14 Νοεμβρίου 2014

"International Relations Theory and Western Dominance," Oxford University Lecture by Amitav Acharya.


“When was the last time a non-American thinker based at a non-American institution came up with an idea that changed the way we see the world?” a participant asked at last year’s G20 Foreign Policy Think Tanks Summit, held in Philadelphia. “Has there been any non-American idea in the past decade or two that had a true impact on global thinking, such as Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization, Fukuyama’s End of History, or Joseph Nye’s Soft Power?
The inability to find a clear answer to these provocative questions points to an intriguing gap: While the world is heading towards economic multipolarity, our intellectual world is still fundamentally unipolar. The field of International Relations is dominated, like few other disciplines, by US-American thinkers and those based in US institutions.
While Martin Wight once asked “Why is there no international relations theory?”, Amitav Acharya and Barry Buzan ask a slightly different but even more timely question in this thought-provoking book: “Why is there no non-Western international relations theory?” The book project brings together a series of essays on international political thought in Asia. In their entirety, the collection provides a rich number of different viewpoints developed across the continent.
In separate chapters, readers learn about IR theorizing in China, Japan, Korea and Indonesia, among other states. The choice seems somewhat aleatory: Why is there no thinker from Central Asia, Turkey or Russia? The latter two relate to a larger, equally unresolved question: Who exactly is part of the non-West? From an institutional point of view, wouldn’t Japan, a member of the G7, be part of the West?

"International Relations Theory and Western Dominance,"
Oxford University Lecture by Amitav Acharya

Amitav Acharya

In the field of international relations, there is now a growing recognition that what passes for theory has been, and continues to be, shaped mainly by the Western ideas, experiences, and practices. Stanley Hoffman once famously described the field of international relations as an ‘American social science.’ If this is true of the entire field, it is even more so of its theory, although the latter is more accurately characterised as “western”, rather than merely “American”, despite the latter’s greater claim to “social scientifism”. Moreover, international relations as a field of study is no longer the exclusive preserve of either American or Western universities. Some of the fastest advances in the discipline are taking place in non-Western countries, especially China, India and even Indonesia. In China, for example, some 48 universities are now conferring bachelor degree in international studies. Yet, IR theory remains stubbornly Western, incorporating relatively few insights and voices from the non-West.
Why is this the case? A recent investigation into this question by a project led by Barry Buzan and this writer and entitled “Why is there no Non-Western IR Theory: Reflections on and from Asia”, came up with a number of possible explanations. These explanations, which can apply to other parts of the non-Western world, range from the hegemonic status of Western scholars, publications and institutions in IR, to a realisation that Western IRT has discovered the right path to understanding IR, or the right answers to the puzzles and problems of the day, to a serious lack of institutional resources, the problem of language, and the close nexus between IR academics and the government which discourages theoretical work. We also found an uncritical acceptance of Western theory, a lack of confidence to take on Western theorists, blind deference to scholars from prestigious Western institutions, such as Australian scholars studying Indonesia who “may think Indonesia as their academic backyard”, and too much social life for scholars. What passes for theory in Asia is mostly theory-testing, scholars looking at Western thinking, and applying to the local context, rather than injecting indigenous ideas and insights from local practices to the main body of IR theory.
Of these, the first explanation, namely the hegemonic status of Western IRT, is of particular importance. To elaborate, this project is:
...not about whether Western IRT has found all the right paths to truth. It is about whether, because Western IRT has been carried by the dominance of Western power over the last few centuries, it has acquired a Gramscian hegemonic status that operates largely unconsciously in the minds of others, and regardless of whether the theory is correct or not. Here one would need to take into account the intellectual impact of Western imperialism and the success of the powerful in imprinting their own understandings onto the minds and practices of the non-Western world...the process of decolonisation left in its wake a world remodelled, sometimes badly, on the lines of the European state and its ‘anarchical society’ form of international relations. The price of independence was that local elites accept this structure, and a good case can be made that they not only did so under duress, but absorbed and made their own a whole set of key Western ideas about the practice of political economy, including most conspicuously and most universally, sovereignty, territoriality and nationalism. (Introduction to the Acharya and Buzan Volume)
It is this type of Western dominance that forms the rationale for my project of which this lecture is a very preliminary and truncated version. In this project, I explore the following questions:
1. If we assume some form of Western dominance in IR theory exists, can we come to some agreement as to what it actually means, or how is it manifested?
2. Is Western dominance merely an intellectual question, i.e. establishing the ‘non-universality’ of IR theory, or a normative one, extending to an examination of whether and how IRT has legitimised the West’s dominant position in the international system?
3. How is Western dominance reflected in some of the principal approaches to international order?
I should note here that it is not my aim to start a new ‘debate,’ as happened in the past between Idealists and Realists, or traditionalists and behaviouralists, or rationalists and post-positivists. This would amount to taking an extreme position for and against something or someone. I do not dismiss, much less denounce, the contribution of IR theory in spreading the discipline of international relations in the non-West. I also acknowledge that IR theory is not a monolith, and that some theories are more sensitive to non-Western experience and hence more cognizant of the dominance of the West over the non-West, than others. These include post-colonialism, feminism, and even some versions of what may be called “subaltern constructivism”, i.e. social constructivism that recognises the two-way diffusion of ideas and norms and examines the patterns of socialisation leading to community-building in the non-Western world. I also do not consider the problem of Western dominance as a grand conspiracy by Western intellectual elites and their leaders to keep the rest of the world down and out. Instead, I view Western dominance as inevitable, perhaps even necessary, deriving from the West’s recent historical position. Instead of being a grand conspiracy, I see it as a series of loosely connected intellectual discourses, which have excluded the non-West, due as much to the intellectual conditioning associated with Western power and influence as to the ignorance or laziness of the theorist, or his/her proclivity for generating testable hypotheses by keeping the relevant samples relatively small and familiar, and thus Western.
Despite these caveats, I think we do have a problem in IR theory’s claim to universality that is worthy of serious intellectual investigation. But before setting out to do so, let me offer some clarifications about the key terms that I will use and my definition of the problem to be investigated.
· First, what do I mean by international relations theory for the purpose of this project.
· Second, what I mean by western dominance, and the related question of how IR theory reflects and legitimises it. This is a critical question that will determine the scope and nature of my analysis.
· Third, what are the bases of international order which constitute the core of this study.

