Critical Theory and World Politics by Andrew Linklater
Reviews of Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity, Routledge: London, pp. 248.
Review by Shannon Brincat
University of Queensland
This book is a compendium of Andrew Linklater’s most significant papers written between 1982 and 2007. The volume is arranged into distinct themes, the problems of community, citizenship and harm respectively. Each division is representative of the three key areas that have continued to animate Linklater’s thought on world politics throughout the last three decades. As such, the volume captures well the theoretical development of one of the most important theorists in IR whose work is marked by its incredible consistency of focus, namely, the overriding concern with expanding the boundaries of moral community in world politics. So while many of us may have read some or all of these papers before, the benefit of the volume is not only that it places them in easy reach but because the pieces were chosen by Linklater himself. The selection has been well made, with Linklater obtaining advice from a number of colleagues (Richard Devetak, Richard Shapcott and Toni Erskine in particular) on which papers to include and how to best organise them. One could interrogate the reasons behind his selectivity however, as the inclusions and exclusions of the book throw up interesting insights into what Linklater sees as being the future tasks of Critical International Relations Theory (CIRT). Pursuing the question of why certain influential pieces were omitted from the volume, such as “Hegel, the State and IR” (1996: 193-209) or “Dialogue, Dialectic and Emancipation in International Relations” (1994: 119-131), help reveal the intentions and concerns underlying Linklater’s focus today; less with philosophical and normative concerns, and more with sociological and historical questions, or what he refers to as the “cosmopolitan approach to the sociology of states-systems” (2008d: 159).
Part I of the book looks at the nexus between moral obligations and political community, probably the most well-known aspects of Linklater’s thought which stemmed from his ambitious doctoral research published as Men and Citizens (1982, 1990). Part II offers a survey of Linklater’s thought on citizenship, particularly the notions of uncoupling citizenship from the state, and transforming the boundaries of political community to what Linklater has referred to as the post-Westphalian state. Here we see Linklater’s concern with the ‘good international citizen’ and the basis of his dialogic community in Habermasian discourse ethics. Part III is an attempt to lay the foundation for a sociology of the state-system that analyses the dominant attitudes to harm and suffering in history and the prospects for extending community. Of interest here is that these four chapters largely foreshadow the nature of Linklater’s current project; his soon to be completed magnum opus, contained in three volumes, that will focus on the principle of harm in world politics.
Of key importance is the Introduction to Critical Theory and World Politics, which does not just preface the book but is in fact an excellent summation of the long trajectory of Linklater’s thought; its basis is in the problem of the separation between ‘men’ and ‘citizens’, its praxeological interest in the transformation of political community and citizenship, and its current focus on the reduction of harm and ‘distant suffering’ in world politics. Here Linklater expresses the Kantian view that the entangled global relationships have forced communities to reflect on the moral consequences of relations with ‘strangers’ (2008a: 1). Due to this increased awareness, the central question of the process of globalisation seems to be how the relationships between the dimensions of interconnectedness and particularism in social and political life will develop in the future (2008a: 2). The transformation of Europe suggests to Linklater that the “time is ripe” to complete the Copernican Revolution in political thought initiated by Kant more than two centuries ago. What is necessary however are “appropriate visions” of what such a post-Westphalian state could be (2008b: 90).
Linklater claims that there have been some conceptions of post-national citizenship that envisage new forms of political community in which state powers are shared with ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ authorities and where traditional ‘national’ loyalties yield to both local and cosmopolitan attachments (2008a: 7). Similarly, Linklater refers to a vision of the ‘supranationalisation’ of citizenship through worldwide democratic structures and radical global political innovations (2008a: 8). Together these form the general foundation from which Linklater defends the idea for stronger cosmopolitan moral orientations that are coupled with radical institutional innovations (2008a: 8). This is not presented as mere idealist caprice however. Rather, it is viewed as a struggle to create a “worldwide public sphere” as a crucial means in which cosmopolitan citizenship can exist without a world state (2008c: 122). So despite his open acknowledgement of the world’s weariness with “utopian experiments” and disenchantment in the belief that political action can secure universal emancipation, for Linklater it is nevertheless premature to abandon the quest to embed cosmopolitan moral ideals in the organisation of world society (2008a: 12).
And it is here that Linklater’s continued reliance on the state becomes both self-evident and, for this writer at least, problematic. For to complete the Copernican Revolution seems to require more than what Linklater envisions in the limited nature of his post-Westphalian community. Linklater continues to uphold the legitimacy of the state and does not seek to overcome it – Linklater is self-avowedly not an anarchist. His post-Westphalian order is inherently statist. Its contribution to cosmopolitan ethics is that it purports to add a layer on-top of existing ethical obligations within the state to the sphere of humanity, the cosmopolis, as conveyed in the ideas of supranational citizenship or the worldwide public sphere. Such moves however, do not seem to overcome the contradiction that lays at the heart of the divide between ‘men’ and ‘citizens’ – that primary ethical obligations are given to the latter in deference to the ‘other’ beyond the border. As such, the central ethical pillar of the Westphalian order remains essentially unchallenged by Linklater’s move towards the post-Westphalian state. Whilst this form of political community may have certain cosmopolitan additives, such as stronger transnational harm conventions and the notions of good international citizenship, the division between men and citizens (or insiders and outsiders to borrow from Walker (1993)), is replicated rather than sublated in this future world order.
The key area through which Linklater hopes to establish a commitment to cosmopolitan ethics is through a practical and sociological focus on the issue of harm – and hence Linklater’s sustained examination of this area in recent years. But the perennial question on many minds is whether a focus on harm is enough to carry the normative and praxeological weight of Linklater’s project of emancipation? Linklater’s turn towards a study of the sociology of states-systems that focuses on harm as means to ground cosmopolitan politics is not without its limitations or detractors. Griffiths for example has suggested that there exists an ambiguity in Linklater’s writings between the need to transcend the state-system and a tendency to accept the state as the “medium of change and reform” (Griffiths 1999: 142). As such, he has advocated for the recovery of Linklater’s early emphasis on political theory rather than the later emphasis on the philosophy of history and sociology (Griffiths 1999: 142). However, focusing on harm, which has important philosophical and practical implications for world politics, may circumvent other criticisms of Linklater’s ongoing project in CIRT. Some critics have asserted that a continued focus on the traditions of Habermas or Foucault by Linklater would still not bestow a philosophical foundation for mediating cases of conflict between cultures (Jackson 1992: 274). To counter this perceived limitation, one could contend that a commitment to the reduction of harm and suffering of others could provide some standard to determine the forms of conduct that ought be recognised and respected in world politics.
However, going back to Linklater’s acknowledgement of the need for “appropriate visions” of the post-Westphalian state, a focus on harm does not seem, prima facie, to advance this to a great degree. While we can logically deduce that the harm principle would be a component of a just and moral world-order, it remains only one aspect of that order – and a negativist aspiration at that. The question that remains unexplored concerns the positive duties that could be utilised for the emancipatory project of CIRT. Yet, it is important here to not speculate on the basis of the four chapters on harm presented in this volume alone. These papers essentially constitute the preliminary analysis which informs Linklater’s current and expansive project. It is also important to note that Linklater does not seem to advance a minimalist account of the harm principle, such as one consistent with the liberal principles of J.S. Mill. From the injunction ‘do no harm’ could flow fundamental and radical change to the existing world order; political, social, environmental and economic. We can only anticipate what Linklater’s focus on harm will lend to the critical tradition and its theory of world politics with an emancipatory intent but its potential cannot be doubted.
Critical Theory and World Politics is available in Australia from Manohar Publishers for $10.63 (Paperback).
Brincat, Shannon. “Book Review – Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics”, Dialogue, e-Journal, 7(1), 2009.
Griffiths, M. Fifty Key Thinkers in International Relations, New York: Routledge, 1999, 142.
Jackson, Robert H. “Pluralism in international political theory”, Review of International Studies, April 1992, 274.
Linklater, Andrew. Men and Citizens in the Theory of International Relations, London: Macmillan, 1982 and 1990.
Linklater, Andrew. “Dialogue, Dialectic and Emancipation in International Relations at the End of the Post-War Era”, Millennium, 23(1), 1994, 119-31.
Linklater, Andrew. “Hegel, the State and International Relations”, in I. Clark, I.B. Neumann (Eds.), Classical Theories of International Relations, London: MacMillan, 1996, 193-209.
Linklater, Andrew. “Introduction”, in Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, sovereignty and humanity, Special Indian Edition, Delhi: Manohar, 2008a, 1.
Linklater, Andrew. “Citizenship and sovereignty in the post-Westphalian state”, in Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, sovereignty and humanity, Special Indian Edition, Delhi: Manohar, 2008b, 90.
Linklater, Andrew. “Cosmopolitan citizenship”, in Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, sovereignty and humanity, Special Indian Edition, Delhi: Manohar, 2008c, 122.
Linklater, Andrew, “The problem of harm in world politics”, in Critical Theory and World Politics, Special Indian Edition, Delhi: Manohar, 2008d, 159.
Walker, Robert. Insider/Outside: International Relations as Political Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 1993.
