Does Catalonia Have a Right to Secede?

SBA71Photo: SBA73

by Kieran Oberman, Lecturer | PIR

(This post originally appeared on openDemocracy)

Catalonia’s October 1st referendum produced some shocking images: polling stations stormed, elderly voters with bloodied faces, fire fighters (of all people) beaten by police. Coverage in the press and widespread sharing on social media ensured a PR disaster for Spain. Catalonia’s separatists, for a moment at least, have gained the world’s attention and a share of its sympathy. But how far should that sympathy extend?

One can condemn the violence and leave it there (as, for instance, Belgium did). But the more fundamental question is whether Catalonia has a right to secession. That is not just a question about the recent poll. Even if one rejects the legitimacy of that poll, one still faces the question of whether another should be held. There is no reason why Catalonia could not hold an orderly referendum of the Quebec and Scotland kind. What has been stopping it so far is Spanish opposition. So, must Spain give way?

That is not an easy question to answer because it is far from clear what would give any region a right to secede. The public debate – in Catalonia, Spain and elsewhere – is not much help. People tend to decide these issues on grounds of loyalty and emotion. There is a lot flag waving; much less reasoned argument.

For my own part, I have wrestled with the question of secession for many years. I have taught the topic at universities around the world: in the US, Bangladesh, Ireland and Scotland. Secession has played a critical role in the history of all those countries and students have had valuable points to make. But even after my debates with students, I have struggled to resolve matters in my own mind.

It is not that I don’t have an intuitive judgement about the issue. As I indicated in a piece I wrote during the Scottish referendum, I do think regions like Scotland and Catalonia should be allowed to secede. What I have struggled with is locating an adequate justification for that position. In the literature in political philosophy (my field) there are some fascinating books and articles, but few arguments I find convincing. It is only now, in reaction to Catalonia, that I finally have a better sense of what is grounding my pro-secessionist stance. I return to that grounding below, but first let me review what I regard as some common false starts.

First, democracy. This is the ‘go to’ argument of many Catalan secessionists. According to Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, a vote on independence is simply an “expression of a free democracy”. On this view, Catalans have a right to decide whether Catalonia is independent just as they have a right to decide on any other issue affecting them. The problem with this argument is that it assumes what is precisely at issue: that Catalonia represents the appropriate constituency to make this decision. Another plausible constituency would be Spain itself. For it is not just Catalonia that is affected by the issue of independence. Catalan independence would have significant repercussions for Spain’s economy and identity. It would also have ripple effects on other regions, including the Basque country which has only recently escaped the violence of its own secessionist conflict.

In short, the democracy argument fails to overcome what we might term the ‘symmetry problem’. Democracy can be advanced both as an argument for secession and an argument against it. To justify secession, we need to justify ‘asymmetry’: to explain why it is Catalonia, not Spain as a whole, that has a right to decide.

Democracy is not the only argument that suffers from the symmetry problem. Another is national self-determination. The idea that a nation has a right to determine its own future is fine as far as it goes. The problem arises when there is more than one nation in play. Catalan national self-determination butts up against Spanish national self-determination. One cannot give full expression to the one without limiting the other. Some will stamp their feet at this and proclaim that “Catalonia is not Spain”. If there were two discreet nations then Spain would be other-determining not self-determining when it takes part in Catalan affairs. But the very fact people proclaim this slogan demonstrates how controversial it is. National identity is not physics. Nations exist, split or overlap depending on inter-subjective beliefs. As long as there are people inside Catalonia and the rest of Spain who believe in an over-arching Spanish nation, the concept of national self-determination can be invoked by both sides. It offers no firm ground for secession.


Photo: Generalitat de Catalunya

Are there no arguments that avoid the symmetry problem? Yes, at least two. One is self-defence: the idea that group of people can have a right to secede when threatened by some profound injustice. Such an argument can prove compelling. Having recently survived Saddam and ISIS, and with the future still so uncertain, Kurdish Iraq can plausibly make an argument of this sort. Catalonia, however, is different. It did experience severe repression under Franco but modern Spain, whatever its faults, is a peaceful liberal democracy. In terms of wealth, security and freedom, it is among the most successful countries on Earth. Catalan secessionists complain that, as a richer region, they pay more into central government than they get out. But this complaint should not arouse much sympathy. Indeed, for those on the left, with their concern for equality and redistribution, it should be treated with particular disgust. There might be more nuanced complaints to be made against Spain’s fiscal arrangement, but even if we accept them, they do not amount to profound injustices of the ISIS or Franco kind. Admittedly, things could get worse. If the state violence we witnessed on Sunday were to become routine, then a self-defence argument would become more convincing. Let us hope, for everyone’s sake, that that is not where we are heading.