Definitions of what constitutes IR theory vary widely. As we observed in the introduction to the Acharya-Buzan project on non-Western IR Theory, there is especially a dichotomy between “the hard positivist understanding of theory which dominates in the US, and the softer reflectivist understandings of theory found more widely in Europe. Many Europeans use the term theory for anything that organises a field systematically, structures questions and establishes a coherent and rigorous set of interrelated concepts and categories. The dominant American tradition, however, more usually demands that theory be defined in positivist terms: that it defines terms in operational form, and then sets out and explains the relations between causes and effects. This type of theory should contain – or be able to generate – testable hypotheses of a causal nature.”
Of course I acknowledge that this American-European divide can be overstated, that there is considerable overlap between American and European, with Canadian somewhere in between. In this project, however, I use the broader European understanding of theory, simply because it is closer to how theory is understood and accepted in the non-West.

Western Dominance
I then turn to the second concept that requires clarification: what do I mean by Western dominance. This is a far more difficult task. Normally, dominance means physical subjugation of the weak by the strong. But there can be other, softer forms of dominance. The Gramscian notion of hegemony offers a useful framework for capturing the essence of dominance. First, dominance, like the Gramscian notion of hegemony is both material and ideational. Since IR theory is essentially a set of ideas, it is a natural arena where Western dominance would be clearly manifested. Second, drawing upon the well-known formulation of Robert Cox that ‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose’, IR theory can be generally understood as serving the purpose of the dominant Western actors. Last but not the least, dominance, like hegemony, is both sustained by coercion and consent, but consent may be the more important element. It is therefore not surprising to see many scholars in the non-West accepting and using IR theory without much hesitance, at least initially, and that the field of international relations has progressed in the non-West despite having been rooted in Western historiography and foreign policy experience.
Dominance can take many different forms: exclusion, ethnocentrism, marginalization, oppression, contempt, ignorance, etc. In this essay, I will define Western dominance in terms of four dimensions: (1) auto-centrism (2) universalism, (3) disjuncture, and (4) agency denial. Together, they have contributed to four essential tendencies in IR theorizing.
· Auto-centrism refers to the tendency of theorizing about key principles of mechanisms of international order from mainly Western ideas, culture, politics, historical experiences and contemporary praxis. Conversely, it is reflected in the disregard, exclusion and marginalisation of non-Western ideas, culture, politics, historical experiences and contemporary praxis. Part of this auto-centrism can be attributed to a sense of superiority of the Western pattern over non-Western one.. For elaboration, see may paper on Ethnocentrism and Emancipatory IR Theory.
· Universalism: refers to the tendency to view or present Western ideas and practices as the universal standard, while non-Western principles and practices are viewed as particularisms, aberrations or inferiorities. As Steve Walt found out while seeking justification for his selection of Middle East case studies to develop a theory about the origin of alliances, “international relations scholars have long relied on historical cases and quantitative data drawn from European diplomatic history without being accused of a narrow geographic, temporal, or cultural focus.” (Stephen Walt, The Origin of Alliances (Cornell, 1987), pp.14-15. Much of what passes for IR theory then is European diplomatic history and contemporary American foreign policy management.
· Disjuncture refers to the lack of fit between what passes for IR theory and the experience of the non-Western world, although Western scholars seldom see this as an obstacle to theory-building. We have serious problems when applying theories of conflict, cooperation, institution-building, norm diffusion dynamics, that dominate the literature of IR to the non-West.
· Agency denial refers to the lack of acknowledgment of the agency of non-western states, regional institutions, civil society actors in contributing to world order, even serious additions and extensions to the principles and mechanisms which were devised by the West; the non-West is seen as consumers, rather than producers, at least passive recipients rather than active borrowers of theoretical knowledge claims.
