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The Return of the Public in Global Governance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)



Many international relations scholars argue that private authority and private actors are playing increasingly prominent roles in global governance. This book focuses on the other side of the equation: the transformation of the public dimension of governance in the era of globalization. It analyses that transformation, advancing two major claims: first, that the public is beginning to play a more significant role in global governance, and, second, that it takes a rather different form than has traditionally been understood in international relations theory. The authors suggest that unless we transcend conventional wisdom about the public as a distinct sphere, separate from the private domain, we cannot understand the dynamics and consequences of its apparent return. Using examples drawn from international political economy, international security and environmental governance, they argue that 'the public' should be conceptualized as a collection of culturally-specific social practices.
Chapter 1
Jacqueline Best and Alexandra Gheciu
This is a pre-publication version of this chapter, the final version of which appears in
The Return of the Public in Global Governance, J. Best and A. Gheciu, eds. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 3-14.
Although there has been much discussion among International Relations scholars
about the extent to which the relationship between public and private in global
governance is changing, much of that attention has been focused on the rising role of
private governance, authority, and actors. This volume focuses instead on the other side
of the equation: our interest is primarily in the transformation of the public dimension of
global governance. As we analyze that transformation, we advance two major claims:
first, that the public is beginning to play a more significant role in global governance,
but, second, that it takes a rather different form than has traditionally been understood in
International Relations (IR) theory. Rather than a bounded realm or space, we argue that
the public must be conceptualized as a collection of social practices.
The return of the public
No matter where we look, the public seems to be playing an increasingly important
role in our lives. This is particularly striking given that, after a couple of decades of
neoliberal governance that extolled the virtues of the private sphere (particularly the
market), many experts thought that the public – and particularly the state – had
irrevocably lost its once privileged position in the world. Take, for instance, the recent
examples of state intervention to address the financial crisis largely perceived as the
outcome of the reckless behaviour of private actors (primarily financial institutions). Or
consider the new rules that came into effect after 9/11 and that impose unprecedented
demands on institutions such as private banks to cooperate with public authorities,
including by disclosing confidential information about their clients. Think, also, about
the ways in which the transnational flows of goods, people, and services have been
subjected to unprecedented levels of monitoring by public authorities – suffice it to
mention the new security arrangements at airports in a situation in which states and
intergovernmental international organizations fear that such flows could facilitate the
operations of terrorist and criminal organizations. Finally, let us recall the multitude of
government-, UN-, and EU-sponsored efforts to create a more effective system of
environmental governance that would, among other things, significantly change the
ways in which private corporations conduct their business.
Based on all these (and many other) examples, we could be very tempted to
conclude that, after a couple of decades of neoliberal governance, the public is back with
a vengeance. But is it? Yes, and no. As this volume argues, the public is indeed back,
but not as we knew it. We suggest that unless we transcend the conventional wisdoms
about the category of public, we cannot understand the dynamics and consequences of
its apparent return.
The concept of the public is a fundamental category in political theory, and has long
shaped modern liberal thought and practice. Although various liberal scholars have
different views of the relative merits and power of public vs. private objects and
subjects, the assumption of a clear distinction between public and private realms has
been at the heart of liberalism’s “art of separation” – to borrow Michael Walzer’s (1984)
term. As we explain in the next chapter, the public/private divide has also been central to
thinking about international relations. While in recent years a host of scholars have
drawn attention to the shifting and blurring of the boundary between public and private,
for the most part their analyses have not challenged the assumption that public and
private are ontologically separate domains of social life, governed by different logics
and associated with specific sites. On this view, it ought to be possible at any given time
and in any given place to determine, based on their location, whether a particular
organization, group or individual acts in a public or a private capacity.
The problem with this perspective, this volume suggests, is that it does not enable us
to see that whether an actor is regarded as public or private depends much more on what
they are seen to be doing, than on where they are located. As the empirical contributions
to this volume demonstrate, in many instances the public is back, but it is not where or
what it is supposed to be, according to conventional wisdom. We suggest that it is only
by transcending the view of the public as a separate, distinct entity or social space and
by embracing the view of public as practice that we can understand the nature and
consequences of the contemporary “return of the public.” This is what we set out to do
in this volume.