The other argument that avoids the symmetry argument is freedom of association. This the kind of argument that it takes a philosopher to come up with. The argument likens states to clubs. Just as you and your friends don’t need anyone’s approval to set up a new club or split from an old one, so regions don’t need their state’s approval to secede. The problem with the argument is quite simple: the analogy fails. States are not like clubs. People do not voluntarily join states for the sake of their hobby or passion; they are forced into states for the sake of justice and peace. States set the background rules; clubs and other associations offer peoplegood the opportunity to pursue particular interests. If Catalans want to form associations, they can do so. Catalonia already has all kinds of clubs and associations, including many operating across the region (the Catalan Football Federation, the Catalan Association for Science Communication and so on and so forth). They don’t need a state to be their club, nor should they want it to be. A state that tries to be a club is like a parent who tries to be a friend. We need states. We need parents. But if we are to maintain our individual autonomy, these unchosen authorities in our lives must assume their proper roles and not pretend to be something they are not.

Those are the arguments that I find unconvincing. So why do I favour independence referendums? For a while I thought the best argument was merely pragmatic; the ‘let-insiders-vote rule’ is, among the alternatives, the best means to minimise conflict. But now I think there is more to be said. It is important that we, as citizens, feel some kind of connection to our state; that we see it as legitimate or at least not as wholly illegitimate. This is not because states are like clubs, but precisely because they are so different. States coerce us. They tell us to do certain things and punish us if we disobey. Such coercion can be justified. Everyone except anarchists accepts that. But it is important that when they coerce us, we have some sense that they are not merely coercing us. We need to be able to look at the state and think that, in some sense, it is our own. The state institutions we interact with and the laws we live under should feel familiar and benign; like they are there for us and our society, not some outside power. When instead the state seems foreign or hostile, it is hard to feel at home in the world.

Teresa Grau Ross

Photo: Teresa Grau Ross

As events have proceeded, I think more and more Catalans are experiencing a sense of alienation from the Spanish state. The spectacle of Spanish police being shipped in (quite literally) from other areas of Spain, has not helped matters, evoking, as it does, parallels with foreign occupation. Of course, not everyone in Catalonia feels alienated. The thousands who protested in Barcelona’s unity rally on Sunday clearly believe in the legitimacy of Spain. That is why it is crucial that the matter is settled by a free and fair referendum in which everyone in Catalonia is given a say.

Does this ‘alienation argument’ escape the symmetry problem? I believe so. If Catalonia were to secede, the Spanish economy would suffer and many Spanish people would be profoundly upset, but they would continue to live under a Spanish state that most recognise as their own. The same is not true of Catalans who are denied a referendum.

I realise the argument raises many questions. How many people need to feel alienated to demand a referendum? How alienated must they feel? What about the possible costs of secession, for those inside and outside the seceding region? There cannot be an absolute right to secede no matter how high the costs – that would be absurd. But how high must the costs before the right is defeated?

Perhaps the most difficult question is that of minorities within minorities. Consider, the case of the Val d’Aran, an area of Catalonia with its own fierce sense of independence. If Catalonia secedes, must the Val d’Aran be granted its own referendum? And if Val d’Aran, what about other unionist pockets within Catalonia, whether at the level towns, villages or even neighbourhoods? The alienation argument, as presented above, would seem to invite repeated secession, but many, including many Catalan separatists, would demur at this prospect. I cannot hope to settle these questions here. My thoughts are too tentative; these matters too complicated.