 An earlier version of this book review appeared in Dialogue, e-Journal, 7(1), 2009.
Review by Amelia Heath
Andrew Linklater’s Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity combines arguments from his previous books and articles in an attempt to reconcile a critical theoretical outlook and moral approaches to international politics. The book is accessible, eloquent, and thought provoking. It raises some of the ‘big questions’ related not only to the necessity of a moral dimension in theorizing international politics, but also to the practical achievement of international normative standards. One highly thought provoking aspect of the book, and the focus of this review, is the discussion on the problem of harm and the sociology of state systems as seen in part three.
Linklater’s chapters in part three set up what he calls a typology of harm, which can be used in studying the development of Cosmopolitan Harm Conventions (CHCs) and specifically to consider if cosmopolitan ideas of citizenship have affected modern state systems. The two main types of harm that underlie the analysis are concrete and abstract harm. Concrete harm is “the harm that particular human agents intentionally inflict on specific others who are placed outside the formers’ moral community because of religious, racial or other supposedly morally decisive characteristics.”  By implication, abstract harm is the harm unintentionally inflicted upon persons, groups, or the global commons (such as economic or environmental harm). 
Linklater’s harm analysis addresses two problems in establishing his method for the sociology of CHCs. First is that previous sociological studies of harm are driven by the analysis of modern forms of harm created by the fact that state communities claim sovereignty to harm others outside the community and even to harm those within their own communities. As such these analyses do not give proper consideration to abstract forms of harm. He identifies a limitation of the English School as not taking adequate account of abstract harm. He attempts to correct for this by incorporating Marxist and Critical Theory perspectives on harm into the sociological approach to studying responses to harm in world politics. Second is that previous sociologies of harm are limited to a context of state systems rather than being placed in a global context. This links the problem of harm with the problems of citizenship and community that form the rest of the book. Specifically, Linklater wants to break away from notions of bounded state communities and move toward the discussion of a truly cosmopolitan (global) humanity.
It is not clear though if his synthesis of the three schools of thought is entirely effective when also using the sociology of CHCs approach. The very language used in the discussion sets up a hierarchy of harms by which certain types of modern harm associated with state systems (such as violence and discrimination) are methodologically emphasized and prioritized within the analysis over other types of global harm (non-violent coercion of individuals, economic harm, harm to the global commons, etc.). The following three examples suggest that the focus on modern forms of harm associated with state systems are perpetuated by using the sociology of CHCs.
The first example lies in the distinction between concrete and abstract harm. The terms ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract’ refer to the respective temporal and spatial assumptions being implied about these types of harm. The definition given to concrete harm not only places the discussion within a particular historical context, but also within a particularly structural one. Though the aim is to ultimately extend an analysis of harm beyond a discussion of modern state systems, the definition of concrete harm has been grounded firmly within a historical sociology of nineteenth century types of harm associated with the inside/outside nature of the modern state system. For example, in chapter 8 the problem of harm becomes synonymous with the problem of discrimination created by the perception of natural law and Western supremacy. An additional result is that concrete forms of harm are discussed with a tone of urgency and immediacy, while abstract harm is projected as less urgent and farther off in the future. For instance, it is noted that only limited measures have so far been taken to protect future generations from “unforeseeable consequences of (environmental and technological) development.” Despite the fact that Linklater addresses the danger of treating abstract harm as if it is created by “vast impersonal forces” (which, he explains, deemphasizes its importance) his typology of harm still classifies abstract harms within the categories of “unintended harms,” “negligences,” or “omissions,” resulting in a lack of accountability. The language shifts responsibility for abstract harm away from any particular referent that directly inflicts the harm and toward vast impersonal forces and processes that are unintended and/or unable to be helped. At the same time the forceful language of “deliberate harm” demands consideration of accountability.
A second example lies in a discussion of the “civilizing process.” Linklater hopes to incorporate Norbert Elias’s ideas into Martin Wight’s sociology of state systems. Certain forms of cruelty are treated as concrete harms, the prevention of which demonstrates increased empathy and sensitivity to harm, indicative of a “civilizing process.” Here again though, despite attempts synthesize perspectives in order to break away from modern modes of thought, the analytic language is self-limiting. A portion of the chapter is dedicated to defending the language of a “civilizing process” against the good/bad, advanced/backward distinctions implied by accounts of teleological advancement and Western superiority. However, it is not entirely clear how the distinction between civility as a ‘process’ and a ‘condition’ decreases the potential ways in which we draw lines between ‘insiders’ (the civilized) and ‘outsiders’ (the uncivilized). Nor does it help to reflect upon the question of who determines the standards of ‘civility.’ It would seem that the terms civilized society necessarily imply that there still exists a non-civilized society. If so, are only those who are bound to international legal conventions via their membership in a state system, or in a state that recognizes a global society of states, a part of civilized society (and does this not still draw a boundary of those inside and those outside the line of civility)? In other words, how does a discussion of the civilizing process, which has exclusionary implications, move us toward “a new age of genuinely cosmopolitan as opposed to merely global harm conventions that satisfy dominant interests”?
Finally, within his analysis Linklater uses the priority given to modern forms of harm as an example of the standard of progress in the evolution of CHCs. There is no single measure given for progress, but examples scattered throughout chapters 8-11 suggest that English School progressivism of abolishing discriminatory harm and establishing humanitarian laws for war becomes the dominant measure of progress. Examples include:
- The argument that advancements against discrimination become synonymous with the progress of establishing harm principles. There is a focus on progress in “dismantling belief systems that defended harm to the racially or culturally different (slavery, slave trade, ethnocide and apartheid”) and legal conventions that limit state created war violence (pp. 137-141).
- A discussion of the ‘civilized progress’ in curbing violent impulses through legal codification (pp. 148; 161-162).
- An examination of the progress in further contractual legal restrictions on state violence (pp. 151-152 and 157-158).
- A discussion of progresses in human rights through codified systems of law made possible within global state systems (pp. 156-157).
- Further development of the typology of “deliberate” and “unintentional” harms whereby actors of identifiable state or non-state entity type can be accountable for deliberate harms (p. 175).
Despite attempts to overcome limitations of modern state system analysis, by using standards of progress defined by English School progressivism, and by making this type of progress a supposed indicator of the development of CHCs, the analysis has been predominantly focused on measuring modern (concrete) forms of harm. This approach has devalued an in-depth consideration of the accountability for abstract forms of harm. Measures of progress are furthermore limited to reactive responses rather than proactive responses. On these standards of progress, Linklater is able to show that there has been measurable progress in dealing with concrete harms. However, he also notes that there has been less success in dealing with abstract harms. Moreover, this measure of less progress in dealing with abstract rather than concrete harms does not adequately address the problem of accountability.
The previous examples serve only to consider ways in which the sociology of CHCs remains bound by theoretical parameters of modern forms of harm created by modern state systems. This review does not question the achievements that Linklater’s sociology demonstrates to have occurred within modern state systems in limiting harm and establishing internationally recognized CHCs. Rather it considers the context of these achievements and attempts to raise questions of how the sociology of state systems approach, while providing a contextual grounding, limits the analysis to specific types of harm created by specific circumstances. Consequentially, it is unclear to what extent this approach to the problem of harm is capable of being the vehicle for a much needed discussion about the possibilities of “genuinely cosmopolitan” consensuses on harm prevention.
Jim George, Discourse of Global Politics: A Critical (Re)Introduction to International Relations, Colorado, Lynne Reinner Publishers: 1994.
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard, Harvard University Press: 2000.
R.J. Barry Jones, ‘The English School and the Political Construction of International Society’, in International Society and the Development of International Relations, (ed) Barbara Allen Roberson, London, Continuum, 2002: 241-242.
Andrew Linklater, Beyond Realism and Marxism: Critical Theory in International Relations, Basingstoke, Macmillan: 1990.
Andrew Linklater, ‘Citizenship, Humanity, and Cosmopolitan Harm Conventions,’ International Political Science Review, 22(3), 2001: 261-277.
Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity, New York, Routledge: 2007.
Brian Mabee, ‘Discourses of Empire: the US ‘empire’, globalisation and international relations’, Third World Quarterly, 25(8), 2004: 1359-1378.
RBJ Walker, Inside/Outside International Relations as Political Theory, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 1993.
Nicholas Wheeler and Tim Dunne, ‘Hedley Bull and the Idea of a Universal Moral Community: Fictional, Primordial, or Imagined?’ in International Society and the Development of International Relations, (ed) Barbara Allen Roberson, London, Continuum, 2002: 43-79.
 The distinction of concrete and abstract harms arises further to a discussion of active and passive harms. Active harms are those resulting from actions which inflict “grief, sorrow, pain, trouble, distress or affliction,” on persons and can be both intentional and unintentional and physical as well as emotional, mental, psychological etc. (Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 131; and pp. 133-134). Passive harms arise from inaction in promoting the welfare of human beings and other acts of omission (P. 130).
 Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 138.