I should stress here is that these four dimensions of Western dominance are not mutually exclusive, but inter-related and can run parallel, or in sequence, with each other. But the scope of my analysis of Western dominance does not stop with an investigation of these four dimensions. This is not just a project about investigating how the development of IR theory has mainly been a Western enterprise and contribution. I have framed the title of my project in a deliberately ambiguous manner. My argument is that these above four tendencies in IR theory, which reflect the dominant position of the West in the international system, have also legitimized Western dominance of the international system. Most academic studies of IR theory’s lack of universality focus mainly on the issue of Western intellectual hegemony. But no consideration of western dominance in the formulation of IR theory can be complete without looking at the other part of equation: how IR theory, while itself being a product of Western dominance, has also legitimized Western dominance. This interactive relationship between IR theory and Western dominance is at the core of my investigation. Simply put, the development of IR theory is reflective of the dominant position of the West in the international system. And conversely, IR theory ahs helped to legitimize that dominance.
One example may be offered here, drawing upon an article by this author that is going to appear in a forthcoming issue of Political Studies, entitled: “State Sovereignty after 9/11: Disorganised Hypocrisy”. This essay examines the “selective sovereignty” thesis put forth by the Bush administration after the US attack on Afghanistan and before the war on Iraq. One key idea shaping the administration’s thinking on sovereignty is Professor Stephen Krasner’s view of sovereignty as “organised hypocrisy”. This refers to “the presence of long-standing norms that are frequently violated” for the sake of some “higher principles”- violations that are generally tolerated by the international community. Krasner has been twice a functionary of the Bush administration, first as a member of the National Security Council under Condolezza Rice, and then as head of policy planning for the State Department also under Rice. In an interview, Krasner himself admits that his views on sovereignty being “contingent of responsibility” was “something that we’ve [the Bush Administration] echoed since September 11th.” (“Sovereignty”, Interview with Stephen D. Krasner, by Harry Kreisler, “Conversations with History”, Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley, March 31, 2003. http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people3/Krasner/krasner-con3.html). Moreover, his thesis that principle of sovereignty has been frequently violated through history without the international community “kicking and screaming” could not but have played its part in shaping the Bush administration’s rationale for intervention, including that in Iraq, which his predecessor in the US State Department, Richard Haas, articulated as a “limits to sovereignty thesis” (also known as “selective sovereignty”). This sanctioned intervention against states that are believed to harbour terrorist organisations, hence lose their claim to absolute sovereignty. Here is thus a good example of how a theoretical formulation, ‘organized hypocrisy’, justified intervention, a manifestation of American unipolar dominance of the post-Cold War international order. Uncovering this symbiotic relationship between power and policy, or IR theory and Western (in this case only American) dominance is one part of my project.

International Order
While international relations theory has a broad and complex domain, this project looks specifically at the ordering principles and mechanisms in world politics. This is based on the assumption, contestably so perhaps, that issues and mechanisms of international order dominate the theories of international relations or constitute the core of the theory of the discipline. IR theory is in many ways about investigating the sources, mechanisms and limitations of international order building. In this project, I look specifically at four ordering elements:
1. Sovereignties (to signify multiple conceptions of sovereignty): As the organizing principle of international order
2. Powers: Great Power relationships
3. Institutions: International and regional institutions
4. Values and Norms: Norm dynamics and normative change
There are other mechanisms which could be added to the above list: international law, balance of power, democracy etc. But I hope to include discussion of international law in sovereignty and institutions, while balance of power in the discussion of great powers and democracy can be looked at within the context of institutions.
Although my project does not specify a historical timeframe, it is very much concerned with exploring continuities between Western dominance in the classical notions and practices of international order and those in the contemporary setting. Ideas change, so do theories of international order. Contributions to IR theory which reflected primarily Western ideas and sanctioned Western dominance in 17-19th centuries may have lost their relevance or appeal today. Yet, some elements of Western dominance that marked the origins of these ideas may still persist. The study of international relations is changing in major ways, but an important question is whether western dominance of it persists, in terms of the four dimensions identified earlier, and whether the lack of non-Western voices and weak representation of non-Western experiences in IR theory today can be partly explained by the foundational principles and practices of international order in earlier junctures. This is a major intellectual puzzle and challenge for my project.
With these introductory remarks, I now turn to the four bases of international order and examine them in sequences.