This brings me to a final point. Because secession is such a morally complicated issue, it is crucial that both sides show greater respect for each other. There is no black/white here. We are all in the grey zone of reasonable disagreement. Contrary to statements by leading politicians, the  Spanish government is not Franco and the Catalan government is not Hitler. The parties to the conflict need to stop waving flags and start making arguments. This point is perhaps particularly important for Spain since it is the Spanish government that has the tanks and riot squads at its disposal. With such power, it is much too tempting to use it. The recurrent theme of the Spanish government – and most recently, the king – is that the Catalonian crisis is first and foremost a criminal justice issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the referendum broke Spanish law, but it is perfectly evident by now, from the civil rights and other great movements of the past, that reasonable people sometimes do break laws for good reasons. They should not be dismissed as ordinary criminals. Indeed, when millions of your citizens engage in a referendum you have ruled illegal, it is a sure sign that you have a political, not a legal, problem on your hands.


A few notes by way of bibliography:

This article draws on a philosophical literature on secession that is by now quite extensive. Rather than attempt to provide a full list of sources, let me refer to a few works that might prove particularly helpful.

For an excellent introduction to the philosophy of secession see Allen Buchanan’s article in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

The problem I raise with the democracy argument relates to a much-discussed problem in democratic theory called the ‘boundary problem’. For a description of the problem, and one of many attempts to solve it, see David Miller’s article, “Democracy’s Domain”.

The freedom of association argument I referred to has been presented by a number of philosophers, including in Christopher Wellman in A Theory of Secession: The Case for Political Self-Determination.

The alienage argument I defended has some affinities to Annie Stilz’s “Decolonization and Self-Determination”.







The United States and China: Ruptures and Realignments in Trump’s First Six Months

by Oliver Turner, Lecturer in International Relations

This blog was commissioned and originally published by the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (


Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States in late 2016 brought expectations of radical departures in US politics and foreign policy. Of all the candidates – Republican and Democrat – Trump was the most vocal on China during his campaign. His rhetoric swung from professing a ‘love’ for China to claiming that it is guilty of ‘raping’ the United States. Yet his unwavering appeal to right wing populism ensured that in the winner-take-all, zero-sum world he portrayed, Chinese gains were seen as the cause of American losses. Prior to the election it was widely expected that Hillary Clinton would come to occupy the White House, and that while her long-time political criticisms of China argued for modifications in Washington’s relations with Beijing, she would in all likelihood have sought to broadly follow the path trodden by Barrack Obama.  Where do we stand six months after the election of Trump? What has been President Trump’s early approach towards China and what has been the Chinese response? What do the politics and worldviews of the Trump administration reveal about the balance of US-China relations today? Who in the Trump administration has been influential in steering China policy? And what do Trump’s first six months in charge tell us about what the remainder of his tenure might hold for US-China relations? Ultimately, we find that within the bounds of US-China relations, Trump’s first six months as president have been simultaneously of note and entirely unremarkable. His extreme political naiveties and idiosyncrasies have produced ruptures in the relationship, while competing forces beyond his control have forced familiar realignments.

Turbulent beginnings

Throughout the modern history of US presidential campaigns, China has been utilised for short-term political gain. Ronald Reagan, George Bush Jr. and Barack Obama each pledged to toughen up on China before moderating their positions in office. To this extent, the China-bashing of the 2016 election was distinguishable, but only in its veracity and driven largely by Republican candidates seeking to out-Trump Trump on his hyperbole.[i] ‘They suck the blood out of us and we owe them money’, Trump once argued.[ii] Donald Trump eventually won the presidency on the platform of ‘Make America Great Again’, with its foreign policy tagline of ‘America First’. This came with such historically familiar commitments as labelling Beijing a currency manipulator and slowing the loss of manufacturing jobs to China. Trump’s proposal to impose tariffs of up to 45% on Chinese imports had less historical precedent.

As president-elect in December 2016, Trump spoke to Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen, breaking decades of established protocol and challenging the stability of the so-called ‘One China Policy’. So too did he suggest that US commitment to the policy – the bedrock of US-China relations – was no longer unconditional. Accordingly, Trump’s entry into the White House brought an early stress test for US-China relations. Successive American presidents trod a path of cautious engagement with China[iii], but it seemed possible that Trump would carve serious ruptures into the relationship and steer them into unfamiliar terrain. Indeed, during the early weeks of his presidency Trump sustained unusually pointed rhetoric towards China. He criticised Beijing for not requesting permission to devalue its currency and pursue its island building programme in the South China Sea; for removing ‘massive amounts of money and wealth’ from the United States; and for doing ‘little to help’ on the security problems posed by North Korea.