The public as practice
Drawing inspiration from the “practice turn”1 in International Relations and social
theory, we argue that the best way to understand the novel forms of “public” that are
currently emerging internationally is to see them as public practices. Understanding the
public as practices, we suggest, enables us to develop a more nuanced appreciation for
the complex ways in which different forms of public are gaining in significance –
allowing us to open up the black box of the public and to examine the multiplicity of
actors, objects, and subjects that are implicated.
As we discuss at greater length in the next chapter, we define practices as
meaningful patterns of activity that enable individuals and communities to reproduce
their world. Such practices are often tacit or habitual the everyday practices through
which we engage in our social and political lives although they can also take more
self-conscious and strategic forms. This means that practices are both ideational and
material: they take concrete forms, as specific actions and techniques, but only have
meaning within a particular social and ideational context. Some of the practices
discussed in this volume include concrete techniques for soliciting public feedback and
participation, for structuring spaces of deliberation, and for providing public goods like
1 See in particular (Adler 2005; Adler and Pouliot 2011a and 2011b) also (Bourdieu 1990; McMillan
2008; McMillan 2009; Schatzki 1996; Schatzki, Knorr Cetina, and von Savigny 2001).
One of the most common ways of understanding practice today is through the idea of
“communities of practice.” This particular understanding of practices emphasizes what
we are calling in this volume the reinforcing character of certain practices: the ways in
which they can be used to stabilize the rules, norms, and boundaries of a particular way
of life by, for example, reinforcing an international organization’s claims to authority
by developing new practices of public consultation. Yet practices can also be used to
transform a given set of background assumptions, or redefine the boundaries of taken-
for-granted categories. Not surprisingly, given that this volume seeks to examine a
moment of disruption and transition in global governance, many of the kinds of public
practice being discussed by our contributors take this second form, as actors in the
environmental, economic, and security domains seek to redefine the meaning and scope
of the public in global governance.
As we discuss in the next chapter, we define public practices as patterns of activity
that involve an understanding in a given society at a particular moment in time that
something is of common concern. By conceptualizing the public as a set of practices,
rather than as a bounded domain or sphere, we are emphasizing the contested and
historically-contingent character of what we call public. This reconceptualization
enables us to disaggregate the public, examining the ways in which different kinds of
actors and activities get counted as public in different contexts. It also allows us to
consider the politics involved in defining a particular good, procedure, or actors as
public, revealing the power relations involved in defining what counts as public or not.
What is at stake in this return and reconstitution of the public? We suggest that the
present reconstitution of the public dimension of governance can be seen as a moment of
disruption – partially in response to the perceived limitations of neoliberal ideas and
practices of the public that were prominent in previous years. Contributors to this
volume provide somewhat different answers in response to the question, “what has
changed?” but they agree that recent transformations – for instance, the global financial
crisis, changes in the field of security after 9/11, and climate change – have all
challenged previously taken for granted definitions of the public, as well as boundaries
between the public and private. Each of these crises has forced a redefinition of what
counts as a public object or subject, just as it has forced a rethinking of the previously
dominant public logic. To understand the nature and implications of this moment of
disruption, we argue, we need to examine practices through which particular
understandings of the public objects, subjects and logics of action are defined, enacted,
and contested.
By examining the ways in which the public is constituted through historically-
specific practices, the chapters included in this collection seek to make several
significant contributions to the International Relations literature. The project makes an
important contribution to the significant literature on public and private in global
governance, both building on and challenging the existing literatures on private
authority, public goods, and the global public sphere.
We also formulate a theoretical framework for the study of the public in global
governance that can be applied to a range of IR subfields to help us understand the
complex interactions among them. This book demonstrates the ways in which the same
patterns in the transformation of the public are occurring in IPE, international security,
and the global environment.
This volume also contributes to the recent IR and sociological bodies of literature on
“the turn to practice” by extending the analysis of practices to a previously under-
theorized area. Thus, we explore the ways in which practices help to construct and
change some of the most fundamental categories (public objects and subjects) that shape
our understanding of – and actions within – the world of international politics. Through
its emphasis on the concrete practices, mechanisms, and techniques through which the
public is constituted, this volume makes an important contribution to debates in IR about
the relationship between the material and the ideal. Practices, by their very nature,
bridge this divide: they are informed by particular understandings but take material form
– as a set of techniques for making financial derivatives open to public scrutiny, or a set
of consultation mechanisms for dealing with poor communities.
