'The International' as Governmentality

In traditional power analysis, `the international' is a characteristic of the states system — an anarchic realm, qualitatively different from the domestic. To traditional norms analysis, the international is increasingly a realm of shared value allocation, akin to other political realms. Given this bifurcation in the literature, privileging power incurs the cost of not being able to study systemic change of the international, whereas privileging norms incurs the cost of not being able to study power. We argue that extant conceptualisations of the international hail from Weber via Morgenthau, for whom international politics was an ideal type applied to the realm between states. Building on Mike Williams's work, we perform a new reading of these two scholars. We find that Morgenthau's identification of the political as an ideal-typical sphere has room for social theoretical insights as found in constructivist theory. Indeed, by his own Weberian lights, Morgenthau's specific ideal type of international politics is in need of updating. We try to rise to the challenge by drawing on Michel Foucault's work in order to forge an understanding of the international as governmentality. The result is a conceptualisation of the international as a socially embedded realm of governmentality. It is a structure (defined by relations of power) that generates different and changing practices of political rule (defined as governmental rationality) and agencies (for example, polities).

Released: Replika 114, 211–231.
Dorottya Mendly