Legitimacy in International Society

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Policy makers and publics alike regularly debate the legitimacy of international events, such as the war on terror, or war in Iraq. But what exactly does legitimacy mean in an international setting? This major new work provides the first historically and theoretically grounded analysis of this critical issue in contemporary society. Drawing on both historical and recent events, Clark provides a lucid demonstration of how legitimacy is a highly political condition, related in complex ways to consensus, other values, and balances of power.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ian Clark's book offers the most comprehensive analysis of legitimacy in international relations available today, in the process breathing new life into the concept of international society. Few international relations scholars today can demonstrate such range and relevance."—Perspectives on Politics

"In short, this is a superb, provocative volume that has in one swoop placed legitimacy firmly on the agenda and significantly raised the intellectual bar on its study. It is essential and rewarding reading."—International Affairs

"Ian Clark's Legitimacy in International Society is a timely contribution...Clark has provided us with a rich understanding of the role of this concept in IR, and in doing so has secured its place in the English Schools lexicon."—Political Studies Review

"'Clark's book deserves a wide reading. He seamlessly incorporates history and theory into an insightful analysis of an important concept."—Politics and Ethics

"Clark provides one of the most systematic and historically informed accounts of international legitimacy to appear in many years."—Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs
Leaders and diplomats frequently invoke the notion of "legitimacy" — indeed, debate over the recent wars in Kuwait, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq was dense with claims and counterclaims about the legitimacy of military action. But in the scholarly world, the meaning and significance of legitimacy remain elusive and understudied. Clark provides one of the most systematic and historically informed accounts of international legitimacy to appear in many years. The abstract meaning of legitimacy is not controversial, but ambiguities emerge when the focus turns to its delineation, its source, and its importance. Clark first argues that norms of legitimacy matter in the real world — the mere fact that norms of acceptable behavior are acknowledged by governments means that there is something akin to an "international society" lurking in the background of interstate relations. He then argues that actual substantive standards of legitimacy evolve over time but get fixed in place during peace settlements after major wars. Unfortunately, on the most interesting question — how the search for legitimacy shapes and constrains powerful states — Clark is not entirely successful, although he correctly observers that in today's world of democracies, international legitimacy is both more important and more difficult to achieve than ever.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199219193
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Clark Professor of International Politics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

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Table of Contents

1. International Legitimacy
Part I: Historical International Society
2. Europe and the Scope of International Society
3. Westphalia: The Origins of International Legitimacy?
4. Utrecht: Consensus, Balance of Power, and Legitimacy
5. Revolutionary and Legitimate Orders: Revolution, War, and the Vienna Settlement
6. Versailles: The Making of an Illegitimate Order?
7. Legitimacy and the Dual Settlement of 1945
Part II: Contemporary International Society
8. Legitimacy after the Cold War
9. Legitimacy and Rightful Membership
10. Legitimacy and Consensus
11. Legitimacy and Norms
12. Legitimacy and Equilibrium

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