Sovereignty and Its Discontents
That theoretical writings on the origins and impact of sovereignty derive mainly from the European experience and exclude the non-West is not difficult to prove. For example, IR theory has also seldom considered outcomes other than sovereign state-system out of the struggle between centralisation and decentralisation. But as Victoria Hui (IO article) argues, the tendency among Western IR theorists to regard empire (the Chinese experience after the warring states period) as aberration and decentralization (the Westphalia model) as the norm of international order-building is misleading. The outcome of the Warring States period in China leading the establishment of Qin empire should join the peace of Westphalia as an authentic, rather than aberrant, prospect for IR theorists. David Kang (IS article) has argued that the tendency among international relations theorists to dismiss hierarchy as an organizing principle of international order is similarly misplaced. For Kang, in classical East Asia, hierarchy built around the Chinese tributary system had been a stabilizing force, and may explain today why Asian states are not balancing China as would be consistent with realist theory.
But theoretical writings on sovereignty is a vivid reminder of how IR theory reflects Western dominance and has served to legitimize it. The natural law conceptions of sovereignty, identified with writers like Hugo Grotius, that prevailed before European colonial consolidation in the late 18th century, did not exclude non-western states. This changed with the rising power of European nations. European superiority in science, technology, warfare, among other areas, and European subjugation of non-Western territory required a new justification that could not be found under natural law conceptions of sovereignty under which non-western states could be considered to have sovereignty. Hence emerged a new body of international law, the positive international law regime, which would specify that sovereign statehood required a “delimited territory, a stable population, and most importantly, a reliable government with the will and capacity to carry out international obligations” (Jackson, p.61). Non-Western states were seen as not having been in possession of these, presumably because they were “differently civilised” to quote W.E. Hall (in Jackson, p.61). The constitutive recognition principle that resulted from this was both a reflection of rising Western power as well as an “instrument of Western dominance” used to exclude not just colonies but also independent entities such as China (Bull, cited in Jackson, p.61).
With decolonisation, the Westphalian model became was assumed to have become the universal model of the sovereign state-system. As Daniel Philpott puts it, “The history of sovereignty is the history of Westphalia’s geographic extension”. And says Chris Clapham adds: “The Third World states took to Westphalian sovereignty like “duckling to water.” (Both essays in Robert Jackson’s edited volume on Sovereignty)
Yet, the assumption that the non-West is incapable of playing the positive international law “sovereignty game” did not quite disappear after decolonization. Confronted with serious disjunctures between Westphalian sovereignty and the realities of state-building in the Third World, writers on sovereignty came up with a distinction between juridical and empirical statehood, and the idea of “negative sovereignty”, focusing mainly on the non-intervention principle. Jackson’s idea of negative sovereignty makes two assumptions: (1) Third World States are incapable of exercising positive sovereignty, (2) the principle of non-intervention is an instrument of state survival and regime security of Third World states, rather than the pursuit of positive and normative concerns.
These assumptions can be questioned. If positive sovereignty meant an ability to engage in the high politics of international affairs, i.e. questions of order, stability and justice, as well as power politics, then there can be many examples of Third World states playing the sovereignty game. India and China and the Colombo power in the 1950s, played such roles; while many of them suffered from contested boundaries, they did have “a stable population, and most importantly, a reliable government with the will and capacity to carry out international obligations” (Jackson, p.61). Moral concerns, such as decolonisation and resistance to superpower intervention, rather than narrowly conceived regime survival, played an important part in their concern with sovereignty. Hence, it would be wrong to assert that the sovereignty game in the non-West was primarily one of negative sovereignty, perhaps it was sufficiently distinctive to form a category of its own, combining both non-intervention and playing a part in the positive construction of international order mechanisms, such as peacekeeping.
Yet, the contribution of the non-West to the global sovereignty regime have not been captured in theoretical writings on the subject. While there is some literature on the contribution of Latin America to the non-intervention norm, Asia’s have been ignored. For example, writers of sovereignty such as Vattel accepted the principle of “justice of intervention for the balance of power,” meaning they considered intervention for the sake of protecting the balance of power as a legitimate prerogative of great powers, rather than as a threat to international order. John Vincent, Nonintervention and International Order (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 290 But such exceptions will be unthinkable in the non-Western world, including post-war Asia, especially in the wake of the 1955 Bandung Conference, which was attended by more (total of 29) non-Western nations than the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) which drafted the UN charter in 1945. While the Latin America’s response to the Monroe Doctrine extended the European principle geographically, the Asian construction of non-intervention extended the Westphalian principle beyond its original meaning by delegitimising participation in Cold War military pacts (which was seen as a form of intervention). The global sovereignty regime has developed with contributions from Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, and hence cannot simply be referred to as a linear and uncontested spread of European/Westphalian sovereignty.
A final point about the sovereignty debate, which has entered a new stage since the end of the Cold War. Then right of absolute sovereignty has been challenged, where states have abused the rights of their citizens, where they have failed to protect these rights because of weakness or collapse. Notwithstanding its justifications, to its non-Western critics, the doctrine of humanitarian intervention at its core assumes the inability of the non-Western countries to fulfill their obligations as civilised sovereign nations. Moreover, to some of these critics, humanitarian intervention is not as universal a principle as its Western proponents make it out to be, because the problems that justify such intervention are not problems for the West. To quote a Chinese scholar:
“For stronger, more developed countries largely free of international intervention in their own internal affairs, legitimizing international intervention would not involve loss of independence, sovereignty, or people’s welfare. However, in the case of weaker, developing countries, legitimizing international intervention entails loss of, damage to, independence, sovereignty, political stability, and people’s welfare.” (p. 30) Jia Qingguo, “China”, in in Humanitarian Intervention: The Evolving Asian Debate (Tokyo: Japan Centre for International Exchange, 2003, pp.19-32

