(International) Political Theory
in and for a Changing World

The world around us is marked by major transformations. Economic globalization calls into question the capacity of nation states to govern themselves. Digitalization provides opportunities and risks that we find difficult to grasp with. Climate change and biodiversity loss threaten the natural foundations on which our prosperity rests. Global power shifts challenge the major institutions of the post-war international order. Our research and teaching takes these macro-transformations as a starting point. It asks how they affect our fundamental concepts of and ideas about politics. What does globalization imply for our conception of democracy and justice? How does digitalization alter our ideas about privacy, freedom or ownership? How do we need to rethink basic rights in relation to global warming? What does the rise of China, India or Brasil mean for our ideas of a good international order?

In addressing these questions, we work at the intersection of Political Theory and International Relations, a field also known as “International Political Theory”. Our goal is to combine thorough normative and positive theorizing with solid empirical knowledge. Our activities include teaching and the supervision of Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD theses (mainly at the University St. Gallen), contributions to academic debates in international journals as well as at conferences and workshops, and public outreach and dialogue through media publications or our participation in public events.

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Photo: Roberta Fischli

Digitalisierung und Klimawandel werden immer wieder in einem Atemzug genannt. Und das, obwohl sich die wenigsten darüber einig sind, in welcher Beziehung die beiden Entwicklungen zueinander stehen. Für die einen sind neue Technologien die Antwort auf all unsere (Umwelt-)Probleme und ein Versprechen für eine lebenswertere Zukunft. Für die anderen ist deren oftmals hohe Ressourcenbedarf unverkennbar Teil des Problems. Was steckt hinter diesen Vorstellungen? Und was haben Nachhaltigkeit und Digitalisierung miteinander zu tun?

Am sechsten KarlDigital zum Thema «Klima Digital» am 5. Dezember 2019 wollen wir diese Fragen beantworten.  Mehr Infos zur Veranstaltung gibt es hier.

Traumatisierungen können zu schwerwiegenden Persönlichkeitsveränderungen führen. Durch die Irritation des biopsychosozialen Systems durch Traumata sind die Symptome stets vielschichtig und die Behandlung der körperlichen Symptomatik, der Dissoziationen und Komplexe geht der Bearbeitung des eigentlichen Traumas häufig voraus. Entscheidend ist dabei die Reaktivierung der Fähigkeit zur Symbolisierung, die oftmals verschüttet ist. Das Buch von Anita Horn (Kohlhammer Verlag) leistet einen Beitrag zur klinischen Psychotraumatologie. Es stellt u.a. therapeutische Methoden vor, welche in der Analytischen Psychotherapie nach C. G. Jung angewandt werden (Traumdeutung, Malen, Sandspiel, Aktive Imagination, Authentic Movement).

Anita Horn’s The Human Right to Democracy (De Gruyter) is the first major study to offer a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the debate. It reconstructs the relevant positions in that debate, identifies the key points of disagreement, and proposes an understanding of the human right to democracy that might form the basis of a wide consensus. Horn rejects the idea of a comprehensive right to democratic institutions, and instead argues for a minimal “human right to democracy” which is best understood as an individual’s right to voice. The human right to voice is a right, enjoyed by any individual independently of his or her place of residence or nationality, to be heard and supported in cases of severe injustice that is tolerated or condoned by the political community or polity of which the individual is a member. By bringing together human rights discourse and democratic theory, as well as taking into account practical politics, this study broadens the scope of the debate from a sometimes overly-narrow focus. The book is of interest not only to political philosophers, but also to international lawyers, diplomats, representatives of civil society, human rights activists, and specialists in development economics. 

 

Klaus Dingwerth and Robert Kordts-Freudinger have reviewed the four volumes of the Kleine Reihe Hochschuldidaktik for the German-language Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft. The four volumes deal with a competence-oriented teaching and learning culture, with teaching formats in which students are conduct their own research, with different ways of teaching writing and with how to examine students’ progress in ways that helps to get most out of a course. Klaus and Robert particularly liked the latter volume – their full is available here.

Klaus Dingwerth, Henning Schmidtke and Tobias Weise have published their article “The Rise of Democratic Legitimation: Why International Organizations Speak the Language of Democracy” in the European Journal of International Relations. In their study, the authors show that since 1980, most international organizations have increasingly resorted to the language of democracy – that is, to concepts like participation, inclusiveness, transparency or accountability – to inform their audiences about who they are and what they do. Examining the origins of this norm shift, the authors show that the rise of democratic rhetoric does not result directly from the expansion of international authority. Instead, the politicization of authority – notably via media visibility and social protests – drives the move towards democratic legitimation.

We congratulate Markus Rutsche to the successful defense of his doctoral thesis on the problem of democratic stability in John Rawls’s work. Champagne!