In addition, our focus on practices enables us to contribute to a better understanding
of the exercise of power in international relations. After all, as Barnes has noted, “To
engage in a practice is to exercise a power. […] what is called the active exercise of a
power may equally be called the enactment of a practice.” (quoted in Adler and Pouliot
2011a: 30) In this volume, we examine the exercise of power through the practices of
inclusion, exclusion and authorization involved in constituting certain subjects or objects
as “public.”
Finally, contributors to this volume seek to enhance our understanding of the public
by examining the normative dilemmas and challenges associated with contemporary
forms of the public. Thus, one of the recurring themes in this volume is that some of the
recent transformations in the fields of international political economy, security, and
environmental governance have worrying implications, as some of the recent practices
of publicness provide a much thinner basis for legitimacy than the democratic processes
that – in modern (liberal) political thought – are conventionally associated with the
public domain.
Overview of the book
Each of the essays that make up this book contributes to the theoretical and empirical
robustness of our central claims. Thus, despite their different empirical foci, our
contributors share a commitment to exploring the constitutive effects of practices on the
objects and subjects identified as “public” in a specific context. As noted above, many of
our contributors have already carried out research that challenges conventional
assumptions regarding the boundaries between the public and the private realms, arguing
that categories of public and private cannot be treated as fixed.2 Our volume takes that
2 See, for example: Abrahamsen and Williams 2007; 2009; 2011; Avant 2005; Cutler, Haufler, and Porter
1999; Gheciu 2008; Haufler 2007; Porter 2005.
line of argument a step further through a systematic examination of the dynamics and
implications of the historically-specific practices through which the “public” is
constructed. It is on the basis of such a systematic set of analyses that we seek to explain
the present efforts to reconstitute the public dimension of governance in response to
recent crises in the fields of international political economy, security, environment
The next chapter, by Best and Gheciu, provides a theoretical framework for the other
chapters in this book, and for the broader claims that contributors make about the need
to reconceptualize the global public. If the public is in fact re-emerging in global
governance, then how can we conceptualize it? In order to answer this question, Best
and Gheciu begin by considering whether the existing literatures on the public and
private in global governance can provide enough insight into the changes that we are
currently witnessing, allowing us to recognize the re-emergence of the public and to
understand its novel characteristics. Having identified both the strengths and weaknesses
of the existing scholarship in resolving these puzzles, they go on to develop a framework
for making sense of the evolving role and character of the public in global governance.
They suggest that the best way of understanding the re-emergence of the public is to
understand it as an evolving set of practices rather than as a bounded sphere, state-based
authority, or natural set of goods. Drawing on the evidence provided by contributions to
this volume, Best and Gheciu then develop a theoretical framework for understanding
the public as practice in global governance.
If we are to develop a conception of the public that is historically and culturally
attuned, then it is important to consider contemporary shifts in the light of their history.
The chapters by Avant and Haufler and by Helleiner do exactly that: they consider
recent changes in the constitution of the public through a historical lens. In their chapter
entitled “The Dynamics of Private Security Strategies and their Public Consequences,”
Avant and Haufler examine the relationship between western profit-seeking, helping,
and ruling organizations in the management of violence during 19th century imperial
expansion, late 19th century modernity, the Cold War, and contemporary global
governance. Through their analysis, they demonstrate that changes in the practices of
ostensibly private firms and NGOs have played an important role in shaping the
conception of the public that prevails in a particular historical context. Their historical
analysis demonstrates that the clear distinctions between public and private that we take
for granted today were the product of social practices in a specific historical context.
Thus, at the start of the history they examine, there was no distinctive boundary between
public and private. As Avant and Haufler explain, only over time did the state and
private actors come to be seen as entities operating in separate spheres. Furthermore,
“By the start of the twenty-first century, the public and private were once again merging
but in a new way, in which the state is no longer equated with the public. This may
presage a transformation of the public through the manner in which security is provided
through transparent and accountable processes. What those who provide security do,
rather than who they are, is increasingly important for organizations claiming to be
acting on behalf of the public.”