Great Power Management
The primacy or “special responsibility” of great powers in the management of international order was well-recognised in classical European writings on the balance of power. But it was the European Concert which formalized the principle in a multilateral context. The fact that the Concert was also known for marginalizing the weaker states, even to the point of sanctioning their territorial dismemberment of even disappearance, has rarely been seen as a issue for scholars who have used it in the 20th century as the ideal type of “security regimes”, a term developed by Robert Jervis, that may come to operate for the management of international order, or those who have advocated regional concerts such as Kupchan and Kupchan’s “concert-based collective security system” in Post-Cold War Europe or the idea of an Asia-Pacific Concert of Powers. (Susan Shirk).
Obviously, the idea of great power centrality in the management of international order did not disappear with the breakdown of the Concert system or the discrediting of the balance of power system after World War I. Instead, it was enshrined in the League of Nations and its successor the UN, as seen in the institutionalisation of the veto system. Of course, great power status was no longer limited to Western nations. But the inclusion of China in the permanent membership of the UN Security Council did not dispel Western dominance in the system of great power management.
The principle of great power management did come under attack during the formative years of the post-war order. Writing in British prison in 1944, India’s nationalist leader and future prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a scathing critique, under the title “Realism and Geopolitics: World Conquest or World Association?”, of an idea proposed by Nicholas Spykman and Walter Lippmann (also backed by Winston Churchill). This was the idea that post-war world order be organized around regional security systems under great power “orbits”. Nehru attacked this form of great power sphere of influence as “a continuation of power politics on a vaster scale…it is difficult to see how he [Lippmann] can see world peace or co-operation emerging out of it.” As an alternative, Nehru proposed the idea of a “commonwealth of states,” or a “world association” based on the principle of equality of states. Yet, we have no reference to Nehru’s critique in IR texts dealing with the Idealist-Realist debate or the Realist-Liberal debate.
As the Cold War progressed, the world saw the legitimization of the principle of great power leadership and management of international order, this time from a neo-realist perspective. Its founder, Kenneth Waltz accepted the primacy of great powers in world politics. But he went a step further than the classical balance of power theorists by holding that stability of the international system depended on the number of great powers in the system. Hence his predictive premise that bipolarity would be more stable than multipolarity. For Waltz, stability meant not just the ability of the system (bipolarity) to endure, but also the reduced propensity of the system to produce conflict and violence. Yet, this was in disregard of the widespread prevalence of conflict in the Third World under bipolarity, so much so that it led some non-Western theorists to perceive a causal link between systemic order and regional disorder. Mohammed Ayoob, following another Indian scholar Sisir Gupta, argued that because of the costs involved in any direct superpower confrontation in the central theatre under mutual assured destruction, superpower competition in the Third World served as a safety valve for release of superpower tensions. In other words, under Cold War bipolarity, Third World conflicts were more permissible. As far as the non-West was concerned, the Cold War was no ‘long peace’.
If so, then great power management could be implicated in a great deal of international disorder. At the same time, IR theory, whether neo-realist or neo-liberal, failed to recognise the management of regional international orders by weak non-Western states, such as the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the MERCOSUR group. Instead, we see a remarkable continuity in thinking about international order in terms of great power primacy, and anxieties about the collapse of international order if weak powers or middle powers were to assume such responsibility. During the Cold War, much of the criticism of the Non-Aligned Movement was inspired by such fears. After the end of the Cold War, the Waltzian view that multipolarity is less stable than bipolarity inspired Mearsheimer’s ‘back to the future’ thesis concerning instability in Europe. In the Third World, it underpinned widespread Western concerns about a possible ‘decompression effect’ due to the rise of regional powers who are supposed to be less inclined and able to preserve and manage international order.

