Humanitarian Arms Control, Symbiotic Functionalism and the Concept of Middlepowerhood
Download article in PDF

Issue 1:2

Nikola Hynek

Humanitarian Arms Control, Symbiotic Functionalism and the Concept of Middlepowerhood

This article arises from dissatisfaction with predominant accounts concerning changes in interactions between nongovernmental actors and governments in contemporary world politics, namely the image of a tension between so-called state-centric and transnational worlds. Specifically, it can be conceived of as a response to an ongoing stream of celebratory commentaries on the alleged victory of the transnational world over the state-centric one in what has been hailed by commentators as a paradigmatic case: the campaign to ban antipersonnel landmines.

The interpretation presented here can be seen as a corrective to what seems to be a universal generalisation of the nature of the relationship between governments and nongovernmental actors at both the theoretical and empirical levels. In an attempt to overcome this simplistic dichotomy, I make two arguments: firstly, counter to the popular perception that there is tension between the two ‘worlds,' I argue that the landmine case suggests the emergence of a new type of functional-symbiotic relationship between key governments and nongovernmental actors. Secondly, while not denying the input of nongovernmental actors in the landmine case, it is suggested that a crucial moment enabling the landmine campaign to gain momentum was brought about by the emergence of a new type of reasoning by key governments, the Canadian one in particular. It was this change in governmental reasoning which provided an opportunity for nongovernmental involvement on the issue.

In order to examine the functional-symbiosis between governments and non-governmental actors, it is worth examining their interactions, in particular assessing the heuristic potential of the two approaches known as the globalgovernance approach and the governmentality approach. The former, largely influenced by (James N.) Rosenau, has, over the last fifteen years, served as the basis for major studies addressing the interactions between governments and non-governmental actors. This approach, however, raises a number of problems; in particular Rosenau's claim about the tension and power struggle between the two worlds. As a means of overcoming these shortcomings, the governmentality approach, originally devised by Michel Foucault, can be applied.

It is precisely this dual ontology that will be contested: it is argued that the institution of political sovereignty, which is Rosenau's basic premise for his distinction between the two worlds, is an indeterminate criterion for explaining interactions between governments and nongovernmental actors insofar as there have been significant differences in ways of organising the exercise of sovereignty among various states. The main objective of this section is to propose a theoretical apparatus capable of analysing the main object of study, i.e. the changes in the interactions between some governments and nongovernmental actors.

Regarding the second argument, the governmentality approach is utilized for examining changes in governmental rationality in some states, most notably Canada, before and during the campaign to ban landmines. It will be argued that the functional-symbiotic relationship between the Canadian government and nongovernmental actors in the landmine case was a result of the shift from what is termed here the ‘governmentality of organised modernity' to the ‘governmentality of advanced liberalism'. It is argued that the institution of state sovereignty per se is an indeterminate explanatory criterion with regard to the landmine case since both of the above governmentalities can be distinguished from one another on the basis of different organisation and exercise of state sovereignty: while it was exclusively the government who exercised state sovereignty during the former, the latter allowed nongovernmental actors to participate in this conduct, thus effectively producing the joint exercise of political sovereignty.

2020 - Volume 14 Issue 2