Hierarchy in International Relations

Hierarchy in International Relations

David A. Lake
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Hierarchy in International Relations
    Book Description:

    International relations are generally understood as a realm of anarchy in which countries lack any superior authority and interact within a Hobbesian state of nature. In Hierarchy in International Relations, David A. Lake challenges this traditional view, demonstrating that states exercise authority over one another in international hierarchies that vary historically but are still pervasive today.

    Revisiting the concepts of authority and sovereignty, Lake offers a novel view of international relations in which states form social contracts that bind both dominant and subordinate members. The resulting hierarchies have significant effects on the foreign policies of states as well as patterns of international conflict and cooperation. Focusing largely on U.S.-led hierarchies in the contemporary world, Lake provides a compelling account of the origins, functions, and limits of political order in the modern international system. The book is a model of clarity in theory, research design, and the use of evidence.

    Motivated by concerns about the declining international legitimacy of the United States following the Iraq War, Hierarchy in International Relations offers a powerful analytic perspective that has important implications for understanding America's position in the world in the years ahead.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5893-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    David A. Lake
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Political philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously explained the birth of the state as an attempt by anomic individuals to escape from anarchy. By subordinating themselves to a sovereign—“a common power to keep them all in awe”—individuals previously living in a state of nature entered a civil society.¹

    Having established a degree of security under a sovereign, Hobbes believed that civil society naturally culminated in political units approximating the modern territorial state. Though the flight from anarchy required the formation of states, it did not require a universal authority. Even as their peoples were freed from their previously dismal lot,...

  5. Chapter 1 International Authority
    (pp. 17-44)

    The international system is often described as anarchic because it lacks a single, overarching political authority. At the broadest level, this is a truism.¹ But it does not follow from this fact that relationships between units within that system are necessarily anarchic. Indeed, it is a fallacy of division—albeit one commonly made—to infer that since the system is anarchic, all relationships within that system must also be anarchic. Hierarchy does not stop at a nation’s borders or, in that famous phrase of foreign policy, “at the water’s edge.” Rather, hierarchy between units is consistent with and possible within...

  6. Chapter 2 International Hierarchy
    (pp. 45-62)

    Authority is a relationship between ruler and ruled. Hierarchy is a variable defined by the authority of the ruler over an increasing number of issues otherwise reserved to the ruled. When there are relatively few actions that the ruler can legitimately regulate, hierarchy is low. Conversely, when there are relatively many actions that the ruler can legitimately command, hierarchy is high. States differ in their degree of internal hierarchy, with liberal democracies being less hierarchical and totalitarian regimes being more hierarchical.¹ States also differ in their authority over one another, with each subordinate governed more or less hierarchically, depending on...

  7. Chapter 3 Patterns of Hierarchy
    (pp. 63-92)

    The previous chapter developed an analytic scheme for identifying variations in hierarchy between states. Although past research has identified many deviations from the principle of Westphalian sovereignty, we lack a means of aggregating anomalies into patterns. The conception and dimensions of hierarchy outlined in chapter 2 provide one possible way of organizing this complex reality. Yet, theory without operational indicators is of limited utility. To understand the role and consequences of hierarchy for international politics requires that substantive form be given to the theoretical construct. This chapter undertakes this task with particular relevance to the authority of the United States...

  8. Chapter 4 Domination
    (pp. 93-137)

    Wielding authority over others alters the behavior of states. To earn and sustain their authority, dominant states must (1) produce political orders that benefit subordinates, even when they have no immediate interest in doing so; (2) discipline subordinates who violate rules and, especially, threaten or reject their authority; and (3) commit credibly not to abuse the authority they have been granted.

    Taken together, this chapter on dominant states and the next on subordinate states identify the substantive behaviors that make up authority contracts in international relations and the conditions necessary for these contracts to be stable. Both dominant and subordinate...

  9. Chapter 5 Subordination
    (pp. 138-174)

    Hierarchy affects the choices and policies of subordinate states in profound ways. The last chapter addressed how hierarchy affects policy in dominant states. This chapter focuses on three behaviors of subordinate states that follow from their submission to external authority. These behaviors are, if not inconsistent, at least unexpected in current theories of international relations. Taken together, they demonstrate that hierarchy is substantively important for international politics.

    First, security hierarchy reduces the level of defense effort in subordinate states. Subordinate states depend upon dominant states for political order and, having received a measure of protection for their persons, property, and...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-190)

    International relations are near universally conceived as an anarchic state of nature in which states are dependent upon self-help. Built on a formal-legal conception of authority and the assumption that sovereignty is indivisible, international relations theory assumes that states are formal equals with none beholden to any other. Although accepting that states differ in their ability to coerce one another, extant theory does not recognize that some states exercise more or less authority over other states.

    Sovereignty is, in practice, a negotiated relationship that states hold in different degrees in different issue areas at different times. Through a relational conception...

  11. Data Appendix
    (pp. 191-198)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 199-202)
    San Diego
  13. References
    (pp. 203-222)
  14. Index
    (pp. 223-232)