Helleiner, in his chapter, considers the rise of new public-constituting practices in
the context of the recent financial crisis. In his examination of the move to regulate
derivatives, he considers how policymakers across the world have stated clearly that
they now consider derivatives markets to be a proper subject for global public policy.
These declarations of the “publicness” of derivatives markets have been accompanied by
internationally-coordinated initiatives to boost market participants’ use of various
private central counterparties, exchanges, electronic trading platforms, and trade
depositories. Yet, Helleiner notes that while derivatives have been redefined as a public
concern, the proposed new forms of regulation remain quite distinct from the post-war
Bretton Woods era, as, “the publicness of OTC markets is being constructed in more
ways than simply through a ‘return of the state’.These new governance practices also
point to a narrowing of the “public” being served by the international financial order:
“When broader political issues relating to fairness and participation in governance are
addressed, policymakers’ vision of the ‘public’ seems to narrow suddenly to include
only the participants in the markets themselves.” As Helleiner concludes, this suggests
that the content of both the distinct narratives and the specific mechanisms that generate
“publicness” in turn influence the very identity of the public being constituted by these
The next five chapters apply these insights into the changing character of public
practices to several contemporary issue areas. In her chapter “The ‘Demand Side’ of
Good Governance: The Return of the Public in World Bank Policy,” Best looks at recent
changes in the World Bank’s development policies. Bernstein’s piece, “The Publicness
of Non-State Global Environmental and Social Governance,” and Paterson’s chapter,
“Climate Re-public: Practicing Public Space in Conditions of Extreme Complexity”
both consider different aspects of the evolution of environmental governance, while
Gheciu focuses on the changing practices of security provision in her chapter,
“Transforming the Logic of Security Governance in Europe. Finally, Leander’s
chapter, “Understanding US National Intelligence: Analyzing Practices to Capture the
Chimera,” examines the opaque world of “top secret” security services.
Best’s contribution examines recent efforts by the World Bank to foster the “demand
side” of good governance and poverty reduction. Having spent the better part of a
decade trying to improve the supply of these developmental goods, whether by the
international financial institutions themselves or by borrowing states, Bank staff are now
focusing on the other side of the equation. In the simplest terms, this means encouraging
poor people, civil society groups, parliaments, and market actors to stand up and demand
better governance, better services, and better efforts to reduce poverty. In other words,
this new governance strategy seeks to create new kinds of public: to foster the formation
of public groups, to encourage them to engage in particular kinds of public speech, and
to hope through those means to create a more responsive and accountable public sector.
The chapter suggests that if we are to understand what is involved in this return of the
public, as well as what is at stake, we need to move beyond the more traditional
conceptions of the public. We are witnessing neither simply a shift in private authority,
nor a new kind of public good, nor a return of the public sphere. Instead, Best suggests,
we can best capture recent changes by understanding them as a new kind of public logic,
in which the various practices that we associate with the public and the private have
been disaggregated and recombined in new and potent ways. Yet, Best argues, these
efforts have not been entirely successful to date: her chapter thus points out the potential
limits of recent efforts to constitute a new kind of public.
In the realm of global environmental and social governance, Bernstein also finds
some important changes underway. Non-governmental actors play an increasingly
salient role in creating environmental and social standards in areas such as fisheries,
labour practices, forestry, climate change, apparel, and a wide range of commodities that
are traded internationally. In so doing, they have developed a new repertoire of
governance systems – such as product labeling and producer certification that they
have sought to define as public. Using the ISEAL Alliance to support his claims about
the growing importance of non-state governance systems, Bernstein argues that “the
language of public and private as distinctive forms of global governance offers limited
analytic traction. As he explains, ISEAL members (which include actors such as the
Marine Stewardship Council, the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International, and Forest
Stewardship Council) are increasingly relying on claims to their public authority. Like
Best and Gheciu, Bernstein suggests that these empirical transformations raise some
difficult normative questions and have some potentially problematic implications. One
of the key problems, Bernstein argues, is that in practice it can be difficult to achieve
publicity for these initiatives beyond elites or those with specialized knowledge. Thus,
the risk is that the reconstitution of public authority “legitimizes the slicing up of a
divisible transnational ‘public’ – made up in practice of elites engaged in particular
issues or market sectors – in the absence of a globally constituted public.”