While realists see great power managed balance of power as key to managing international order, liberals accord a similar place to international institutions. One foundation of liberal institutionalism is the Kantian notion of ever-widening pacific unions. Kant believed that peace depended on the both the existence of republican constitutions within states and a pacific union among liberal states. While he recognised the right of liberal states to act belligerently towards non-liberal states, Kant also denounced European conquest and subjugation of non-European societies. The cosmopolitan right mentioned in Kant’s third definitive article, which is to operate in conjunction with the pacific union among liberal states, is a right of hospitality. This is “the right of a stranger not to be treated in a hostile manner by another upon his arrival on the other’s territory.” (PP 8:358) This right “does not extend beyond the conditions of the possibility of attempting interaction wit the old inhabitants.” (Perpetual Peace 8, 358). It certainly did not permit European colonial powers to engage in conquest and oppression. In a revealing paragraph, he contrasts the cosmopolitan right of hospitality with the bahaviour of colonial powers, who he accuses of engaging in inhospitable behavior, of showing “injustice… when visiting foreign lands and peoples (which to them is one and the same as conquering those lands and peoples”). Apart from “America, the Negro countries, the Spice Islands, the Cape, he mentions Hindoostan, where the European powers “brought in foreign troops under the pretext of merely intending to establish trading posts. But with these they introduced the oppression of the native inhabitants, the incitement of the different states involved to expansive wars, famine, unrest, faithlessness, and the whole litany of evils that weigh upon the human species.” (PP 8: 358-9)Kant also defended the action of China and Japan in limiting the role of European trading companies in their territories. He believed that the actions of the traders were both futile, it brought no profit (a mistaken or premature assessment) to them, the only benefit being in some cases (e.g. the Sugar Islands) the training of sailors who could then engage in warfare in Europe.
But some questions about and contradictions in Kantian universalism remain. Did Kant recognise the right of non-European societies to choose their own political systems? He certainly took liberal polity as both necessary for peace and perhaps even inevitable (conforming to his teleological view of history). The fact that Kant denounced colonialism does not mean he allowed for peaceful long-lasting association between liberal and non-liberal states. On the contrary, as noted, he allowed for liberal states engaging in what Hume called ‘imprudent vehemence’ (in Hume’s words) against nonliberal states.
Similarly, could there be peaceful association between non-liberal states in the Kantian world? This was clearly outside the purview of his theory. He imagined that a pacific union would be ever expanding, and would gradually bring in non-Western states, but only if they had become liberal.
These aspects of the Kantian approach continue to haunt contemporary neo-Kantian theories of international institutions. Consider the theory of regional integration, the main body of liberal theory in the post-war period, which incorporated neo-functionalism of Ernst Haas and the transactionalism of Karl Detusch. Neo-functionalism was founded on assumptions of liberal-pluralist politics the absence of which opened a serious gap between what Haas called the “European and the Universal Processes” of regional integration. Joseph Nye drew attention to the absence of democratic politics in the Third World as one of the principal reasons why West European regional integration could not take place there. Deutsch’s theory of security communities did speak about convergent political values as a condition of their emergence, but the recent western writers on the subject, as could be found in the Adler and Barnett book, insist that this convergence must be strictly about Western liberal democratic values. From this perspective, the non-West would be an unsuitable region for the development of security communities, despite the experience of Southeast Asia and the Southern Cone of Latin America, although this view have been challenged by Acharya, Bellamy and Hurrell.
Moreover, there is serious disjuncture between Euro-Atlantic based regional integration theories and regionalism in the non-Atlantic world over the fundamental motivating force behind regionalism. While European regionalism sought to move regional international politics beyond the nation-state, non-Western sought the creation and consolidation of nation-states, however artificially-conceived. Hence, unlike the European Community, during their initial years, the OAU and the Arab League functioned more as "the instrument of national independence rather than of regional integration".­ Moreover, instead of adopting EC-style supranationalism, non-Western regional institutions have embraced an expanded version of non-intervention, which even disallowed legalistic bureaucracies and dispute settlement mechanisms.
Yet, the disjuncture between integration theory and Third World cooperation survives to this day. While in the earlier era it led to comparisons between European and Third World regionalism in terms of their capacity for supranationalism, today, it is manifested in respect of comparative institutional design. Hence the “widespread assumption…that in order to be ‘proper’ regionalism, a degree of EU-style institutionalism should be in place.” What Peter Katzenstein calls as the unfortunate tendency in the literature on regionalism “to compare European ‘success’ with Asian ‘failure’ persist despite the fact that “Theories based on Western, and especially West European experience, have been of little use in making sense of Asian regionalism.” Katzenstein suggests instead that the “scope, depth, and character” of regionalism should acknowledge variations across “numerous dimensions and among world regions,” and hence measure success in a variety of terms, have found little heeding in the literature on comparative regionalism, although I would draw your attention to a forthcoming CUP book edited by myself and Iain Johnston that makes this point.

