Mobilising Uncertainty and the Making of Responsible Sovereigns

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The past few decades have witnessed a fundamental change in the perception of threats to the security of states and individuals. Issues of security are no longer primarily framed in terms of threats posed by an identifiable, conventional enemy. Instead, post-Cold War security policies have emphasised the global and radically uncertain nature of threats such as environmental degradation, terrorism and financial risks. What are the implications of this transformation for one of the constitutive principles of international society: state sovereignty? Existing literature has provided two possible answers to this question. The first focuses on the alleged need for states to seek international cooperation and to relax claims of national sovereignty. In Ulrich Beck's terminology, this would amount to a transformation of sovereign states into cosmopolitan states. The second takes the opposite position: in response to uncertain threats states rely on their sovereign prerogatives to take exceptional measures and set aside provisions of positive law. In Beck's terminology, this would amount to the creation of a surveillance state. None of these two answers, however, does justice to the complex relation between sovereignty, power and (international) law. As this article will show, the invocation of radical uncertainty has led to a transformation in sovereignty that cannot be captured in terms of the cosmopolitan/surveillance dichotomy. What is at stake is a more fundamental transformation of the way in which sovereignty is used to counter threats. Based on a study of the UN Counterterrorism Committee, this article demonstrates how state sovereignty is used as a governmental technology that aims to create proactive, responsible subjects. © 2011 British International Studies Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2183-2200
Number of pages18
JournalReview of International Studies
Volume37
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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sovereignty
uncertainty
threat
technical language
surveillance
positive law
security policy
international cooperation
environmental damage
international law
cold war
terrorism
UNO
justice

Cite this

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title = "Mobilising Uncertainty and the Making of Responsible Sovereigns",
abstract = "The past few decades have witnessed a fundamental change in the perception of threats to the security of states and individuals. Issues of security are no longer primarily framed in terms of threats posed by an identifiable, conventional enemy. Instead, post-Cold War security policies have emphasised the global and radically uncertain nature of threats such as environmental degradation, terrorism and financial risks. What are the implications of this transformation for one of the constitutive principles of international society: state sovereignty? Existing literature has provided two possible answers to this question. The first focuses on the alleged need for states to seek international cooperation and to relax claims of national sovereignty. In Ulrich Beck's terminology, this would amount to a transformation of sovereign states into cosmopolitan states. The second takes the opposite position: in response to uncertain threats states rely on their sovereign prerogatives to take exceptional measures and set aside provisions of positive law. In Beck's terminology, this would amount to the creation of a surveillance state. None of these two answers, however, does justice to the complex relation between sovereignty, power and (international) law. As this article will show, the invocation of radical uncertainty has led to a transformation in sovereignty that cannot be captured in terms of the cosmopolitan/surveillance dichotomy. What is at stake is a more fundamental transformation of the way in which sovereignty is used to counter threats. Based on a study of the UN Counterterrorism Committee, this article demonstrates how state sovereignty is used as a governmental technology that aims to create proactive, responsible subjects. {\circledC} 2011 British International Studies Association.",
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Mobilising Uncertainty and the Making of Responsible Sovereigns. / Aalberts, T.E.; Werner, W.G.

In: Review of International Studies, Vol. 37, No. 5, 2011, p. 2183-2200.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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