Events Contact Information

The Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights
Faculty of Law
P.O. BOX 4 (visiting address: Yliopistonkatu 3)
Tel: +358 (0)29 4123140


Rule and Rules

ECI Brown Bag Seminar by Professor Nicholas Onuf
Time: Thursday 24 April 2014 at 12.15-14.00
Venue: Room P667 (Yliopistonkatu 3, Porthania 6th floor)

The event is open to everyone. Coffee & sandwiches will be provided, so please register no later than on Tuesday 22 April

Abstract: In short, states are not just nominal or juridical equals.  Their majesty has no modern parallel, and in this respect they are equal in the way they are set apart from all other socio-political arrangements.  The heteronomous relations of states continue to matter as much as they do because states collectively have a unique status in today’s world, a legitimacy undamaged by the rise of organizations and their functional differentiation.  On the contrary, every challenge or threat to the state, whether mounted by other states or deriving from the erosion of authority, has the perverse effect of rallying people to the state in all its majesty.
Thus speaks the global demos (also see Onuf and Onuf 2011), even if lawyers who supply organizations with expertise or litigate human rights are reluctant to listen.  Scholars in IR might also profit from listening to the demos.  Realists take for granted what I have been calling heteronomy without the slightest sense that this is a global condition of rule, not anarchy, and that its legitimacy is democratic in the largest, most powerful sense possible.  Liberals and self-styled constructivists talk about norms, law, institutions and identity without the slightest sense that global governance demands and supports heteronomy as a mighty frame. 

Then there is an odd lot of scholars—many of them my friends—who natter on about emancipatory politics, Foucauldian power, democratic legitimacy and cosmopolitan ethics.  They do so without the slightest sense that hegemony and hierarchy, stratification and organization, work together as a primary feature of socio-political life just about everywhere.  Or that this unholy alliance is a striking feature of a world which nevertheless depends a heteronomous framework in the form of a thriving society of sovereign equals (see Hurrell 2012 for a similar assessment).  This is not at all what the Enlightenment or its contemporary critics have taught us to expect.

Full text (pdf)

Nicholas Onuf is Professor Emertius, Florida International University, Miami, and Professor Associado, Instituto de Relacões internationais, Pontifica Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. His book, International Legal Theory (2008), collects his work in international law over four decades, and his lates book, Making Sense, Making Worlds: Constructivism in Social Theory and International Relations (2013), was published in conjunction with the republication of World of Our Makin: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations (1989).