 Ibid, 140-141
 Ibid, 141-142
 Marxist analysis can make up for the shortcomings of the English School by drawing more attention to harms created by modern capitalism (p. 142), while Critical Theory can add insight into common emotional and psychological responses to harm.
 See Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 138 and 142
 See ibid, 142 and 158
 Ibid, 140
 See ibid, 151-153; 175.
 The development of changing attitudes to cruelty and suffering and constraints on violence; Andrew Linklater Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 171.
 See ibid, 166-172
 See ibid, 162 for a discussion of the term “civility.”
 Ibid, 165
 See Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard, Harvard University Press, 2000: 3-21.
 Andrew Linklater Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 136.
 Ibid, 155
 In contrast discussions of abstract harms are addressed on p. 142 in the example of the Rio Conventions; See Andrew Linklater, Critical Theory and World Politics Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Humanity: 158-159.
 Progress in reacting to harm that has already been done in contrast to progress in acting to prevent harm. See ibid, 130; 133; 137.
 See RBJ Walker, Inside/Outside International Relations as Political Theory, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993: 52-60.
Review by Charlie Thame
University of Aberystwyth
Linklater’s body of work as a whole may be characterized as a response to the Wightian lament that there is no international theory, and this collection of essays epitomizes this by weaving a persuasive and integrated argument that draws on interdisciplinary sources in a convincing and holistic fashion. His argument here is forthright, but remains sensitive to and considerate of possible objections. The chapters in the volume offer an insightful discussion of an approach to contemporary world politics grounded in English School theorizing and the social theory of Kant and Rousseau, while integrating the post-Marxist critical theory of Habermas and the historical sociology of Elias, to culminate in the defense of an embodied cosmopolitanism through a discussion of cosmopolitan harm conventions in international society. As a consequence, the book will be of most interest to those interested in International Relations (IR) theory, normative theory, sociology and critical social theory.
Linklater initiates and grounds his discussion by addressing the conflict between the obligations of citizenship and those of humanity: a moral conflict that he regards as being fundamental to people’s experience of the modern states-system (Linklater, 2008:16). The general direction of his argument is to respond to Hobbesian approaches to international theory by drawing on the social theories of Rousseau and Kant in order to challenge statist approaches to IR from a cosmopolitan point of view. However, while his point of departure comes almost as second nature to theorists of IR, it remains to be seen whether this dichotomy is an accurate representation of the majority of humanity’s experience of world politics, or whether it is primarily a corollary of a West European perspective on the nature of politics in the contemporary world. After all, the Westphalian states system emerged as a consequence of the European religious wars of the seventeenth century, and of which the contractarian tradition of thought is a powerful philosophical corollary. While the states-system has been subsequently globalised, if it was primarily a particularist response to political and philosophical circumstances in late medieval/early modern Europe, then it may be objected that Linklater’s universalisation of this particular experience is insufficiently attentive to the multicultural nature of world politics; as opposed to affording respect to the freedom of human subjects differently constituted to be self-directing within their own historical, philosophical and cultural narratives (and hence according to obligations derived in different ways than through contractarian or universalist thought, and from alternative political imaginaries to that of the nation-state).
As a consequence (and beyond the scope of Linklater’s book and this short engagement), it might be interesting to think through the implications of examining alternative social theories that are also concerned with reflecting on human social relations and the idea of human freedom. It may be the case that rather than following Linklater’s course through intellectual history (from Rousseau and Kant, through Hegel to Marx, Habermas and Elias) one could take an alternative reading of Hegel, through to Heidegger and their contemporary European inheritors (such as Derrida, Deleuze, and Levinas), integrating aspects of their work into an emancipatory approach to international theory.
This would be intriguing in part because Linklater’s leap from statist-communitarianism to a prioritization of species-community is not wholly convincing. The pluralist nature of world politics, and the potentially particularist nature of his argument, means that his story may only refer to a Western experience of world politics, which begs the question: how are we to interact with those people of different cultures (such as Islamic, Hindu, African and Confucian) who may not share our experience (and hence Linklater’s terms of reference) of world politics? Perhaps the terms of reference for a critical theory of world politics ought to be more directly related to an analysis of human subjectivity that is not premised on the categories of men and citizens. While Linklater’s main strength is that he does attempt to go beyond the states-system, it might be the case that a different starting point could be more persuasive.
Perhaps more significantly, Linklater’s dismissal of alternative perspectives on the nature of politics and morality may not resonate with some readers who are differently theoretically inclined. He directs his criticism against moral particularism, but the effect can be said to be the same for ‘historicist’ and ‘post-structuralist’ approaches. He writes:
If the states-system is an artifact imposed upon a pre-existent world morality then the legitimacy of this division must be questioned […] What is at issue, therefore, is the existence of particularistic social moralities that centre the individual’s moral sensibilities on the immediate political group. (Linklater, 2008:20)
Nevertheless, to give one example of a particularist challenge to the idea of a ‘pre-existent world morality’, Michael Walzer’s work would support the claim that morality ought to be understood as a creation of human agents; one that is developed, inherited, and rearticulated in various ways through the historical and contemporary relations between peoples and groups of peoples, and hence should be regarded as social, contingent, and in its specific differentiations from alterative schemas, is often idiosyncratic. The task a critical approach to world politics then, is to combine a respect for different ways of thinking about politics that recognize the significance of pluralism, though employed with a critical edge. Perhaps combining the immanent nature of inter-subjective relations with the contingency of both our inherited moral positions, and the attempts of global ethical theorists (such as Linklater) to transcend these moralities.
It then seems sensible from this point of view that rather than seeking to transcend these moralities based on arguments that draw on universalist thought, that instead we should be critically reflective about all our schemas, challenging them from the inside rather than above, and ensuring that they are more responsive to the relations between humans that prefigure these moral codes. In this way we may hope to effect the progressive, organic and contextual development of human social relations by transgressing (rather than transcending) the multitude of social forms that we have inherited in an emancipatory way.
Linklater explains that for the historicist approach to international relations – because they represent the outcome of human political creativity – the diversity of states actually represents an enhancement of human freedom rather than an obstacle to it. Given humanity’s experience of states (in their internal and external relations) in the twentieth century, he is right to be critical of this position. But it may remain that different forms of social life (including those of which we may have little or no experience) are still the creations of free human beings, and hence deserving of our respect. A historical materialist would likely refute this, and it is at odds with Linklater’s universalism. Nonetheless, it seems intuitive that when thinking about politics on a global scale, we ought to take the plurality of societies seriously and, if we value freedom, commit ourselves to their organic development on their own terms and from the bottom-up, thus cautioning us of universalist ideas that attempt to integrate the multitude of human societies into one particular way of thinking about global politics.
Linklater would perhaps respond to this suggestion by citing the changing nature of the states-system over the course of the past century driven by processes of globalisation (and increasingly so given the intensity and extensity of the interconnections that mark our contemporary global condition). He might claim that given this interconnected world, that particularist moralities are a shackle to the development of human freedom which ought to be cast aside in favour of ethical thinking that has humanity as its referent object; after all, particularist moralities are conservative and self-regarding and hence are of little use to the theorisation of contemporary global ethics.
While Linklater’s diagnosis of the changing nature of the states-system is insightful and largely convincing, the particularist nature of our moralities is not something that can be cast aside, and the move to inaugurate humanity as a compelling referent object of morality is a tough one to make because the obligations associated with it are abstract and indirect rather than immanent and compelling. Furthermore, moral particularism is more forceful than Linklater recognizes. And contrary to Linklater’s claim, viewing morality as essentially particularistic does not necessarily entail that the object of those moralities must also be particularist: just because the source of value is local and particular, its corresponding object need not also be. In other words, particularist moralities are not by definition self-regarding.
Nevertheless, moral particularism does require a substantive rearticulation in order that it may adequately respond to the changes in the contemporary global condition and the transformation of the social bond that has seen inter-subjective relations become increasingly unbound by the borders of the nation-state. To put it differently, Linklater’s universalist approach to global ethical theorizing sets a benchmark for present-day relevance and sophistication that alternative accounts of global politics must aim to match if they are to have any purchase on the theoretical approach to contemporary IR.
So this is not to deny the force of Linklater’s argument. Twenty-seven years after the publication of ‘Men and Citizens’, his work should still be considered to be the most potent articulation of a critical theoretical approach to world politics: one that demands great attention and should be read widely. Especially by those interested in the application of the thought of Kant, Marx and Habermas to world politics (which is why it is surprising that Linklater’s writings are not given greater consideration in courses in political theory). Yet there are areas that could, perhaps be better substantiated. These relate to fairly existential questions concerning the nature of human subjectivity and freedom. Specifically, a more substantial elaboration of the conceptions of subjectivity and morality and chapter one, and conceptions of freedom and human agency in chapter three. (Though the latter chapter – on the achievements of critical theory – should be read in its own right for its forthright exposition of the Marxist approach to critical international thought).
