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
de Águeda Corneloup, I. and Mol, A.P.J. (2014). “Small island developing states and international climate change negotiations: the power of moral ‘leadership.’” International Environmental Agreements. 14: 281.
Dominguez, Jorge. (2007). “International Cooperation in Latin America: The Design of Regional Institutions by Slow Accretion.” In A. Acharya and A. I. Johnston, (Eds). Crafting Cooperation: Regional International Institutions in Com parative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Scott, J. (1985). Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Sikkink, K. 2014. “Latin American Countries as Norm Protagonists of the Idea of International Human Rights.” Global Governance. 20: 289-404.
Jan Lüdert, Associate Professor, City University of Seattle