Matthew Paterson further enhances our understanding of the reconstitution of the
public in the realm of environmental policy by exploring how the public is being
practiced in global climate politics. Paterson begins by elaborating how climate change
can be understood as a classic case of a public goods problem, but also as a problem of
extreme complexity, or as a ‘super-wicked’ problem. He suggests that the combination
of these features has helped to engender a practice of the public that seeks to recreate
classical forms of public space – an agora for deliberation – that are oriented towards the
type of open-ended learning and deliberation that the characteristics of complexity
entail. The relationship between “public” and “private” is thus less to be sought in the
characteristics of specific actors or institutions, than in the qualities of the interactions
between them. Paterson’s chapter explores this claim through an analysis of the
legitimating practices of “private” climate governance, the notion of “learning by doing”
that pervades a range of climate governance discourses, and the organization of public
space in recent international climate change negotiations.
Gheciu’s chapter examines the dynamics and implications of domestic security
practices carried out in post-communist Eastern Europe, with a special emphasis on
Bulgaria and Romania. She argues that contemporary providers of a key public good
(security) in those countries are not confined to a particular space or institutional
domain. Rather, they are both global and national, state and non-state, new yet often
with strong connections to old (communist) organizations. Those actors can be
understood as “communities of practice” that have emerged in a specific historical
context – particularly post-Cold War processes of liberalization – and, by mobilizing
material and symbolic sources of power, have contributed to the re-constitution of the
“public” in particular ways. Practices of security provision carried out in contemporary
Bulgaria and Romania have a profound impact on those societies by re-defining norms
of acceptable behaviour by public actors and by a responsible demos, reshaping
understandings of who has the right to provide public goods, legitimizing new
techniques of protection and introducing an ethic of care of the public that is not
provided by the state.
Leander’s chapter, “Understanding US National Intelligence: Analyzing Practices to
Capture the Chimera,” attempts to come to terms with the chimerical nature of US
National Intelligence since 9/11. In her view, this can only be achieved by moving
beyond the public/private divide and understanding this security field as a hybrid set of
practices. Leander’s chapter starts from the observation that there has been an
extraordinary growth in intelligence activity since 9/11. “This ‘public’ is returning” and
“expanding at impressive speed,” she notes. Yet, the exact nature of this public
transformation “is surprisingly difficult to pin down.” The problem, according to
Leander, is that efforts to “capture” US National Intelligence tend to (re-)produce its
elusiveness. She draws on a two year-long investigative project about “Top Secret
America” carried out by a team of twenty journalists from the Washington Post. Not
only do the journalists who have gone through all available public documentation
consider that the nature and scope of US Intelligence escape their control and
understanding, so do insiders at all levels including the director of the CIA and the
Secretary of Defence. As Leander explains, the reason this expansion of the public is so
difficult to capture is its hybridity and particularly the chimerical side of this
hybridity. The chimerical nature of US National Intelligence is produced by public and
private practices that obscure its expansionary nature, as well as the reflexive processes
through which it is reproduced. To come to terms with this phenomenon therefore
requires an approach that conceptualizes the public as practice. The advantage of such
an approach is that it can make the creation of the public/private divide endogenous to
the analysis rather than treat it as an exogenously given point of departure.
The volume concludes with two chapters the first by Tony Porter and the second
by Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams – whose primary aim is to situate our
understanding of the reconstitution of the public in a broader theoretical perspective.
Porter’s chapter looks forward, to where the changing character of the public might take
us in the future, while Abrahamsen and William’s chapter looks backwards, in order to
understand the historical roots of the more traditional conceptions of the public that we
are now leaving behind.
Porter’s chapter, entitled “Constitutive Public Practices in a World of Changing
Boundaries,” takes a step back from detailed issue-specific cases, and considers the
broader context within which the contemporary transformation of public (and private)
practices is occurring. Using as a lens the cases of border security and Internet
governance, Porter considers the various ways in which the practices of global
governance are growing in complexity. As he points out, “Once upon a time indeed
not that long ago – it was quite easy to say what was public and what was private.” This
is no longer the case, as we can no longer easily assume that public practices are those
associated with the state and its citizenry. He suggests that the growing complexity of
the global public is echoed and enabled by several other new forms of complexity in
the increasing entanglement between ideas and materiality, and in the fading distinction
between the national and the international. As Porter notes, although the Internet
resembles the public sphere of old, it also more complex: both material and ideal, public
and private, national and transnational. The Internet “is not a free floating cyberspace
that operates independently of humans or objects, but instead consists of humans and
objects that are coordinated and governed through a complex set of practices and
institutions.” Moreover, he suggests, many of the key actors involved in the Internet’s
governance are engaged in intense debates about its public or private character.