Values and Norms
International relations theorists have increasingly recognised the importance of values and norms in shaping international order. Some see cultural values as the basis of the relative prosperity and progress of nations, hence important determinants of its ability to shape international order. Values and norms also act as sources of conflict and cooperation, which are directly relevant to prospects for international order. One does not have to take the cultural faultline argument to its Huntingtonian extreme to accept that value differences can cause international disorder. Conversely, the diffusion of values and norms reflect power relationships and persuasion mechanisms which can seriously affect prospects for community building in international relations, for example in the development of security communities. Hence, the constructivist theory of norm diffusion offers an important window to order-building in international relations, and would merit further discussion later in this section.
Let me turn to one these pathways through which values shape international order by affecting a nation’s prosperity and progress. John Stuart Mill considered liberty as a fundamental basis for differentiating between states, and their progress (hence status) in international relations. His views on China are especially relevant. Mill praised China as “—a nation of much talent, and, in some respects, even wisdom, owing to the rare good fortune of having been provided at an early period with a particularly good set of customs...”. Yet China was not to be imitated because it suppressed “individuality”. If that happens, warned Mill, “Europe, notwithstanding its noble antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another China.” (John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). On Liberty. 1869). Mill was assuming that China could only go so far in the ladder of progress with its traditional Confucian system of values, or “in making a people all alike, all governing their thoughts and conduct by the same maxims and rules.”
How ironic then, that in the 1980s and early 90s at least, there emerged an “Asian values” claim, arguing precisely the opposite, that Confucian values which placed society above the self were the basis of East Asia’s economic miracle?
Much has of course been written about this so-called Asian values debate, but few have debated claims about “Western values in international relations.” Yet in a 1966 essay, under precisely that title (Martin Wight, 'Western values in international relations', in Herbert Butterfield and Martin Wight, eds, Diplomatic investigations (London: Allen & Unwin, 1966), p. 96. 4), Martin Wight had asserted “persistent and recurrent” Western ideas that lie at the core of international relations, such as conceptions of international society, the maintenance of order, intervention and international morality. Wisely however, he started the essay with a few caveats: first, the claim about western values is contextual because it is bound up with the Cold War, second, there was a huge diversity among the beliefs of Westerners (“Western men were perhaps more various in their range of beliefs than men of any other culture.”(p.89), itself an exceptionalist claim, and third, Western values was not the same as Western practice, or put differently, “there is no simple way of deducing Western values from Western practice.” (p.89)
Compare this with the Asian values debate. Unlike Wight, who was Dean of the School of European Studies and Professor of History at the University of Sussex when he wrote his Western values essay, contemporary claims about Asian values were first made by a group of policy-intellectuals and policy-makers, among them the Singapore school led by Professor and diplomat Tommy Koh. Second, whereas Wight identified as the core of Western values the whig or constitutional tradition in diplomacy associated with Grotius, Locke, Halifax, Montesquieu, Burke, Castlereagh, Tocqueville, Lincoln, Gladstone, and Churchill, among others, the idea of Asian values were associated mainly with contemporary Asian leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Mahathir, Suharto, and Jiang Zemin. Third, the Asian values proponents did not make Wight-like qualifications to their Asian values construct. Yet, these were precisely what formed the basis of the widespread criticism that the Asian values construct attracted. Critics pointed to the diversity of Asian culture and the gap between official rhetoric and practice in adhering to the list of Asian values, criticisms which might have been forestalled had the Asian values proponents were following Wight’s path. But more importantly, the critics targeted the evident correlation between Asian values and authoritarian or semi-authoritarian political systems.
This may seem well-deserved criticism. But underlying the criticism of Asian values was an assumption about the moral superiority of the Western individualism over Eastern communitarianism, not too far from the line Mill had taken. Moreover, it placed the Western norms of human rights and democratic governance as universal values in terms of which the Asian values construct must be judged. The merciless attack on Asian values, while understandable, not the least because more scholars made their careers criticising than defending it, was in some respects misplaced. First, not all who have spoke about Asian values were from non-liberal states. The first Asian leader to speak of Asian values and identity, it is often forgotten, was India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, nobody’s idea of a tin-pot dictator. Furthermore, one of Mahathir’s less known contentions: that “Western values are Western values, while Asian values are universal values”, cannot be easily dismissed. For example, the principle of consensus and informalism which is seen as Asian values to be contrasted with the hard legalism of Western institutions, is commonplace in other non-Western regional organisations, as a comparative study co-edited by this author found out. Third, values can be good or bad. Some proponents of Asian values have readily admitted the existence of bad Asian values, such as India’s caste system. So could there be scope for bad Western values, such as anti-semitism and racism? It must also not be forgotten that there may also be room for a good Asian value or two. The outright dismissal of Asian values because of the identity and political styles of its advocates was perhaps to some degree an instinctive reaction that is symptomatic of Western dominance of the kind this project has identified.
The second part of my investigation into the role ideational forces in international order as a way of illustrating Western dominance has to do with the theory of norm diffusion. This is integral to the social constructivist theory of IR. While constructivism is sympathetic to questions about culture and identity in international relations, it has unfortunately not risen above the problems of Western dominance by recognizing the diffusion of non-Western norms and ideas and the role of non-Western norm entrepreneurs. These problems are especially evident in what I have earlier called the “moral cosmopolitanism” bias in the Constructivist literature on norm diffusion. In a previous article, I had identified four dimensions of “moral cosmopolitanism”:
First, the norms that are being propagated are “cosmopolitan”, or “universal” norms, i.e., the campaign against land mines, ban on chemical weapons, protection of whales, struggle against racism, intervention against genocide, and promotion of human rights, etc. Second, the key actors who spread these norms are transnational agents, be they individual “moral entrepreneurs” or social movements. Third, despite recognizing the role of persuasion in norm diffusion, this literature focuses heavily on... “moral proselytism” and pressure. The social movement perspective on norm diffusion in particular stresses shaming over framing, and sanctions over “saving face”, according little space to positive action and voluntary initiative by the norm-takers. Finally, this perspective is generally more concerned with conversion rather than contestation (although the latter is acknowledged), viewing resistance to cosmopolitan norms as illegitimate or immoral. (Acharya, “How Ideas Spread: Whose Norms Matter: Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism,” International Organization, vol.58, 2004)
With little reflection it will not take too long to realise that these feature of moral cosmopolitanism fit into the dimensions of Western dominance that I have identified. As Legro puts it, “by assigning causal primacy to ‘international prescriptions’, it ignores the expansive appeal and feedback potential of ‘norms that are deeply rooted in other types of social entities – regional, national, and subnational groups.’ What is more, it sets up an implicit dichotomy between good global/universal norms and bad regional/local norms.
The literature on human rights norm diffusion has essentially been about good global norms championed by the West replacing bad local practices mostly, if not exclusively in the non-West. This approach ignores the global or regional diffusion of non-Western norms, such as the regional diffusion of the cultural norms of Japan discussed by Katzenstein, or the norms of consensus in ASEAN which have diffused to the wider Asia Pacific multilateral institutions.
For “moral cosmopolitanists, norms that make a universalistic claim about what is good are considered more desirable and more likely to prevail than norms that are localized or particularistic. This position stems from a well-known...dislike of cultural relativism, which they see as a pretext for Third World dictators to abuse human rights. But not all local [Third World] norms legitimize human rights abuses; just as not all who resist the Western human rights campaigns are authoritarian human rights abusers. For example, democratic countries such as India and the Philippines defended relativism in the human rights debate in the early 1990s.” (Acharya, “How Ideas Spread”)
Nor does moral cosmopolitanism look at the functions of resistance, localization, feedback or what Arjun Appadurai calls ‘repatriation’ performed by non-Western norm entrepreneurs. In other words, the moral cosmopolitanism framework exhibits auto-centrism, universalism, disjuncture, and agency denial, which constitute my indicators on Western dominance.

