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After Anarchy

After Anarchy: Legitimacy and Power in the United Nations Security Council

Ian Hurd
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    After Anarchy
    Book Description:

    The politics of legitimacy is central to international relations. When states perceive an international organization as legitimate, they defer to it, associate themselves with it, and invoke its symbols. Examining the United Nations Security Council, Ian Hurd demonstrates how legitimacy is created, used, and contested in international relations. The Council's authority depends on its legitimacy, and therefore its legitimation and delegitimation are of the highest importance to states.

    Through an examination of the politics of the Security Council, including the Iraq invasion and the negotiating history of the United Nations Charter, Hurd shows that when states use the Council's legitimacy for their own purposes, they reaffirm its stature and find themselves contributing to its authority. Case studies of the Libyan sanctions, peacekeeping efforts, and the symbolic politics of the Council demonstrate how the legitimacy of the Council shapes world politics and how legitimated authority can be transferred from states to international organizations. With authority shared between states and other institutions, the interstate system is not a realm of anarchy. Sovereignty is distributed among institutions that have power because they are perceived as legitimate.

    This book's innovative approach to international organizations and international relations theory lends new insight into interactions between sovereign states and the United Nations, and between legitimacy and the exercise of power in international relations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2774-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-26)

    Thucydides’ account of the negotiation between Athens and the Melians is one of the earliest known statements of the connection between legitimacy and power. Resisting an ultimatum from Athens, the Melians suggest that might does not make right: “in our view it is at any rate useful that you should not destroy a principle that is to the general good of all men—namely, that in the case of all who fall into danger there should be such a thing as fair play and just dealing.”¹ The Melians put forward a case which differentiates between the justice that comes from...


    • (pp. 29-65)

      In defending as “legitimate” his government’s exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources, a spokesman for the government of the Congo said, “The Congolese government is the legitimate government of this country. Whatever we do is legitimate.”¹ This claim is typical in that it reveals the value rulers place in being seen as legitimate, for legitimacy is one instrument to increasing power. Yet at the same time it begs for some empirical defense or support. In this, it nicely frames the two most important questions regarding legitimacy and political institutions: How are we to assess claims of legitimacy in order to...

    • (pp. 66-80)

      The previous chapter defined several of the key concepts that appear throughout this book, including legitimacy, symbolic politics, and authority, and explained the relationships between them. This chapter introduces three controversies about legitimacy that follow from those definitions. These are substantive disagreements about the nature of legitimacy that divide IR scholars into diverse schools of thought.

      The controversies may be framed as three questions:

      How does an institution come to be seen as legitimate?

      How does legitimacy affect an actor’s ability to think and act strategically?

      How does legitimacy affect relations of power between weak and strong actors?

      Each question...


    • (pp. 83-110)

      The San Francisco conference in 1945 brought together 282 delegates from 46 countries to deliberate over the draft Charter of the new United Nations Organization. From late April to late June the delegations, along with thousands of consultants, reporters, translators, and others at San Francisco, produced half a million pages of documentation per day before the Charter was unanimously approved on June 25.¹ The process was crucial in the legitimation of the UN and, as a result, marks an important constitutional moment in modern international history. The politics of legitimacy are central to the San Francisco conference.

      The need for...

    • (pp. 111-136)

      International politics unfolds differently in the presence of legitimated international institutions than it would in their absence. The present chapter looks at some familiar patterns in state behavior at the Security Council to show the impact of the early legitimation of the Council discussed in the previous chapter. Emphasizing the connection between the legitimacy of an institution and the creation of useful symbols, I demonstrate the behavioral consequences for international politics of the legitimacy of the Security Council. The evidence supports the conclusion that states tailor their behavior to take into account legitimated institutions, although they do not cease being...

    • (pp. 137-170)

      As shown in the previous chapter symbols associated with the Security Council can be politically powerful in international politics. States spend considerable effort in the pursuit of symbols associated with the Security Council, and the latter gains power as a result. The precise meaning of a symbol, and the uses to which it may be put, are largely but not entirely in the control of the legitimated institution that created it. The autonomy of the symbol, manifest in the moments when it is not fully under the control of the institution, makes it important to look at the process of...


    • (pp. 173-193)

      This chapter reviews the arguments and evidence of the preceding chapters. It revisits the controversies about legitimacy presented in chapter 3 and considers how the evidence about the Council can help resolve them, and then draws implications from the project for both IR theory and for the practice of international diplomacy and institutional design. These two strands combine to show that the presence of a legitimated Security Council implies that sovereignty exists in the international system in a location other than the traditional form of the sovereign state.

      The three controversies on legitimation involve how legitimation takes place; what effect...

  5. (pp. 194-196)

    The power of the UN Security Council, and other international organizations, depends on being seen by states as a legitimate actor in world politics. This legitimacy is a complex phenomenon that is difficult to measure empirically. Nevertheless it has significant effects on the international system and on state behavior, even if the causal mechanisms behind these effects are indirect. Legitimacy gives strength to rules set down by international institutions that have little or no capacity to enforce them; it affects how states think about complying with or violating rules; and it affects how states react to instances of violation or...