Last year I attended the annual Millennium conference at the LSE, which was organized around the provocative theme of ‘failure and denial in world politics’. This provoked me to write on a topic I’ve research and taught on for a long time, but have not published on before: humanitarian intervention and R2P. My piece looks at the development of the R2P doctrine and focusing on its application in the 2001 Libyan intervention. I’m happy to say that it has been accepted for publication in the Millennium special issue from the conference, which will be published later this year. If interested, I’ve uploaded the version that was accepted for publication. Abstract and link below.
Christopher Hobson, ‘Responding to failure: The Responsibility to Protect after Libya’, forthcoming in Millennium, 44:3 (2016).
During its first decade in existence the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine has struggled to transcend the complexities that plague humanitarian action. This article examines the political challenges that shape the practice of R2P, as well as the discourse that informs it. It reflects on the constant presence of failure that haunts humanitarian intervention, and argues for a more humble stance on what is possible in such situations. Humility entails meditating on human limits, both physical and mental, which serves as an important guide in determining action. It promotes a more chastened position, one that acknowledges that right intentions might not lead to just outcomes, that there are real limits on the ability of external actors to understand or control events during and following an intervention, and that our ability to comprehend such complex situations should warn against premature judgements and confident conclusions. And when failure occurs, it means not denying or avoiding it, but facing it squarely and reckoning with the consequences. The value of adopting a more humble approach will be considered through examining the 2011 Libyan intervention, a significant case for the R2P doctrine. There success appears to have been exchanged for failure, leaving challenging and unresolved questions about what this experience means for Libya and R2P.
Image used was originally posted to Flickr by Magharebia
I am about to head back to Tokyo after a very productive period in Australia. I really enjoyed having the chance to give a series of research presentations while I was here. I received some great feedback, which will be very helpful as I develop my new project further. I was also happy to find there was quite a bit of interest in my recently published book, The Rise of Democracy. In this regard, it was also good to see a brief but positive review appear in Foreign Affairs by Professor G. John Ikenberry.
Foreign Affairs capsule review (March / April 2016)
For more information about my book, please check these links:
Finally, if people in Tokyo want to reach me, I will be back in the office at Waseda and “open for business” as of this Tuesday 15 March 2016.
I’m now back in Melbourne after a very interesting and productive trip to Canberra and Sydney. It was a great chance to catch up with colleagues and discuss my research. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. Next week I will take further advantage of being in Australia by giving two more seminars, this time in Melbourne. On Wednesday I’ll be speaking at La Trobe and talking about my recently published book, The Rise of Democracy. And on Thursday I’ll be returning to The University of Melbourne, where I did my undergraduate and masters degrees. There I’ll be talking about my new humility project. Information for the seminars is below.
- ‘The continued rise of democracy? Notes on an uncertain future’, Wednesday 9 March 2016, 12:30 – 14:00, Common Room, Social Science, Level 3, Room 324, La Trobe University.
- ‘Humility and democracy’, Thursday 10 March 2016, 17:00 – 18:30, Terrace Lounge, Walter Boas building, University of Melbourne.
It is semester break at Waseda, so I am spending some time back in Australia. I am happy to announce that I will be giving a series of seminars while I am here. These are based around my new research project, which explores the political uses of humility. I’m very excited to have the chance to share some initial thoughts on what I have been working on recently and I am looking forward to receiving some feedback. Next Monday, I will be returning to my old department at the ANU. I am happy to be heading back and there I will be talking about humility in reference to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. On Tuesday, I’ll be visiting the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra where I will be discussing the value of humility for democracy. I will have a similar focus on Wednesday when at the Sydney Democracy Network. Information for the seminars is below.
