16 July 2020

BOOK: Lora Anne VIOLA, The Closure of the International System How Institutions Create Political Equalities and Hierarchies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). ISBN 9781108482257, 99.99 USD

(Source: CUP)

Cambridge University Press is publishing a new book on how international institutions influence political inequalities and hierarchies.


As global governance appears to become more inclusive and democratic, many scholars argue that international institutions act as motors of expansion and democratization. The Closure of the International System challenges this view, arguing that the history of the international system is a series of institutional closures, in which institutions such as diplomacy, international law, and international organizations make rules to legitimate the inclusion of some actors and the exclusion of others. While international institutions facilitate collective action and common goods, Viola's closure thesis demonstrates how these gains are achieved by limiting access to rights and resources, creating a stratified system of political equals and unequals. The coexistence of equality and hierarchy is a constitutive feature of the international system and its institutions. This tension is relevant today as multilateral institutions are challenged by disaffected citizens, non-Western powers, and established great powers discontent with the distribution of political rights and authority.


Lora Anne ViolaFreie Universität Berlin

Lora Anne Viola is a professor of political science, researching and teaching on international organizations, international relations theory, and US foreign policy. She is co-editor of Historical Institutionalism and International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2016). She is a recipient of the American Political Science Association's Alexander L. George Article Award, as well as research funding from the German National Science Foundation.


1. False promises of universalism: the interdependent logics of equality and inequality in the international system
2. The closure thesis: social closure, club dynamics, and stratification in the international system
3. 'The master institution': diplomacy, practices of closure, and the emergence of an international system in early modern Europe
4. 'Dwarves and giants': international law, the monopolization of sovereign rights, and stratification in the international system
5. International organizations: between sovereign equality and the institutionalization of inequality
6. What remains of the promise of equality?

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