Ordinarily, such unfiltered accusations from a sitting US president would be expected to provoke more bitter indignation. Yet already Trump’s controversial style had become routine. Foreign governments quickly recognised Trump’s crude and outspoken remarks as the articulations of a politically novice businessman and reality television star more concerned with delighting his loyal audience than transitioning to judicious statesman. Nowhere was this more evident than in Beijing, which responded to Trump’s rhetoric with palpable restraint; following Trump’s conversation with Tsai Ing-wen, Chinese state media explained, with a hint of condescension, that the call reflected his ‘inexperience in dealing with foreign affairs’.[iv]

The “China problem” of past presidential campaigns, along with its proposed solutions, was made simple to resonate with voters; the inconvenient truth that US-China relations are a complex web of myriad actors, institutions and forces over which Washington has limited control is not easily sold to the electorate. For Campaign Trump of 2016 however, the China Problem was simple because it conformed to a narrow and generally crude worldview in which the United States had long been exploited by others due to the failures of the Washington Establishment. For President Trump of 2017, the complexities of the relationship had not just to be repackaged to voters, but discovered for himself.

A reversal of history(?)

Trump’s pride in his ability to strike deals and accumulate wealth makes him less willing to understand how the world works beyond the comfort of his business empire. Yet his introduction to the One China policy highlights the point at which business ends and politics begins which he and his supporters so keenly deny. For Trump, the policy was there to be manipulated through bombast and intimidation to win the advantage over a rival. For the Chinese government it is much more. It is a function of history, culture, sovereignty and national pride. The policy has no profit motive. It is not defined by stock value, liquidity or even GDP. There is no real estate to sell off or snap up. To accept Taiwanese autonomy, according to this view, would be to accept a return to the so-called “Century of Humiliation” of the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, during which China was exploited by foreigners under the watch of imperial leaders who refused to engage with an evolving world they did not fully comprehend.

Today, China and the United States are both led by administrations which draw strength from nationalist fervour. But while China’s (particularly economic) nationalism is often internationalist and outward-facing, creating and embracing global opportunities to further the cause at home, Trumpian nationalism is more insular, paranoid and defensive. It sees a world to be feared, defended against and kept out rather than grasped. Today’s technocratic Chinese leaders are also increasingly skilled in modern diplomacy, and in Donald Trump they see an opportunity.

In February 2017, Trump retracted the threat to reconsider the One China Policy during his first conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping. After meeting with Xi in March at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump announced that he no longer considered China a currency manipulator. In short, Trump bluffed with China but his threats were hollow and unconvincing and, in a reversal of history, Beijing outmanoeuvred Washington with more sophisticated statecraft. In The Art of the Deal Trump writes that, ‘You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops’.[v] At Mar-a-Lago Xi quickly convinced Trump of the complexities surrounding North Korea to Beijing’s advantage. Trump’s famous praise for autocratic leaders like Xi with “strongmen” personas masks his own weaknesses; his unwillingness to operate within pre-defined structures and to look beyond the short term makes him unprincipled, manipulable, and liable to sudden shifts in attitude and behaviour. Trump admitted that ‘after listening for ten minutes’, he accepted that Beijing was not so easily blamed over North Korea.

Washington’s infighting

Trump’s aggressive but ineffectual posturing in the early weeks of his presidency revealed much to the Chinese leadership about how he might be managed over the next four years. It was also a demonstration that Trump’s unorthodox bluster can represent little more than foaming surface ripples, while deeper and more powerful undercurrents retain control over the direction of travel. Indeed, over the course of Trump’s first months in charge, US-China policy has increasingly aligned with the more traditional position carved out by the presidential predecessors Trump derides for failing to protect the interests of the United States. In part, this has been because Trump formed a basic understanding of how the China Issue and its “solutions” are not as straightforward as he once imagined. So too was it born from the structural constraints of office.

Trump brought into the White House two campaign supporters and China hawks: appointing Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro White House Chief Strategist and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy respectively. Yet both have struggled for influence after entering the combative Establishment of Washington DC that Bannon in particular has long denounced. As largely unwelcome interlopers in the halls of American politics, neither boasts expansive networks of friends or allies and have thus always been vulnerable to attack. Navarro’s trade prescriptions of heavily taxing Chinese imports and formally retaliating against Beijing’s supposed currency manipulation have so far been dismissed, while Bannon – who declared ‘no doubt’ that the US would soon go to war with China – was removed from the National Security Council in April before being marginalised from Trump’s notoriously defensive inner-circle.

