Discursive institutions and agency 

The emergence and change of order(s) in international relations

The question of whether and how order emerges and changes in the spheres beyond the nation-state has always been at core of the International Relations. Although scholars in this discipline have engaged in an intensive debate over the nature of order (balance of power, institutions, ideas), they have long agreed in their appraisal that anarchy is the distinctive and fundamental ordering principle of international relations. In recent years, however, this notion of anarchy has come under increasing criticism as scholars have started to focus on the nature of hierarchies in world politics such as imperial, hegemonic or status orders.

Building on this recent strand of research in the discipline and the works of social theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Friedrich August von Hayek, my work on order(s) and change in international relations has concentrated on the following goals:

  • To develop a concept of order that moves research on international order beyond paradigmatic boundaries.
  • To advance our understanding of collective hierarchical orders (oligarchic orders, great power concerts).
  • To inquire into the fundamental ordering principles of international orders (or “primary institutions” in the parlance of the English School of IR), and, in particular, to analyze how these foundations of order develop and change.
  • To analyze how different orders interact and thus enable continuity and change.

 Exemplary Publications:

Martin Senn and Jodok Troy (forthcoming 2017), Targeted Killing and International Order, Contemporary Security Policy. (Part of special issue on Targeted Killing and International Order, guest editors Martin Senn and Jodok Troy)

Martin Senn and Markus Kornprobst (2016), A Rhetorical Field Theory: Background, Communication, and Change, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 18(2), pp. 300-317.

Martin Senn and Christoph Elhardt (2014), Bourdieu and the Bomb: Power, language, and the doxic battle over the value of nuclear weapons, European Journal of International Relations 20( 2), pp. 316-340.

Individual and Collective Learning in the Demand Side of Nuclear Proliferation

In contrast to my structure-oriented research on international order, my second area of research is more agency-focused. It addresses a neglected part of the demand-side of nuclear proliferation, that is, the question why countries seek or forego nuclear weapons. Although the academic literature on this question has identified a number of external and internal factors that influence decision-making on nuclear weapons, our knowledge of how individuals and collectives (groups, bureaucracies) develop their ideas about the use, utility, and ethics of nuclear weapons is still very limited. Together with the Center for Security Studies at the ETH Zurich I am currently preparing a grant application on this topic (revise & resubmit) at the FWF.


Actors and Agency in International Relations

The third strand of research within ‘Discursive institutions and agency in global governance’ focuses on actors and agency. As Wight (1999), as well as Kaarbo (2015), have observed, conceptions of agency and actors/agents are still undertheorized in International Relations scholarship. However, different understandings of actors and their ability to act under structural constraints (at different levels of analysis), have a lasting impact on how we explain and understand IR phenomena. Hence, this strand seeks to fill this gap by contributing to the contemporary debate on actors, agents, agency, and their interplay with institutional/structural constraints on all levels of analysis.

Exemplary Publications:

Franz Eder (2015), Der Irakkrieg 2003, peer reviewed (DOI: 10.15203/2936-75-2), Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press.

Franz Eder (2012), Poliheuristische Theorie: Eine Antwort auf die Schwächen von Rational Choice, ÖZP (2), pp. 195–199.

Franz Eder (2011), Die Effektivität von Counter-Terrorismus am Beispiel des Bundestrojaners: Möglichkeiten kontrafaktischer Analyse, Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Sonderheft (1), pp. 259–280.

Franz Eder (2011), The European Union’s counter-terrorism policy towards the Maghreb: trapped between democratisation, economic interests and the fear of destabilisation, European Security 20(3), pp. 431–451.

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