Further, more may also be said about the understanding of freedom that underwrites Linklater’s approach to ’emancipation’. What does it mean for an individual to be free, and upon what account of the human subject is this view based? Clearly people should have control over their own destinies and the social forms of their existence, but there is something about the idea of a universal history that is disconcerting given the plurality of political societies in world politics. Does a commitment to enhancing human freedom not entail a commitment to an undetermined future? If so, perhaps Linklater’s universalism oversteps the bounds of freedom due to its implicit hegemonic aspirations existing in tension with the pluralist nature of world politics. As a result, a case might be made that freedom in a multicultural world is better served by letting other people be rather than attempting to assimilate other people’s worldviews into our own.
It is likely that Linklater’s response would involve Habermasian discourse ethics to suggest free and open dialogue between people. This would follow Habermas’ move from a monological to a dialogical conception of morality (i.e. from Rawls’ original position to Habermas’ discourse ethics). But there are still problems associated with this, relating to the opaque nature of language, the existence of a diversity of languages, and the challenges to the idea of a unified logos posed by continental philosophers in the twentieth century. Moreover, on what basis are we to opt for a dialogical understanding of morality as opposed to perhaps a “plurilogical” approach that might be more adequate given the existence of multiple moral codes in world politics?
These reservations aside, although taking their departure from more substantial accounts of subjectivity and freedom, and perhaps taking moral particularism more seriously, future work in International Relations should continue in the same emancipatory vein that Linklater has opened. This is because the advancement of human freedom seems to be the most auspicious aspiration for theorists of contemporary global politics, and which is why critical international thought should be considered a potent force in IR. Linklater’s ‘Critical Theory and World Politics’ is essential reading for anyone who is not convinced of this claim.
Review by Stephanie L. Talbut
University of Leeds
Andrew Linklater’s Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity, provides an excellent deconstruction of the idea of universal morality and global citizenship. The work is both timely and necessary. As Linklater states, “The problem of community, citizenship and harm deserve to have a central place in the critical theory of international relations.” What is impressive about Linklater’s work is its committed, honest and substantive response to the critics of universal morality, particularly with respect to the failure of the international community to respond to human rights violations, such as the Rwandan genocide. Despite this, Critical Theory and World Politics is open to criticism. Linklater’s work fails fully to consider the possibility that global citizenship and universal morality may act, with harmful conseuqnces, as vehicles for the domination of world politics by a powerful minority. My critical focus, in this review, will lie in the application of the theory of Carl Schmitt, and his own reading of Kant, to the central concepts of Linklater’s work.
The first issue with Linklater’s work is that he may, unintentionally, be committed to a form of cultural imperialism because of the means by which universal morality is developed. This is despite a rigorous attempt by Linklater to separate his theorising from the negative connotations associated with cultural imperialism and the hierarchical effect it can have on order. Indeed, paraphrasing Schmitt, Rasch argues that “Order, no matter how structured, comes with a price. Hierarchical order brings with it a domination/subordination structuring principle.” For individuals to accept a global conception of morality and citizenship requires a consensus that what is stipulated corresponds to conceptions of the ‘fundamental good’. More importantly, this ‘fundamental good’ must represent more than an articulation of the whims of the powerful. Hedley Bull, whom Linklater cites repeatedly throughout his work, embraces the Marxist belief that morality is more symbolic of the interests of the few Great Powers than the common interests of all they serve. Linklater consistently underestimates the ability of the Great Powers in enforcing their own idea of morality by virtue of the insistence that their values are the only universal ones.
Considering global conceptions of both morality and citizenship immediately creates questions of what exists beyond the space to which they are applied. Linklater’s definition of citizenship is a comprehensive and informative starting point:
At the most fundamental level, citizenship refers first of all to the primary legal rights that all persons have as members of a particular state. In the second place, citizenship refers to the rights of participation in the political life of the community as a whole. In the third place, citizenship refers no only to rights but to fundamental duties as well.
Clearly, Linklater sees citizenship as a reciprocal relationship between individuals on a global level. To consider global citizenship is to award the individual responsibilities, duties and rights to others outside their own state. However, this acquires a somewhat pernicious tone when we consider Linklater’s assertion that citizenship “entails a willingness to place constraints on self-interest because of duties to promote a more general good.” Indeed, a remarkable leap of faith is required to believe that this ‘general good’ is genuinely universal and not merely an aspect of domination from self-serving great powers.
The development of universal morality and global citizenship is best articulated through Linklater’s extremely interesting account of Norbert Elias’s ‘civilising process’. He defines this as “the process by which modern European societies have been pacified over approximately the last five centuries, and in which emotional identification between the members of each society has increased.” This ‘civilising process’ bears striking similarities to the highly significant work of the English School theorist Gerrit Gong, The Standard of Civilisation, (1984). Gong defines the standard of civilisation as “an expression of the assumptions, tacit and explicit, used to distinguish those that belong to a particular society from those that do not.” Gong highlights the potential problems faced by states not deemed as within the ‘standard’: their “progress towards ‘civilized’ status was necessary and possible for the less ‘civilized’ to achieve, but complete and perfect equality was not” (My emphasis). This indicating that, within most global structures of morality and citizenship, equality is hard for some to attain.
The writings of Carl Schmitt offer a more pessimistic insight into Linklater’s propositions. Indeed, Rasch suggests that once a concept like ‘humanity’ has been made the defining factor of a global morality or citizenship; “‘humanity’ has to be opposed to its other, and, simply, that other cannot be human.” Any actor that rebels or disagrees with the factors which constitute global citizenship is in danger of removing themselves from the conception of citizenship. Consequently, they would lose any claim to equality with those around them. As Schmitt argues “The concepts of “humanity” and “civilisation” that defined the system as a whole were exclusively Eurocentric…Non-European space was considered to be either uncivilised to half-civilised, leaderless, even empty.” This suggests that a universal conception of humanity, morality or citizenship constitutes a dangerous identity for the outsider. “After all, only an unregenerate barbarian could fail to recognize the irrefutable benefits of the liberal order.”
Despite such opportunities for the construction of inequality within a global conception of morality and citizenship the notion of equality is vital to Linklater’s work. In an encouraging and thought-provoking analysis, Linklater suggests that citizenship initially
Involves moral responsibilities to ensure that others enjoy the benefits of belonging to the same moral community; second, the idea that citizenship gives force to basic rights to freedom and security…and third, the contention that citizenship embodies the right to participate in the public sphere.
Schmitt’s arguments can be utilised to support this point. He argued that when actors of equal status have hostilities, they do so as Justus Hostis, or Just Enemy. Schmitt identified battles in this context as being duels between equal parties. However, this encourages the scholar again to consider the position of the outsider or the, seemingly inevitably, unequal actor. If those within global citizenship and universal morality can find “the right balance between the universal and the particular”, then peaceful modus vivendi can exist. However, if an actor is conceived in terms of difference and non-membership, then Campbell’s words seem appropriate and highly potent:
The mere existence of an alternative mode of being, the presence of which exemplifies that different identities are possible and thus de-naturalises the claim of a particular authority to be the true identity, is sometimes enough to produce the understanding of a threat.
Like Linklater, Schmitt draws on Kant’s theorising about the relationships between states and individuals within an international order. Schmitt analyses Kant’s conception of the Hostis Injustus, describing the unjust enemy as one “whose publicly expressed will (whether by word or deed) reveals a maxim by which…any condition of peace among nations would be impossible and, instead, a state of nature would be perpetuated.” Schmitt develops this idea, citing Kant’s belief that “the ‘unjust enemy’ is especially dangerous, because the law has no ‘limits’ for anyone threatened by him.” An actor outside the global conception of morality, as portrayed by Linklater, is always in danger of being conceived as Hostis Injustus. Consequently, Kant argues that, “when the freedom of the people is threatened by the unjust enemy’s words or acts, thereby they ‘are called upon to unite against such misconduct in order to deprive the state of its power to do it [to threaten peace].’” Members of a universal morality or a global citizenship can do what they deem necessary to eradicate this threat. The possibility of such inequality and the potentially heinous consequences of it undermine Linklater’s claims that a universal morality would ultimately encourage peaceful relations and not imperialist domination. Instead, a Schmittian analysis suggests it would bring peaceful relations for some and complete discrimination against others. Consequently, this brings the scholar back to concerns that a conception of universal morality or global citizenship can be a tool for imperialist domination, especially if it can vanquish those it perceives as different.
These challenges to Linklater’s accounts of global citizenship and universal morality point to a single and critical meta-problem: the implicit assumption that global morality is a force for good. Although concerns about the imperialism of a global morality are not new, the inclusion of the insight of Schmitt’s thoughts on the matter raises new points of reference for the study of the ideas found in Linklater’s highly important and interesting work.
 Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity, London: Routledge. Page 12
 ibid., page 84
 Rasch, W. (2003) “Human Rights As Geopolitics Carl Schmitt And The Legal Form Of American Supremacy” Cultural Critique, 54:1, page 126
 Bull, H. (1977) The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, London: Macmillan., page 52-53
 The most glaring example of this can be found when the then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice argued “American values are universal. People want to say what they think, worship as they wish, and elect those who govern them; the triumph of these values is more assuredly easier when the international balance of power favours those who believe in them… and in the meantime, it is simply not possible to ignore and isolate other powerful states that do not share those values.” Rice, C. (2000) “Promoting the National Interest, Foreign Affairs, 79:1, page 49.