Although the Internet and its governance therefore involve public practices, they remain
both complex and contested.
Abrahamsen and Williams conclude this volume with a reflection on the
implications that this return and reconceptualization of the public has for IR scholarship.
The central question that they seek to answer in their chapter “Publics, Practices, and
Power”!is: what or where is the public? They suggest that in order to understand how the
character of the public is changing today, we have to look back in history, arguing “the
dominance of state-centrism [in IR theory] is a largely unrecognized inheritance of
attempts to determine what or where the public is, and what therefore qualifies as
legitimate, or properly public, power.” Although the site of the public has become far
more complex today, they suggest that the central problems that early political thinkers
like Hobbes and Hume sought to address in their emphasis on the state remain with us
today: at the heart of these challenges is the difficulty of ensuring that the public in fact
represents the will of the people. They conclude by examining some of the most recent
calls to return the public to the people, and suggest that “while the place of the public is
perhaps more puzzling than ever, it is by no measure disappearing.”
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Across the globe, from mega-cities to isolated resource enclaves, the provision and governance of security takes place within assemblages that are de-territorialized in terms of actors, technologies, norms and discourses. They are embedded in a complex transnational architecture, defying conventional distinctions between public and private, global and local. Drawing on theories of globalization and late modernity, along with insights from criminology, political science and sociology, Security Beyond the State maps the emergence of the global private security sector and develops a novel analytical framework for understanding these global security assemblages. Through in-depth examinations of four African countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa – it demonstrates how global security assemblages affect the distribution of social power, the dynamics of state stability, and the operations of the international political economy, with significant implications for who gets secured and how in a global era.
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The past decade has witnessed a remarkable expansion and globalisation of the private security sector. These developments mark the emergence of public—private, global—local security networks that play increasingly important roles in global governance. Rather than representing a simple retreat of the state, security privatisation is a part of broad processes in which the role of the state — and the nature and locus of authority — is being transformed and rearticulated. Often presented as apolitical, as the mere effect of market forces and moves towards greater efficiency in service delivery, the authority conferred on private actors can alter the political landscape and in the case of private security has clear implications for who is secured and how. The operation and impact of public/private, global/local security networks is explored in the context of security provision in Cape Town, South Africa.
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To date, most discussion of security privatization in international politics has been focused on the role of private military companies and mercenaries. This article seeks to shift the focus away from the battlefields and toward the less spectacular privatization and globalization of commercial private security. Drawing on Saskia Sassen’s notion of state “disassembly,” we situate the growth of private security within broader shifts in global governance. Pointing to the weakness of seeing the rise of private security as an erosion of state power and authority, we show instead a re-articulation of the public/private and global/local distinctions and relationships into what we term “global security assemblages.” Analyzing the role of private security in two such assemblages in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, we show how a range of different security agents and normativities interact, cooperate and compete, to produce new institutions, practices and forms of security governance. Global security assemblages thus mark important developments in the relationship between security and the sovereign state, structures of political power and authority, and the operations of global capital.
In Emanuel Adler's distinctive constructivist approach to international relations theory, international practices evolve in tandem with collective knowledge of the material and social worlds. This book - comprising a fresh selection of his journal publications, a substantial new introduction, three previously unpublished articles - points IR constructivism in a novel direction, characterized as 'communitarian'. Adler's synthesis does not herald the end of the nation-state; nor does it suggest that agency is unimportant in international life. Rather, it argues that what mediates between individual and state agency and social structures are communities of practice, which are the wellspring and repositories of collective meanings and social practices. The concept of communities of practice casts new light on epistemic communities and security communities, helping to explain why certain ideas congeal into human practices and others do not, and which social mechanisms can facilitate the emergence of normatively better communities.