Bannon and Navarro ascribe to, and reinforce, some of the worst fears for the US-China relationship. Some observers argue that the two are destined to repeat history by falling victims to the realist-inspired ‘Thucydides Trap’, by which the anarchical structure of the international system perpetually incentivises material competition, leading so-called great powers into spirals of mistrust and conflict.[vi]

Yet the hyperbolic visions of Bannon and Navarro, along with those of their allies and followers, are additionally laced with neo-colonial rhetoric of the unacceptability and fundamental illegitimacy of China’s growth and modernisation—in contemporary parlance, it’s ‘rise’. The Chinese ‘come here to the United States in front of our face’, Bannon argues of China’s actions in the South China Sea which lies over 11,000 km from the mainland United States, but where the United States – by simple virtue of being the United States – is unproblematically imagined to hold a more justified and rightful presence.[vii] Bannon and Navarro may yet regain favour, but Trump values loyalty in others of the kind which can now be provided by influential others capable of winning his trust.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, for example, articulate assertive but more measured views on China which echo those of past administrations. Mattis dismisses the need ‘for dramatic military moves’ in response to Chinese actions in the South China Sea, emphasising diplomacy instead. McMaster presents China’s territorial expansion not as uniquely aggressive but as an example of historically-recurring global challenges for which the United States should prepare itself. The new US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is another foil to China’s fiercest and most anti-Establishment critics, as the longest serving governor in the US history with cross-party support and strong personal connections to President Xi.

Rupture and realignment

The election of Donald Trump always suited Beijing’s foreign policy aims more than would that of Hillary Clinton. For decades Clinton criticised China’s human rights record and, as Secretary of State in the Obama administration, she engineered the United States pivot/rebalance to Asia, a strategy interpreted in Beijing as a renewed effort to contain Chinese influence. China has recently indicated a willingness to provide global leadership if, as Trump has either indicated or declared, the United States withdraws from global commitments including the Paris Climate Agreement and free trade regimes.

This, more than simple military might or territorial conquest, is the type of great power status to which China aspires to consign its humiliations to the past: advanced, secure, and confident. Trump’s first six months as president have given Beijing reasons to feel vindicated that he was the preferable choice. Trump expresses little interest in policing international human rights, and upon becoming president he withdrew the US from the planned economic pillar of Obama’s rebalance from which China was excluded, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving space for future Chinese initiatives. Trump’s vulnerability to persuasion has brought additional rewards.

Nonetheless, commentators have recently begun to argue that the early “honeymoon” period between Trump and Xi may have ended. In June the Trump administration approved a multi-billion dollar sale of military equipment to Taiwan, shortly after imposing sanctions on a Chinese Bank with suspected financial ties to North Korea. In early July it became clear that Trump would also continue to permit freedom of navigation exercises by US vessels around Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea, to Beijing’s renewed protest. Following ballistic missile tests by North Korea around the same time, Trump publicly lamented a lack of consensus with Beijing over an appropriate policy response, later asserting: ‘So much for China working with us’.

Yet none of this should not come as a surprise. During his early years in office Obama cultivated increasingly positive ties with China’s political elite, before an almost identical collection of issues – each with deep historical roots – tempered his ambitions for more collegial relations. Trump’s approach towards North Korea in particular has quickly come to mirror that of Obama’s; hard, sanction-led economic diplomacy combined with a reliance on Beijing to pressure its authoritarian ally continues to fail in restraining Pyongyang, while generating further discord with China.

Ultimately, while Trump’s unorthodox style and worldview threatens to produce lasting ruptures in Washington’s relations with Beijing, his idiosyncrasies have been at least partially harnessed to bring his policies on China into some alignment with those of the recent past. Nevertheless, the next four years of US-China relations will bring more unexpected developments, and Trump is arguably the most unpredictable and capricious US president in modern history. His sporadic outbursts of opinion may be accepted as the new normal in foreign capitals, but his erratic tendencies will remain a potential source of instability. Indeed, Trump’s political inexperience and naiveties will mean that the Establishments of both Washington and Beijing will continue to play to his most prominent weaknesses, in pursuit of their own contrasting agendas. Combined with regular personnel changes in the White House and Trump’s as-yet unproven ability to respond effectively to real crises, the US-China relationship now stands on a far less predictable footing than it has been for much of the recent past, and one which brings the potential for further disruption.