 Bull, H. (1977) The Anarchical Society: A Study in World Order., page 65
 Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity page 65
 Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity page 160
 Gong, G. W. (1984) The Standard of ‘Civilization’ in International Society, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Pg 3
 Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity., page 63
 Aradau, C. (2007) “Law Transformed: Guantánamo and the ‘Other’ Exception” Third World Quarterly, 28:3, page 492
 Rasch, W. (2000) “Conflict as a Vocation: Carl Schmitt and the Possibility of Politics” Theory, Culture and Society, 17: 6, page 13
 Schmitt, C. (2006) The Nomos of the Earth: In the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, New York: Telos Press Publishing. Page 11
 Rasch, W. (2003) “Human Rights As Geopolitics Carl Schmitt And The Legal Form Of American Supremacy” Cultural Critique, 54:1, page 136
 ibid., page 7
 Schmitt, C. (2006) The Nomos of the Earth: in the International Law od the Jus Publicum Eurepaeum, New York: Telos Press Publishing. Page 52
 Ibid., page 52
 Linklater, A. (2007) Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity, page 35
 Campbell, D. (1998) Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy; David Campbell, Manchester: University of Manchester Press. Page 3
 Kant, E. “Metaphysical First Principles of the Doctrine of Right” in The Metaphysics of Morals page 119 as quoted in Schmitt, C. (2003) The Nomos of the Earth, page 169.
 It is worth noting that Schmitt was not a supporter of Kant’s ideas around the Injustus Hostis but the analysis he provides is wholly insightful and relevant to this review.
 Schmitt, C. (2003) The Nomos of the Earth, page 169.
 Kant quotation taken from “Metaphysical First Principles of the Doctrine of Right” in The Metaphysics of Morals page 119 as quoted in Schmitt, C. (2003) The Nomos of the Earth, page 170
The Wizard of Oz: Civilisation and its Discontents
Senior Teaching Fellow
School of Oriental and African Studies
University of London
1. I want to start with a declaration that writing in itself is a difficult process but too often we may tend to forget that reading is also a difficult process. In that you are trying to read or understand through the community of the writer — and at the same time trying to escape your own community — while simultaneously being trapped inside your own community because it is what provides you with a world of meanings, categories and interests. If it seems that I am suggesting that we all end up in a mire of (mis)understanding, which is really a continuous management of conflict — politics — may be it is because, we do. Conceivably this brief review of Critical Theory and World Politics, is as much a review of Linklater’s work, as it is a suggestion that our community — our meanings, categories, and interests — always binds us. Community hence provides a way for us to see our world. It is a byword for a specific way of understanding the world around us, with potential for misuse, but without community we could not make sense of our world. I deploy these assertions in examining Linklater’s central theme that by weaving universal moral principles into the State, we can transcend the tension between man (universal humanity) and citizenship (community).
2. Our communities and the definitions which they enable ‘occupy an epistemological space that is prior to [our] thought]’. In that way, ‘left unguarded… our categories [communities] could collapse, and our world would dissolve in chaos’, given that ‘all social action flows through boundaries determined by [these] classification schemes….’ Furthermore, we cannot escape our communities which we set up to understand the world because it is the basis from which we make sense of the world. It is the ability to include, and perhaps more importantly, to exclude on which understandings of the world are constructed. Freud puts it into context when he says that, ‘It is always possible to bind quite large numbers of people together in love, provided that others are left out as targets for aggression.’ It seems what it is to be included in a community is always prefix for the ‘other’, which is excluded. Underlining that is the fact that every meaning, category and interest carries with it uncertainty. Through community its members can bring to bear a particular agreed understanding of the world around them, so as to facilitate some form of order and communicative exchange. It carries with it, an inability to give meaning to all things and cover all eventualities of the past, present and future. This makes claims to universality marginal at best, aspirational at worse.
3. Communities lock individuals into — institutional (cultural, legal, social, economic etc.) frameworks that define — a way of thought and action as a community. In leaving the state of nature man became locked into a community. This restricts his individual ‘scope for satisfaction’ whereas previously he would know ‘no such restriction’. Freud writes that ‘the power of the community then pits itself, in the name of ‘right’, against the power of the individual, which is condemned as ‘brute force’. The power of the individual is replaced by that of the community as a ‘decisive step towards civilisation’. He argues that the next step towards this civilisation is the assurance of a legal order which ‘once established shall not be violated again in favour of the individual.’ Hence those ‘who qualify as members of that community’ by ‘partly forgoing the satisfaction of their drives’ will not be a victim of brute force. It is critical here that Freud links the benefits of the order that a community can bring with the fact that its members forgo their individual drives to be subjugated by that of the community. The point as Linklater writes is that individuals in leaving the state of nature granted each other ‘determinate rights and duties, the rights and duties of citizens.’ The problem Linklater thinks is that the state of nature continued between their respective political associations, as ‘individuals were not parties to contracts with outsiders, there were free from specific international moral responsibilities.’ Linklater, like Freud, argues that States (communities) thus had binding ‘obligations to those who had consented to their establishment but not to other persons’. This is at the crux of the tension that Linklater identifies as between man as a citizen (community) and a wider humanity of civilisation.
4. It is a tension that Freud in him seminal piece, Civilisation and Its Discontents captures well when he writes that
Much of mankind’s struggle is taken up with the task of finding a suitable, that is to say a happy accommodation, between the claims of the individual and the mass claims of civilisation. One of the problems affecting the fate of mankind is whether such an accommodation can be achieved through a particular moulding of civilization or whether the conflict is irreconcilable.
In what appears as an echo, if not a direct channelling, of Freud’s observation, Linklater writes that the ‘chapters in this collection are united by a particular interest in the ties that bind together the members of political communities and simultaneously separate them from the remainder of the human race.’ It is at this point that I wish to advance that in this review I take concern with how Linklater’s work addresses and seeks to resolve this tension, between the individual as part of community rooted in the institutional mechanism of the State, as to claims of the universal humanity of civilisation. It is what Linklater calls the tension between man and citizen. That is, the tension between the ‘duties that individuals have to one another as citizens of separate states and the obligations they have to all other persons as members of humanity’. He argues that this conflict between ‘citizenship and humanity is fundamental to the experience of the modern states-system’ and is ‘predicated on the assumption that the individual’s moral obligations are not exhausted by duties to the state but must allow scope for at least some cosmopolitan responsibilities’. In focusing on this central theme, which Linklater fleshes out particularly in Chapters 1 -3, I make two connected arguments. Perhaps not only does Linklater not appreciate that there is no necessity to transcend the tension or overlay the Westphalian State with a universal cosmopolitan community. But politics as the craft of managing the conflict of competing communities makes the idea of transcending somewhat impossible. Especially given that our community not only binds us as Linklater (and also Freud) would agree, but those fences also provide a basis from which we communicate and understand the ‘other’. On these presumptions, the fences need not be seen as a prison but as boundaries in the craft of politics as to how the ‘other’ is defined as to those who are members of a community. That does not affect the obligations that man can have towards a wider humanity but a realisation that those obligations emanate from the narrow community of man as citizenship. In other words, the humanity Linklater wants may be possible only through community.
5. If we want a post-Westphalian cosmopolitan State where universal moral principles are put into the State, as Linklater seems to suggest, then the community that allows us to understand everything outside of that community (the world around us) would have to disappear. But in doing so, we then will have no basis as to understand, unless we create ‘new’ communities — meanings, categories and interests — which means we end up where we began. Communities do not seem to disappear or have universalising moral tenants simply added onto them, because communities create specific points of contact or ways of making sense of the world around us. Schmitt says it well,
As long as a state exists, there will thus always be in the world more than just one state. A world state which embraces the entire globe and all of humanity cannot exist. The political world is a pluriverse, not a universe… The political entity cannot by its very nature be universal in the sense of embracing all of humanity and the entire world.
In order to create the post-nationalist concept of citizenship, and to destroy the tension between man (community) and citizen (universal humanity) that Linklater wants, we probably have to create an ‘other’ that is not human. But in creating that other than is not human we are probably destroying the very idea of what humanity means, which is to include everyone, and not have the ‘other’. As Schmitt says
Humanity as such and as a whole has no enemies. Everyone belongs to humanity… ‘Humanity’ thus becomes an asymmetricial counter-concept. If he discriminates within humanity and thereby denies the quality of being human to a disturber or destroyer, then the negatively valued person becomes an unperson, and his life is no longer of the highest value: it becomes worthless and must be destroyed. Concepts such as ‘human being’ thus contain the possibility of the deepest inequality and become thereby asymmetrical.