This book addresses key topics in social theory such as the basic structures of social life, the character of human activity, and the nature of individuality. Drawing on the work of Wittgenstein, the author develops an account of social existence that argues that social practices are the fundamental phenomenon in social life. This approach offers insight into the social formation of individuals, surpassing and critiquing the existing practice theories of Bourdieu, Giddens, Lyotard and Oakeshott. In bringing Wittgenstein's work to bear on issues of social theory the book shows the relevance of his work to a body of thought to which it has never been applied. The book will be of particular interest to philosophers of the social sciences, a wide range of social theorists in political science and sociology, as well as some literary theorists.
It has become almost a cliché in many Euro-Atlantic political and academic circles to argue that the transatlantic security community that defines itself around liberal-democratic values is facing a particularly dangerous set of challenges and must find ways to adapt to an environment marked by the growing power of unconventional enemies, particularly transnationally organized terrorist groups. But the question is, what has this meant in practice? What are the dynamics and implications of the security policies and practices aimed at addressing the (allegedly) new threat of international terrorism? This book examines the practices enacted by three key institutions of the transatlantic security community - the EU, NATO, and the OSCE - in the name of combating international terrorism, and analyses the ways in which those practices have both been affected by and contributed to changes in the field of security. This book argues that contemporary attempts to respond to the perceived threat of international terrorism reflect a particular ethos of risk-management and involve a combination of two different - an inclusive and an exclusionary - logics of security. This book examines the interplay between the two logics and analyses their implications, including the ways in which they have contributed to processes of reconstitution of boundaries and norms of governance in the security community. In developing this analysis, this book also explores some of the normative and political dilemmas generated by contemporary patterns of inclusion/exclusion. On this basis, it seeks to make a significant contribution to the study of security practices and international governance in the post-9/11 world.
In this article, we approach world politics through the lens of its manifold practices, which we define as competent performances. Studying International Relations (IR) from the perspective of international practices promises three key advances. First, by focusing on practices in IR, we can understand both IR theory and international politics better or differently. World politics can be conceived as structured by practices, which give meaning to international action, make possible strategic interaction, and are reproduced, changed, and reinforced by international action and interaction. This focus helps broaden the ontology of world politics, serves as a focal point around which debates in IR theory can be structured, and can be used as a unit of analysis that transcends traditional understandings of ‘levels of analysis’. We illustrate what an international practice is by revisiting Thomas Schelling's seminal works on bargaining. Second, with the help of illustrations of deterrence and arms control during the Cold War and of post-Cold War practices such as cooperative security, we show how practices constitute strategic interaction and bargaining more generally. Finally, a practice perspective opens an exciting and innovative research agenda, which suggests new research questions and puzzles, and revisits central concepts of our discipline, including power, history, and strategy.
Our usual representations of the opposition between the “civilized” and the “primitive” derive from willfully ignoring the relationship of distance our social science sets up between the observer and the observed. In fact, the author argues, the relationship between the anthropologist and his object of study is a particular instance of the relationship between knowing and doing, interpreting and using, symbolic mastery and practical mastery—or between logical logic, armed with all the accumulated instruments of objectification, and the universally pre-logical logic of practice. In this, his fullest statement of a theory of practice, Bourdieu both sets out what might be involved in incorporating one’s own standpoint into an investigation and develops his understanding of the powers inherent in the second member of many oppositional pairs—that is, he explicates how the practical concerns of daily life condition the transmission and functioning of social or cultural forms. The first part of the book, “Critique of Theoretical Reason,” covers more general questions, such as the objectivization of the generic relationship between social scientific observers and their objects of study, the need to overcome the gulf between subjectivism and objectivism, the interplay between structure and practice (a phenomenon Bourdieu describes via his concept of the habitus ), the place of the body, the manipulation of time, varieties of symbolic capital, and modes of domination. The second part of the book, “Practical Logics,” develops detailed case studies based on Bourdieu’s ethnographic fieldwork in Algeria. These examples touch on kinship patterns, the social construction of domestic space, social categories of perception and classification, and ritualized actions and exchanges. This book develops in full detail the theoretical positions sketched in Bourdieu’s Outline of a Theory of Practice . It will be especially useful to readers seeking to grasp the subtle concepts central to Bourdieu’s theory, to theorists interested in his points of departure from structuralism (especially fom Lévi-Strauss), and to critics eager to understand what role his theory gives to human agency. It also reveals Bourdieu to be an anthropological theorist of considerable originality and power.