- ‘Humility and Vulnerability in International Relations’, Monday 29 February 2016, 15:00 – 16:00. Room 1.04, Coombs Extension Building, Fellows Road, Australian National University
- ‘A Humble Ethos for Democracy’, Tuesday 1 March 2016, 11:00 – 12:00, The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra
- ‘Humility and Democracy’, Wednesday 2 March 2016, 12:30 – 14:00. Room S226, Level 2 John Woolley Building, The University Of Sydney
I taught my final class for the year yesterday and I am now tidying up a few things before finishing work for 2015. It has been another very busy year, with my time being split between teaching, research, admin and some media appearances. More than enough to keep me occupied… 2015 was an important year insofar as it marked the publication of my first solo authored monograph, The Rise of Democracy. I am particularly appreciative to the staff at Edinburgh University Press, who were incredibly helpful and supportive in seeing it through to publication. This has also served as the foundation for a new project that I have recently commenced, and hope to be making headway on in 2016. The end of 2015 also marks the conclusion of my working relationship with the United Nations University. Since moving to Waseda, I have continued in the capacity of a Visiting Research Fellow at UNU, as part of the Fukushima Global Communication Programme. This research project will be finishing in a few months, so now seems like a good time to finish up at UNU. I am very grateful to everyone there who has helped me over the years. I wish you all a good rest over Christmas and the new year break. Please note that I will be away from work email until 7 January.
I’m in Melbourne briefly to attend the ‘Democracy in Transition’ conference, organised by the University of Melbourne. This is my first time doing something at the university since I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees there, so it is nice to be back. I’ll be presenting a paper on Tuesday 8 December entitled “humble democracy”, which builds on some of the conclusions of my recently published book, “The Rise of Democracy”. I’ll also be chairing a session on “Redress in divided societies”. For more information about the conference, please visit the event’s website.
The related “Democracy Renewal” website has published a piece on “Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?“, with brief responses from a number of the conference participants, including myself. This is not an easy question to answer, especially in a few paragraphs, but my comments emphasise the centrality of non-violence to thinking about democracy. You can read the piece here.
On 12-13 November UNU will be hosting a 2 day research workshop on “Understanding and Communicating Risks Post-Fukushima” as part of their ongoing research on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. I will be contributing to the workshop in my capacity as a Visiting Research Fellow at UNU. I will be presenting some opening thoughts in the introductory session and also chairing the closing session. Unfortunately this is a closed event due to space constraints. Following the workshop, however, on the afternoon of Friday 13 November UNU will be hosting a public event with a number of the workshop participants. For more information about the public seminar, please check here.
This weekend I am looking forward to returning to the London School of Economics, where I will be attending and presenting at the 2015 Millennium conference. This year the theme for the conference is the very intriguing topic of ‘failure and denial in world politics’. I will be taking this opportunity to present the first substantive piece of work on a new project I am currently developing. I will be part of the ‘The Mend of IR Theory? Thinking through Failure and Denial’ panel, which is being held from 14:30 – 16:00 on Saturday. I have enjoyed the previous Millennium conferences I participated in, especially the 2008 edition on ‘Interrogating Democracy in International Relations’, which was very closely related to my research interests. My paper from that year was subsequently published as part of the journal’s special issue on the topic, which is available to read here. For more information about this year’s conference, including the programme, please visit their website.
I am very happy to announce the publication of my first single authored monograph, The Rise of Democracy. This book pulls together and considerably develops some of the themes I had previously explored in a series of articles and chapters looking at the different ways that democracy intersects with international relations. The aim of the book is to re-examine democracy’s past as a step towards better understanding its contemporary standing and what its future might entail. The historical study in turn forms the basis of a minimal but robust defence of democracy, grounded in its limits and fragility. I feel this book goes considerably further than my previously published work on the topic and I am very pleased with the outcome. It is published by Edinburgh University Press, who have been fantastic to work with. I am deeply appreciative of their help and patience in seeing it through to publication.
For more information, please see:
I have recently published a new op-ed in The Japan Times, which builds on my previous commentary about the policies and approach of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In my latest piece I argue that it is necessary to appreciate that regardless of the possible motives of Abe and his LDP government, they are responding to genuine policy questions facing Japan. In the case of the security reforms, the rise of China and America’s potential decline are significant issues Japan has to deal with. And for nuclear restarts, the challenge posed by climate change means there are legitimate arguments for low carbon options like nuclear. For those opposed to Abe, the challenge is not simply to reject his policies, but think through what realistic answers to these difficult questions may be.
You can read the full article here.