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Risk and Hierarchy Within International Society: Liberal Interventionism in the Post-Cold War Era

Clapton, William (2010) Risk and Hierarchy Within International Society: Liberal Interventionism in the Post-Cold War Era. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Several recent works have emphasised contemporary hierarchical trends within international society. These trends have been most readily demonstrated by the willingness of dominant states, such as the United States, to conduct interventions in support of the promotion of liberal values and political institutions. Yet while many scholars have identified new relations of hierarchy within international society, few have explored what they suggest regarding international society’s normative constitution or what factors have given rise to these new hierarchies. The end of colonialism in the 1960’s resulted in a fundamental reconstitution of international society. The result of decolonisation was that pluralism, the notion that all states have the equal freedom to constitute their internal socio-political and economic institutions as they see fit, was entrenched as the central constitutive principle of the post-colonial international society.

Contemporary hierarchical trends suggest a transition away from this pluralist constitution, with resultant changes in the processes of inclusion and exclusion and modes of interaction between different members of international society. This thesis aims to explore these processes of reconstitution within international society in the post-Cold War era and explain why Western societies have felt compelled to intervene in particular territories in order to promote liberal values. Utilising sociological theories of risk, particularly the work of Ulrich Beck, this thesis suggests that a new ‘liberal social logic of risk’ underpins the emergence of new forms of hierarchy and contemporary constitutional transition within international society. New forms of temporally and spatially de-bounded security risks (such as terrorism), and Western attempts at managing these risks through intervention and the imposition of liberal values in so-called ‘risky zones’, has altered the constitution of international society in a way that gives rise to various hierarchical and anti-pluralist trends.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Jayasuriya, Kanishka and Makinda, Samuel
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