6. Therefore, when Linklater ponders about the failures of the international community to respond to the genocide in Rwandan, conceivably it is because they have been denied humanity and so have become ‘unpersons’. And perhaps there is no real international community as such, but for a collection of States that decide when to collectively act and when to disband. The aspiration for individual universal obligations to humanity may actually be counter-productive to protect individuals when they need it most, because claims of humanity inevitably and consequently create the ‘other’ in the form of the unperson. In fact, any claim of community whether at the level of the State or as a universal aspiration, carries the seed of the other, which can be excluded or denied by that community. It makes me somewhat sceptical of the use and deployment of the idea of humanity because if violations of that humanity happen, in a way it happens because we are able to somehow define some people as having less humanity. Because every community will carry with it, the ‘other’, in essence there can be no universal humanity. However, Linklater argues that,
Scepticism about the motivational power of common humanity is weakened significantly if at least some human beings in different historical eras have thought it was right to help a stranger…, if others have endorsed their course of action, and if they have sanctioned the failure to rescue. Distrust of the ties of humanity is dented if certain basic forms of solidarity with the suffering led at least some moral agents to assist others more or less automatically in different historical eras.
Scepticism is not dented. For even if we accept Linklater’s view that some strangers in the ‘name’ of humanity will offer some form of automatic help to alleviate human suffering, some will not because that suffering in no way resonates or is understood within or as part of their community. Such occurrences are perhaps as likely to occur, with equal measure, as to those of the Good Samaritan. I can make the opposite argument to Linklater in that ‘it does [not] seem preposterous to speculate that complete strangers have [not] been compelled to act by the ties of humanity in very different times and places.’ In fact it can seem very real that strangers, probably outside of the most disastrous of circumstances may not feel compelled or only feel a marginal allegiance with the suffering of a community outside their own.
7. Linklater may respond to this assertion with the argument that the interconnectedness of our economic relations means that we have become more ‘exposed to greater pressures to detach [ourselves] from the immediate needs of [our] particular ways of live in order to reflect on the possible fate of the entire species [humanity].’ Yet there is something I also find sceptical about this, that in order to detach ourselves, we would have to somehow leave our community and yet it is that community which is the basis for providing us with meaning of the thing we wish to reflect upon. So how do we leave our community? Communities allow us to understand and make sense of the world that surrounds us. If we cannot that means we exist in differing and competing communities. Is that a world of conflict? I think so. Is that a world where like Linklater would hold that the logic of conflict and competition cannot be regarded as unalterable? I would tend to agree but I also think in that statement Linklater may be misplacing the idea of conflict in his attempt to resolve the tension between the obligations of men and citizens by weaving ‘universal moral principles into the affairs of states.’ Linklater argues that ‘The distinction between men and citizens created an important problem for international political theory: the problem of how to reconcile the actual diversity and division of political communities with the newly discovered belief in the universality of human nature.’ Linklater seems to be of the view that there can be a ‘moral community’ more inclusive than the state, which we can defend on the basis of ‘collective self-determination.’ This logically leads Linklater to argue that ‘it may be contended that only within an international political association, which aims at maximising human freedom, can the species express its unique capabilities while recapturing morally integrated lives’.
8. The idea of an international political association to me is akin to the story of the Wizard of Oz. One is gestured to a yellow brick road, with a merry tune and a band of friends (your community) in the hope of finding a magical wizard that can solve problems. However, you discover that not only is there no magic, but that the wizard is merely a human in all his fragilities frantically pulling levers, sometimes if not most of the time, unsure of the effects. The analogy of the Wizard of Oz goes further because those seeking the Wizard realised that they had what they were looking for all along. Possibly we do not need to go beyond the State to create an international political association into which to pour or rather to exercise moral obligations towards humanity. The reason being that our communities provide the basis from which we access and understand the world outside that community. The solution is not to solve the tension between man and citizen, as Linklater argues, but to make use of that tension as the craft of politics.
9. Let us suppose that man owes no moral or any other obligations to universal humanity because as I argued earlier, it can often be political code for actually denying some people their very humanity. Now, on the flip side, let us suppose we do owe those obligations, the tension between an individual’s obligations to humanity and those as a citizen to his community may end up being somewhat artificial. The reason being that if our communities provide us with meaning, then we are bound to them, so we cannot escape them, hard as we try. I am not making an argument that communities are self-contained or presume that rival communities are incommensurable. Rather, Linklater misses a chance to make use of the fact that communities are bounded and as he righty notes, ‘human beings learn how the social bond that unites them in one community simultaneously divided them from outsiders.’ I think this is where Linklater and I differ because where he tends to see the bounded or closed nature of communities as a problem, part of what creates the tension between man and citizen that needs be to resolved, I see that closure as a way of how communities learn. I take that to mean that that we do not need to create meta or universal moral principles to ensure that individuals also have regard for their fellow citizens as part of humanity. What we need to do is create common mediating principles between communities. The point is that no one mediating principle may work for all communities. These principles would allow different communities to enter, at least conceptually, other communities. The bounded nature of the community becomes a platform from which it can engage, based on some mediating principle, with another community who would also be using a similar mediating principle.
10. My final point is that communities can subjugate the will of the individual to that of the community. So why do we not simply extrapolate the community of the State to that of the world? This goes back to the problems I identified in concepts such as universal humanity that inherently carry the postulate of the other. Possibly the better way of securing humanity is not with a broad aspirational universal project but through the State. Maybe instead of beating up the idea of community, it is time to revisit the idea of community as a means to wield the craft of politics for human good (whatever that good is decided to be). Conceivably the best we do is manage conflict between communities, finding mediating principles, a basis on which one community will use its bounded or closed nature to try to access the world outside itself, and vice versa. Taking small steps along the yellow brick road, discovering that there is no grand universal solution, and frantically pulling more levers in the hope that something useful comes out on the other side. If this is so, then the job of critical theory is not as Linklater seems to envisage, to aid in ‘the reconstruction of the state as a bounded community and the introduction of post-nationalist conceptions of citizenship’ but something perhaps much more modest. That is to help us figure out which lever to pull, all the while pretending that it is a smooth seamless operation of Wizardly magic.
 Linklater A, Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity, (Oxford: Routledge, 2007) 1- 13. (See generally Chapter 1.)
 Darton R, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1984) 192, See also 3 – 7, 191 – 209 (See generally Chapter 5: Philosophers Trim the Tree of Knowledge: The Epistemological Strategy of the Encyclopedie). For further reading see also Searle J, The Construction of Social Reality (New York: Free Press, 1995).
 Darton supra note 2, at 193. Cf. Linklater supra note 1, at 50-51 appears to have the contrasting view.
 For an expansion of this point in relation to the operational closure and cognitive openness of systems, see generally Teubner G, ‘How Law Thinks: Toward A Constructivist Epistemology of Law’, (1989) 23 (5) Law and Society Review, 727.
 Freud S, Civilisation and Its Discontents, trans. D. McLintock ,(London: Penguin, 2004 (1941)) 64, 65. My emphasis in italics.
 Freud supra note 5, at 41.
 Ibid. 41.
 Ibid. 41.
 Ibid. 41
 Ibid, 41,42.
 Ibid, at 18.
 Ibid, 42.
 Linklater supra note, 1 at 1.
 Ibid. (See generally Chapter 1)
 Ibid, 16.
 Ibid, 11.
 Supra note 4.
 Schmitt C, The Concept of the Political, trans. G. Schwab (London: The University of Chicago Press, 2007 (1929), 53.
 Ibid, xxii. (Originally from Schmitt C, ‘The Legal World Revolution’, (1987) 72(Summer) Telos 88.)
 Linklater supra note 1, at 179.
 Ibid, 180.
 Ibid. (‘Not’ is my insertion)
 Ibid, 1.
 Ibid, 48.
 Ibid, 20.
 Ibid, 16.
 Ibid, 29.
 Ibid, 29.
 For a similar point, see Linklater supra note 1, at 35, 36, 48.
 Linklater supra note, 1 at 51.
 Ibid, 58.
Further Thoughts on Critical Theory of World Politics
Author’s Reply by Andrew Linklater
14 January 2010
I must begin by thanking all five reviewers for engaging with themes developed in Critical Theory and World Politics: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Humanity (hereafter CTWP). Each essay raises important issues that will long be the subject of discussion in International Relations and in cognate fields. Collectively, they provide a window onto problems and issues that are now central to contemporary debate and analysis. That comment has influenced the following response to the reviewers. My aim is not to respond to every criticism that has been raised – which would require a very long paper indeed – but to highlight issues that raise more general questions about the study of international politics at present – and about possible future directions and challenges. The following response is organised around four main headings: humanity, the state, harm, and community and civilisation.
About thirty years ago, Habermas argued that the idea of humanity is no a longer utopian ideal but a practical necessity (McCarthy 1982: 133). The point was that humanity is no longer what Hegel thought it was, namely ‘an ought to be’ that points beyond the state and clashes with political ‘reality’; rather the highly interconnected nature of social and political life has confirmed Kant’s sense of the need for cosmopolitan responses to problems that now affect people everywhere (see Thame for a more ‘Hegelian’ standpoint). Environmental challenges illustrate the importance of what has been called Kant’s Copernican Revolution in political thought which shifted the focus from the organisation of the state to the organisation of the human race as a whole (Gallie 1978: ch. 2). More than any other phenomenon, climate change has produced a widespread sense of belonging to an interdependent species that needs to develop common strategies to ensure that life continues on the planet, or at least to move towards a condition in which the life-styles that have become prevalent in many parts of the world do not compound the everyday problem of security and survival that is the reality for millions of people.
