A Summary of The New Sovereignty in International Relations by David Lake

The importance of hierarchy is understood, but rarely recognized nor viewed with scrutiny for patterns and implications within IR. Domestic hierarchy and international anarchy work together to define s. Classical realists use Westphalian S: an absolute with single internal hierarchy & state equality with all other sovereign states. This view remains today even in the shifts of theories (attribute to relationship). Waltz describes international systems by differentiating the hierarchic realm of domestic politics and the anarchic realm of international politics – decentralized and anarchic.

Major states should be major players, others are inconsequential. Economic Interdependence/Transnational theory, merged into classical view for theorizing, but the dependency theory (capitalist world economy) failed with the success of East Asian countries’ industrialization. S has transformed greatly as classical view is static structurally not accounting for real-world changes. For constructivists S is a socially created structure, produced, not just deemed therefore effecting IR.

They view influences of social norms and practices (including international societies & constitutional structure) as central, not depending on itself in terms of protecting its anarchy, but relying on relationships not subordinate to a common authority. This constructivist theory is almost an ‘English’ mindset of ‘big players’ and ignores polities that violate the norm of procedural justice (over 2/3 of humanity). With all of the debate, S continues as an absolute condition. S is thought of as indivisible, but Krasner shows S is eminently divisible revealing a wide range of authority relationships.

Westphalia S (territory & exclusion of domestic authority) is seen as the rule of modern IR, but Krasner’s looks at the wider scope of int’l restrictions placed on states. To address hierarchy is seen as in-politically correct, calling into question states subordinate positions. Some relationships involve political entities, but not necessarily the ‘makings’ of sovereignties creating a benefit for standards to categorize deviations, but no strong case for creating this system.

Besides the power states, most others face realistic restrictions on their S. Subordinate relationships need a continuum to define the ranges of authority and help ‘who decide what’. External restrictions differ by issues within security, economics & political dimensions. Articulating the degrees and defining rights of polities in issues can be tricky. Ignoring hierarchy hinders our understanding of world politics and recognizing/incorporating it into our theories of IR, could help explain important policy phenomena.

Hierarchy is a double edged sword in which public recognition of subordination can be difficult. Relationships between two sovereign states where doctrines have been asserted (i. e. US & Latin American relations) show the struggle of power, but the potential benefit of its recognition. Extreme hierarchical relationships (Soviet-Eastern Europe) entice international overreaction. If absolute s, without consideration of hierarchy options is the only option problems often result.

Because the international community’s failure to publically address authority relationships, parties press for extremes and increase the need for external guarantees and rule perpetuating the conflict, especially with vocabulary like ‘defy’ that implies subordinates. We must look at hierarchy claims of the US and other countries responses, legitimacy and expectations with key issues in our modern unipolar world. Hierarchical implications are critical and even though the debate of hierarchy will be difficult for subordinates and power states at the same time, it is important to hold the discussion over the existence, causes and consequences internationally.

Sarah from Law Aspect

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