Katja Achermann and Klaus Dingwerth’s article Helping v. Hindering Sovereignty: The Differential Politicization of the European Court of Human Rights in the Austrian and Swiss Press has just been published in the Temple International and Comparative Law Journal. In their study, Katja and Klaus examine Austrian and Swiss media evaluations of the European Court of Human Rights from 1998 to 2016. They show that, while the Austrian media debate depicts the Court as tool that helps to realize sovereignty, the Swiss media have increasingly come to see its jurisdiction as a hindrance to the exercise of their national sovereignty. Their full article is available here (open access). It forms part of a journal symposium on “Political and Legal Theory on the Legitimacy of International Courts edited by Jeffrey L. Dunoff, Silje Aambø Langvatn and Martin Westergren and featuring contributions from, inter alia, Allan Buchanan, Margaret M. deGuzman, Theresa Squatrito and Alain Zysset.

On 19 September 2019, we welcomed the International Relations team from Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen for an exchange on our research. Lisbeth Zimmermann, Nele Kortendiek, Max Lesch and Lily Young were joined by Thomas Pfister who heads the Energy Cultures research group at Zeppelin. We discussed a diverse set of papers originating from each group and look forward to travelling across the (small) pond ourselves for a second edition on ZU’s lakeside campus in 2020!

Our team hosted a workshop on Julian Culp’s recent book Democratic Education in a Globalized World: A Normative Theory (Routledge, 2019). In his book, Julian argues that “educational public policy must cultivate democratic relationships not only within but also across and between states, and that such policy must empower citizens to exercise democratic control in domestic as well as in inter- and transnational politics”. Contributors to the workshop included Martin Beckstein, Joachim Blatter, Beatrice Bürgler, Michael Festl, and Michael Geiss. A selection of the contributions will be prepared for a book symposium with Ethics & Global Politics in spring/summer 2020.

Klaus Dingwerth was invited to take part in a two-day expert workshop on “The UN at 75” hosted by the Development and Peace Foundation (Stiftung Entwicklung und Frieden, SEF) in Duisburg. The workshop brought together academics and practitioners from different disciplines, professions and world regions. In his comment on how the UN might adapt to a poly-centric world, Klaus argued that while multilateralism has essentially come to a halt, multi-stakeholder initiatives can offer a way through gridlock. Yet, the UN needed to define clear rules of engagement for such initiatives. You can read his full contribution here and Harris Gleckmann’s challenges to such a position here. The workshop programme and workshop report are available on the SEF’s website.

Finally outKlaus Dingwerth, Antonia Witt, Ina Lehmann, Ellen Reichel and Tobias Weise’s book International Organizations under Pressure has come out with Oxford University Press. The book argues that the list of normative expectations international organizations confront has become ever larger and ever more heterogeneous in past decades. At a time when international organizations are needed most, their legitimation has thus become more challenging. Jonas Tallberg, Tana Johnson and Margaret Karns liked the book – and so may you. Further information is available here (print edition) and here (Oxford Scholarship Online); Klaus and Antonia’s OUP blog post that summarizes some results and links them to Brexit debate is available here.

Roberta Fischli was invited to take part in a three-day conference on “Republics and Republicanism: Theory and Practice. Heritage / Present and Future Perspectives“, hosted by the Venice International University (UniViu) in Italy. The conference brought together academics from different disciplines to discuss the contemporary challenges of Republicanism. Roberta presented her paper ‘Digital Companies and Citizens under Threat: Republican Values and Personal Data Ownership”. She argued that the consequences of the Big Data Divide touch upon core republican values and that republicanism can therefore be a prolific tool to structure and guide the debate surrounding this divide. Subsequently, she explored how republican theory could be of instrumental use in assessing potential responses to this divide. As a case in point she explored how a data ownership right may help us move a step closer to the realisation of freedom as non-domination. You can request a copy of her paper here. The conference programme including abstracts can be found here.

Clara Weinhardt and Klaus Dingwerth’s The Language of World Trade Politics: Unpacking the Terms of Trade is now out with Routledge. With one-word chapter titles on “Civil Society”, “Democracy”, “Development”, “Environment”, “FDI”, “Justice”, “Multilateralism”, “Protectionism”, and “Trade” itself, the book brings together a group of constructivist scholars who work on the politics of world trade. Fabian Bohnenberger has reviewed the book for the World Trade Review and he agrees that a looking at world trade politics through cognitivist lens isn’t necessarily a bad idea – you can read his thoughts on the book here.

The Human Right to Democracy is the first major study to offer a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the debate. Anita Horn reconstructs the relevant positions in that debate, identifies the key points of disagreement, and proposes an understanding of the human right to democracy that might form the basis of a wide consensus. The book rejects the idea of a comprehensive right to democratic institutions, and instead argues for a minimal “human right to democracy” which is best understood as an individual’s right to voice. The human right to voice is a right, enjoyed by any individual independently of his or her place of residence or nationality, to be heard and supported in cases of severe injustice that is tolerated or condoned by the political community or polity of which the individual is a member. By bringing together human rights discourse and democratic theory, as well as taking into account practical politics, this study broadens the scope of the debate from a sometimes overly-narrow focus. The book is of interest not only to political philosophers, but also to international lawyers, diplomats, representatives of civil society, human rights activists, and specialists in development economics.

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