Humanity refers to the simple interweaving of social groups and to common challenges – that is, to the simple fact that there is such a thing as humanity understood as a network of social and economic relations that extends more or less everywhere. It also refers to the need for certain ethical principles that ensure fairness between peoples, as in arguments that those who have caused, or are causing, the greater part of environmental degradation should accept a proportionate share of the burden of reversing environmental damage, promoting technology transfer, compensating vulnerable peoples for past harm, and so forth.
The difficulty of creating global principles that will enable societies to cope with the challenges of interconnectedness is illustrated in many ways – for example, by the recent debates at Copenhagen, and by long-standing disputes over global economic justice. They reflect the struggle that societies have in establishing global principles that will regulate current and future interconnectedness; they are unsurprising in a world where people have been thrown together by forces that they do not always understand and cannot control; they illustrate the difficulty that societies have in acquiring a more global perspective on the structures and process that affect them all (Elias 2007). Whenever pressures to move decision-making to ‘higher level’ organisations exist, traditional political actors are forced to reflect on the principles that should govern high levels of interconnectedness (Mennell 2007: 247). Such pressures are now evident on a global scale – the question for societies that jealously guard their power, prestige and autonomy is what those global principles should be, how they should be created, whether they can be enforced, and whether they can be so deeply embedded in the emotional lives of millions of people and in the emotional climates of countless organisations that they are observed voluntarily – more or less as a matter of course. That is the necessary starting-point for moral and political reflections on the modern world that are not just theoretical (although some approaches necessarily have that character) but address, in one way or another, the problems associated with rising levels of interconnectedness.
Attachments to nations or nation-states need to be seen in that context. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with, and indeed much to welcome in, local attachments – as long as they are not narrowly self-centred or hostile to other peoples. The crucial question is how to combine them with loyalties to wider associations – with responsibilities that are not easy to create given the increasing power and pull of nationalism and the state, and which many people do not regard as necessary or which they reject outright as a threat to their collective identity and interests. Specific loyalties have often been combined with distrust or disdain or contempt for other societies. It seems difficult for humans to live without stereotypes that confer prestige on their own group, but somehow such tendencies have to be checked and redirected (Elias 2009).
The discussion of citizenship and humanity in the first part of CTWP (which has its origins in doctoral research conducted in the early 1970s) was not concerned with those issues directly – they have been more central in more recent work on cosmopolitan citizenship or good international citizenship which features in the second part of CTWP, and in the more sociological writings that are included in part three. Part two of the book considers ways in which the modern vocabulary of politics looks beyond local attachments that automatically privilege the interests of insiders, or which have the consequence of moving the claims of humanity to the margins of political life or of stigmatising them as utopian. The four chapters in that section focus on the part that concepts such as cosmopolitan citizenship or good international citizenship can play in overcoming the tensions between citizenship and humanity as part of the labour of creating new forms of political community that deal with the problems of global interconnectedness.
As the reviews of CTWP reveal, the idea of humanity continues to arouse suspicion. Fears arise that universal moral and political principles will be harnessed to some project of forcing people together in ways that serve the interests of their oppressors (see Thame on the dangers of hegemonic control over many different conceptions of the human subject, and Talbut and Yearwood on the ‘Schmittian’ critique of liberal cosmopolitanism and the argument that all universals contain the danger of domination). But that point apples to principles at all levels of social existence including the nation-state. It is important to ask if objections to ideas of humanity are anchored in the desire to protect national communities from any ‘higher court of appeal’ or to minimise accountability to others. Such motivations underpinned Schmitt’s assault on humanity and may have informed his bizarre claim that a world state is simply impossible (see Yearwood for a discussion of Schmitt on the world state). Many theorists stand on different ground, namely that there is no real alternative to the state – adding that ideas of humanity are a distraction from preserving and improving actually-existing bounded communities, albeit in ways that improve their prospects of co-existing amicably (Miller 1999; see also the parallels between Thame’s reliance on Walzer to defend a ‘pluralist’ ethic of co-existence, and Yearwood on the political challenge of enabling communities to live together).
But that last formulation conceals the fact that it is no longer simply a question of working out how communities can co-exist but rather how people generally can be protected from global processes over which national communities have little control. The recent global financial crisis underlines the need for principles that address the problem of how people are interconnected globally. That is not to suggest that concerns about the dangers that may reside within any discourse of humanity can dismissed as trivial – exactly what those principles should be and how they should be created are enormously difficult questions that are central to international political theory. But those concerns can all too easily be an excuse not to confront the challenges head-on; or, they may signify an, albeit unwitting, acceptance of the status quo. It is not entirely clear whether the critics of universalism believe that the quest for universals should be abandoned entirely, or whether it is worth persevering in the search for them (fully aware of the problems that are likely to arise en route). In any event, the critics of universalism need to state what their response is to problems of a transnational as opposed to an international character – to the problems associated with transnational harm, transnational injustice, transnational exploitation and so forth (the issues are discussed in more detail in a work on theorising harm which is nearing completion – Linklater forthcoming).
It is important to add that international political theory, which barely existed in the early 1970s, is still in its infancy. Its flourishing reflects the existence of theoretical and practical interests in reflecting on the relationship between state and humanity, or between community and cosmopolis. Traditional political theory is slowly being weaned away from its obsession with the state or with questions that arise in relationship between the state and its citizens (as if those could be considered in isolation from questions that arise in relations between societies). There has been an element of ‘catch-up’ in those developments. Levels of global interconnectedness increased while political theory remained locked into a statist mentality, and while the dominant perspectives in International Relations largely ignored normative issues).
Preparing for the next phase of interconnectedness will need more work that escapes statist limits. That will involve continuing to agonise over, for example, the relationship between state and humanity, as well as continuing to reflect on the dangers that reside in humanitarian discourse. Those who appeal to Schmitt in order to draw attention to the dangers of domination cannot simply ignore questions about how to govern and control the patterns of interconnectedness that force more and more people into a single stream of world history. There is an obligation to grapple with the central ethical issues, to balance the critique of many existing forms of universalism with philosophical reflections on future possibilities. Perhaps different parties can agree with Judith Butler (2002) that a complex ‘labour of translation’ lies ahead and is already under way, and with her comment that we not yet know ‘what form universality will take’. That observation captures the idea that universality is not already present in the individual’s rational consciousness – as Kant seems to have thought – but has a history which invariably reflects particular interests and preferences. Recognition of those biases is perhaps critical to working towards a conception of universality that is not just a device for promoting dominant interests. Whether any conception will ever succeed in entirely escaping such relations must be doubted – but some versions of humanity may nevertheless be regarded as better than others, and as positive contributions to a long-term process (one that will stretch over countless generations) in which people may yet learn to live together with minimum violent and non-violent harm.
It may seem odd for someone who seems to be wedded to the state to criticise traditional political theorists of statism (see Brincat). The argument of part two of CTWP – admittedly this is implicit rather than explicit – is that states are part of the problem and part of the solution (the same might be said of commitments to any specific community, as Yearwood argues). Or, to borrow from Foucault’s famous comment about the Enlightenment, there is no need to be either for or against the state (Foucault 1986). The real issue is how to reform it.
It is important to make some comments about the nature of the organisation that needs to be reformed. Hedley Bull’s essay on the state’s positive role in world affairs is as good place to start as any. Many states – clearly not all of them – maintain domestic order and that, Bull argued, benefits humanity. States pacify territories with some mixture of coercion and consent. The fact that some maintain order at a terrible human cost does not alter the fact that, in many parts of the world, the challenge is to establish viable states that can protect people from threats that occur when, for example, particular social groups take responsibility for protecting ‘their’ people from ‘outsiders’, and may behave with extreme cruelty in the process. That is not to suggest that the more consensus-orientated states do not pose problems to their own peoples. Recent debates about the erosion of civil liberties as a result of the ‘war against terror’ are a reminder that no state can be trusted with the monopoly control of the instruments of violence. Recent debates about the post-2001 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a reminder that the use of force against outsiders can very easily lead to atrocities and violations of the laws of war – indeed, such outcomes should be expected and guarded against by responsible leaders. Reforming the state therefore involves, amongst other things, checking highly centralised power structures both domestically and internationally. Recent developments in international criminal law are a hugely important innovation as far as the process of working towards a more global standpoint in the decades and centuries that lie ahead is concerned (as are the ideas of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘universal jurisdiction’). To return to points that were raised in the previous section, concerns about double standards inevitably arise in the wake of such international legal developments. But the latter establish the principle that sovereigns can be held accountable in international institutions that defend certain rights that all people can be thought to have simply by virtue of their humanity. Their establishment is an important step towards working out ways in which humans can co-exist without the levels of violent harm that have shaped international relations for millennia.
