24 January 2013

Countries intervening in each others’ conflicts, and the problems of delivering aid programs amid domestic crises, are some of the issues explored in a special edition of a leading international relations journal.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Tim Dunne and Dr Matt McDonald have contributed to and guest edited the Politics of Liberal Internationalism issue of the A-ranked journal International Politics.

“We have seen much debate recently about the role of the international community, particularly in regard to intervention in conflicts in the Middle East,” Dr McDonald said.

“This edition of the journal examines the possibilities for — and limits to — progressive action that states and international institutions can take in an imperfect world.”

Dr McDonald said the journal offered insights on “how progressive foreign policy can and should work in this era of rapid social change”. The articles would make “a significant contribution to the theory and practice of internationalism”.

“Liberal internationalism is concerned with the obligation individual nations have to other nations, and how states can reconcile their responsibilities to their own citizens with their obligations to others in world politics,” he said.

“This covers areas such as aid programs, the responsibility to protect and circumstances where intervention in other countries’ affairs is considered necessary.”

Professor Dunne said conservative thinkers often claimed liberal internationalism was flawed because sovereign states only acted in ways that advanced their narrow national self-interest.

“We challenge that assumption in The Politics of Liberal Internationalism; the articles in the journal directly ask how ethical behaviour is possible in the contemporary international system, and what that means for pivotal international actors such as the United Nations and the United States,” he said.

“The journal outlines key debates about what internationalism means, the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to foreign policy and what possibilities exist for states and institutions such as the UN to pursue ‘purposes beyond ourselves’.”

The articles suggested liberal internationalism had much to offer in helping states meet their international obligations and in guiding how key political institutions can and should act in world politics.

Other contributors to the journal from UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) were Dr Andrew Phillips and Dr Richard Shapcott, and the school’s new Chair in International Relations, Professor Christian Reus-Smit.

The publication coincided with Professor Reus-Smit's move to UQ from the European University Institute in Florence.

Authors also include Associate Professor Anthony Burke (University of New South Wales), Professor Ian Clark (Aberystwyth University), Dr Peter Lawler (The University of Manchester) and Dr Jacinta O'Hagan (Australian National University).

Professor Dunne said that the fact that such a prestigious group of experts had written on internationalism for this edition of the journal “says a great deal about the networks POLSIS staff have generated”.

The publication followed a workshop at UQ in 2011, funded by POLSIS and a workshop grant from the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia.

The journal edition is here. An article by Professor Reus-Smit and Professor Clark can be accessed free.

For more details, contact Professor Dunne (tim.dunne@uq.edu.au), Dr McDonald (matt.mcdonald@uq.edu.au) or Ms Gillian Ievers, POLSIS communications, g.ievers@uq.edu.au, ph +61 7 3365 3308.