In this lecture, I have concentrated on identifying four dimensions of Western dominance with respect to four major instruments of international order. I should end by issuing a note of caution about the limitations of drawing too sharp a distinction between the West and the non-West. As Martin Wight noted in his analysis of Western values, neither West nor the non-West are categories that could be regarded as homogenous. The West is no longer one, if it ever was. Nor can there be any certainty about the shape and identity of the entity that has been excluded from IR theory. Is there a Third World, or South? The concept of the Third World has fallen into serious disuse since the end of the Cold War. But South is not entirely uncontroversial either.
I do not assume that only non-Western scholars are taking up the issue of Western dominance in IR theory. Many Western scholars, including many speakers in this Oxford series and its director are also uncomfortable with the status quo. This has led some to object that this distinction between West and non-West has become increasingly unsustainable and should be subsumed under a single global conversation about the nature and purpose of IR theory. While a global conversation is what we should really aim for, just because “west” and “non-west” are not homogenous categories does not mean that there is no such problem as IR Theory and Western dominance, both historically and in contemporary times. Like global warming, the problem of IR Theory and Western dominance can no longer be wished away. But unlike global warming, it may be desirable here to let the temperature rise a bit for a much overdue debate, which unlike the grand inter-paradigm debates before, might actually end in international relations being a more ‘uniting’, rather than a ‘dividing discipline.’

Amitav Acharya

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