The larger point is that such innovations point to far-reaching ways in which local attachments can be combined with higher levels of identification. Part two of CTWP attaches great importance to combining loyalties at different levels. It argues that the point is not simply about going ‘higher’ than the state but about going ‘lower’ as well, thereby ensuring that ‘higher level’ organisations that will be essential in the coming phase of interconnectedness do not ride roughshod over the different loyalties that people have, and that give them individual and collective satisfaction. Theories of the state and international relations have only recently begun to wrestle with the central questions which are, as stated earlier, about reforming states or transforming political community – about ensuring that, for example, through partnerships with public international organisations and international non-governmental organisations, they are less of a problem and more than a solution. No realistic alternatives seem to be available.
‘The problem of harm’ which is central to part three of CTWP is worth turning to at this point. Rising levels of interconnectedness have made it possible for people to cause more destructive forms of harm over greater distances – not only the harm that can be caused because of the ability to bombard distant societies with the most devastating instruments of violence, but also because of the (until recently) largely unnoticed capacity to harm the physical environment simply by following the routines of everyday life. Humans are also aware of distant suffering – they can, as Kant argued, publicise violations of human rights in distant places with a view to working towards a condition in which all people can live without basic threats to their security and survival. Members of the more affluent societies are aware of how they are often entangled in structures and processes that harm distant strangers – for example, as a result of profiting from the ways in which national governments protect domestic producers, or from global institutions that are biased towards the interests of the dominant economic and political strata. That awareness of ‘the problem of harm’ may yet become central to a world-wide political consciousness (Linklater 2009).
It is also significant that most people have broadly similar conceptions of what counts as harmful and, more fundamentally, of what counts as unacceptable harm. The point is simple enough but not trivial. Not that along in the modern West, the enslavement of other peoples was widely regarded as entirely acceptable, as was their transportation across the Atlantic in appalling conditions. There is at least some agreement in many parts of the world that such violent harm is no longer permissible (although some groups are actively involved in sexual and other forms of slavery, and would undoubtedly be stronger but for state power and transnational policing).
It is not just ideas about cruelty and unacceptable violence that underpin ‘cosmopolitan harm conventions’ that address such problems. As noted above, with unprecedented levels of interconnectedness, more people have become more aware of how they can harm others, and be harmed by them, in less overt ways. The distinction between concrete and abstract harm in part three of CTWP reflects the fact that certain forms of harm have a structural quality or are a result of the dominant routines of everyday life (no assumptions are made about whether abstract forms of harm are less important than concrete forms – see the discussion in Heath). Recognition of the invisible nature of some forms of harm underpins concerns about unjust enrichment (and support for fair trade) or attitudes to socially responsible investment, or anxieties about unfair burdens on the environment that influence what are still relatively weak commitments to inter-generational justice. Such sentiments do not shape world politics, and they may never be more than incidental to the main event which neo-realists regard as geopolitical rivalries between great powers. They are nevertheless interesting responses to global interconnectedness and important steps towards restructuring the relationship between the individual, the state and humanity.
The emphasis on harm in part three of CTWP is in part a response to exhaustion with efforts to realise one or other notions of the good life. Attempts to re-organise the political order that affects all people can proceed from more modest and more realistic assumptions, namely that most people have a similar interest in living without physical suffering, or economic exploitation, or humiliation, or impediments to choosing ways of life that provide satisfaction and meaning. Some progress has taken place in weaving cosmopolitan harm conventions into the state and the society of states – into domestic and world law. There is significant support for the view that all people have an equal right to a life that is free from the burden of violent and non-violent harm. Admittedly, a cosmopolitan harm principle is contradicted in practice time and time again, but it may be one of the best foundations on which some future world order that provides justice for all people can be built.
Community and Civilization
Part three of CTWP explored that line of argument as way of developing the more philosophical discussion of citizenship and humanity in part one, and the discussion of new forms of community and citizenship in part two. None of the reviewers discussed the connections in much detail, which may simply reflect a certain bias towards more theoretical topics of investigation, but that may also reflect the low level of interest in historical sociology and world history in the contemporary study of international relations (see however Heath on the problems associated with developing a sociology of harm in world politics). Some further comments on the shift from the ‘problem of citizenship’ to the ‘problem of community’ and the ‘problem of harm’ require some comments about what those areas of investigation contribute to the issues discussed above.
As already noted, there is no doubt that many people find satisfaction in their membership of a specific bounded political community with its collective identity, shared historical narratives that celebrate joint achievements by recalling former struggles with enemies, and so forth – though many recognise that the community is riddled with troubling inequalities of power and wealth. It is nevertheless understandable that many believe that the challenge is one of finding principles that allow communities to live together, although the argument here maintains that is too narrow a conception of international ethics in the light of the dominant trends towards ever more extensive and intensive forms of global interconnectedness.
Even so, the argument that universality could only be realised through community is undoubtedly correct (see Yearwood). Such a sentiment is common to Butler’s conception of the necessary labour of translation and to my earlier work on transforming political community (Linklater 1998). Communities usually bind people together by simultaneously driving them apart. They create the sense that the rules that govern relations between communities can be much less demanding than the rules that govern relations within any state. Such standards civilize on one front – they create restraints on force and some degree of emotional identification between members of the same community – and, at the same time, license violence against outsiders, or indifference to their interests, or pleasure in outmanoeuvring or gaining advantages over them (see Talbut on the role of the ‘standard of civilization’ in defending European domination of the non-European world in the nineteenth century). The central theme in CTWP is that it is necessary to weaken the influence of the ‘double standard of morality’ that makes some forms of violent and non-violent harm permissible in relations with other groups but impermissible in relations within the group – that is regarded as a categorical imperative in the first section, and linked with the idea of the civilizing process in the final chapters of the book.
Insightful comments on community and civilization can be found in Freud’s comments about the tension between community and civilization – comments that suffered however from assuming that humans may have an ineradicable appetite for violence, and may be condemned forevermore to live with violent ways of resolving disputes and differences (see also Yearwood on Freud on the relationship between community, ‘civilization’, and the construction of the ‘other’). The horrors of the First World War led Freud to stress the existence of common ground between communities that could underpin civilized measures to tame violence. Corresponding with Einstein in 1932, he maintained that war ‘is in the crassest opposition to the psychical attitude imposed on us by the process of civilization’; the result is that ‘sensations which were pleasurable to our ancestors have become indifferent or even ‘intolerable to ourselves’. He added that war now seems repugnant to many because ‘everyone has a right to his own life, because war puts an end to human lives that are full of hope, because it brings individual men into humiliating situations, because it compels them against their will to murder other men, and because it destroys precious material objects which have been produced by the labours of humanity’. He continued that modern warfare no longer provides ‘an opportunity for achieving the old ideals of heroism’, and added that the time is fast approaching when war might involve ‘the extermination of one or perhaps both of the antagonists’ (Freud 1998: 145-6).
Such comments offer support for the view that the civilizing process need not end at the water’s edge but can permeate, in response to new pressures and compulsions, the relations between states. The discussion was taken up by later accounts of civilization that were influenced by Freud, and specifically by Elias’s investigation of the civilizing process. The most important line of argument emphasises the ways in which human societies had been thrown together by globalising forces that now threaten their very existence (Elias 2010). But, the argument was, there is nothing in human nature that prevent societies from learning over very long-term periods how to live together more harmoniously (or less inharmoniously). Admittedly, from that perspective, the social and political obstacles are immense, and include continued loyalties to bounded communities, competitive relations with outsiders, and the belief in group superiority that often prevents people from becoming better orientated to the conditions in which they live and better attuned to each other’s needs and interests through reliance on forms of dialogue that eschew any ‘standard of civilization’ (see Linklater 2005). It might therefore be reasonable to think that humanity is still at the beginning of a very long-term process that may lead to the significant pacification of relations between political communities – though not to the suspension of all forms of violent competition and rivalry (Elias 1991). Moreover, and here there is agreement with the critics of philosophical universalism, that process is unlikely to be smooth and irreversible, and free from the dangers of domination – but the question is how to influence the further development of universalism (its almost inevitable future evolution as political actors grapple with challenges on an world-wide scale) so that the dangers are reduced.
Various themes that run through CTWP are connected with that standpoint in the final chapter – the problem of moralities that privilege obligations to the state over obligations to the rest of humanity; the need for new forms of political community and citizenship; and the importance of cosmopolitan harm conventions that protect all people from unjustifiable forms of violent and non-violent harm irrespective of nationality, citizenship, race and so forth. It then becomes possible to harmonise what I have called the normative, sociological and praxeological dimensions of critical international theory – the quest for ethical principles that can lead to a better life, the search for an explanation of the long-term processes that have led to particular ‘civilizing’ processes and to tensions with ‘decivilizing’ processes; and reflections on moral and political resources that lie to hand and can enable people to make some progress in living together in conditions that are acceptable to all. Such orientations arise in thinking about humanity not as a philosophical ideal, but as a concept that refers to social and political forces that are driving all people together and demand collective responses that seem fair to all people. We are not yet at the stage when debates in international relations are fought out against that background of shared assumptions. I do not know if any of the reviewers of CTWP would agree that they should be conducted in that way; some would almost certainly reject that supposition. But that is perhaps the basis for a new round of discussion and debate.
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