Day: January 11, 2013

Blog Archeology: Guns Won’t Stop Genocide

Brad Delong calls this “hoisted from the archives,” which is clearly a better term for what I’m doing. But, as that’s taken and I’m not as smart as the great economics professor, I guess I’ll just have to stick with this alternative.


Guns and Genocide, version 96.12b

From 11 June 2005

After the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square by the People’s Liberation Army, the NRA ran advertisements claiming that if the protesters had been armed, they could’ve defended themselves and thus prevented the anti-democracy crackdown. This kind of argument, rooted in the (correct) conviction that the ultimate recourse against tyranny is armed insurrection, has a long history both in political theory and in gun-rights advocacy.

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Flexibility and Constraint in Hegemonic Orders

About a year ago I introduced an ocasional series called “Quarter-Baked Ideas.” The idea was to blog about semi-formed thoughts related to international affairs. The whole notion turned about to be quarter-baked: I haven’t done another one until now.

Do rising powers have an intrinsic advantage in “flexibility” when compared to dominant ones? The answer to this question matters a great deal, I submit, to debates over the persistence and decline of hegemonic orders. As I’ve alluded to before, there’s a curious blindspot in mainstream hegemonic-order theory.

On the one hand, hegemonic-order theories emphasize the significance of, well, hegemonic orders. The costs and benefits of those orders are supposed to influence the disposition of second-tier states and thus whether they challenge the dominant power. Gilpin noted, in particular, the allocation of status as a key factor in accounting for whether rising powers adopted a status-quo or revisionist approach to hegemonic orders. Ikenberry, among others, sees the character of hegemonic orders as of central importance: the US-led order, he argues, is durable because it provides “voice opportunities” for other states and involves multiple mechanisms (“self-retraining” or “self-binding” elements) that limit the potential for American predation.

On the other hand, such theorists don’t really treat order itself as an object of contention. The character of the order might be important, but all the action occurs at the level of alterations in the distribution of state capacity. Hegemony lasts so long as the dominant power avoids, or prevails over, rising revisionist states. Yet, as should be obvious, hegemony isn’t separable from order. A political community might stand at the apex of the international pyramid of power, but if doesn’t build and maintain an order then it isn’t exercising hegemony. Indeed, this is why Ikenberry invests a great deal of energy in arguing that the liberal order can persist even without unipolarity, and that states might even accept US security primacy after relative decline.

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