[i] Turner, O. 2015. China and the 2016 US Presidential Debates: Curiosities and Contradictions. Swedish Institute of International Affairs, UI Brief no.3, November.

[ii] Baker, G. Lee, C. and Bender, M. 2017. “Trump Says He Offered China Better Trade Terms in Exchange for Help on North Korea”. Wall Street Journal, April 12.

[iii] Turner, O. 2016. “The US and China: Obama’s Cautious Engagement.” in The Obama Doctrine: A Legacy of Continuity in US Foreign Policy?, edited by Jack Holland and Michelle Bentley, 180-193. London: Routledge.

[iv] China Daily, December 3, 2016.

[v] Trump, D. 1987. The Art of the Deal. New York: Random House.

[vi] Allison, G. 2017. Destined for War: Can American and China Escape Thucydide’s Trap? Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[vii] Turner, O. 2016. “The US and China: Obama’s Cautious Engagement.” in The Obama Doctrine: A Legacy of Continuity in US Foreign Policy?, edited by Jack Holland and Michelle Bentley, 180-193. London: Routledge.





New Handbook on Gender and the Military

By Claire Duncanson, Senior Lecturer in International Relations

Gender issues in the military have hit the headlines this summer. Whether it’s the celebrations of one hundred years of women in the British military, President Trump’s ban on transgender personnel serving in the US military, or the ‘cultural wars’ – or lack thereof – over the absence of diversity in the big movie release of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the intersection of gender and the military is clearly a subject of popular interest.

If you want to go beyond the headlines and really understand the issues raised by this summer’s events, and many more gender and military debates, you need look no further than The Palgrave International Handbook of Gender and the Military, edited by Rachel Woodward and myself, hot off the press and ready for you to order here:


It provides the context, concepts, historical perspective and geographical scope to help readers make sense of and engage with the fascinating intersections of gender and the military. Taken together, the Handbook’s chapters extend debates about the place, utility and contribution of feminist scholarship pertaining to gender and the military, and to military-related issues more broadly. They present in some ways a broadly progressive narrative over time in terms of expanding possibilities for women, changing demands on men, and developing awareness of the centrality of gender within military institutions, all of which reflect the substantial contributions of feminist scholarship and activism. However, as many chapters also show, this narrative of progress is not absolute and must be seen in the context of ongoing violence and insecurity in many areas of the world. Militaries may be changing in their steady inclusion of women, shifting masculinities, and changing gendered cultures, but for many, especially women and other marginalized groups, security seems as remote a reality and problematic a concept as ever. Furthermore, we are not complacent about the power of regressive politics to roll back positive changes around gender issues in military settings. To counter a regressive politics, we must remember that relationships between gender and the military are an issue for everyone.  As such, we invite you to delve deep into the pages of the Handbook and to engage in conversations about the militaries we wish to see (or challenge) in the contemporary world.

Comprised of 33 chapters, the Handbook features lively engagement from different perspectives about key issues pertaining to the gender–military nexus.  As an International Handbook, it is cross-disciplinary, and will be of particular interest to people who study gender and military issues within political science, gender and women’s studies, international relations, human geography, sociology, the humanities and anthropology. It will also be of key interest to military personnel themselves, especially those developing policy around gender issues, including the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Equality and Diversity Issues, in the UK, and beyond.

Part I explains and explores the most significant theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches through which the relationships between gender and the military have been studied. With chapters on liberal feminist, anti-militarist feminist, critical military studies and organisational perspectives, as well as qualitative and quantitative methods and approaches, the first part offers both a guide to the rest of the book and an important collection of intellectual engagement in its own right.

Part II, exploring state militaries, sets out in detail how a range of social constructs shape the experience of participating in state militaries and influence state militaries’ responses to the challenges they pose. Authors examine how identity, ethnicity, sexuality and (dis)ability help theorise and understand gender and military connections, while also posing important practical issues for state militaries and their personnel. These chapters demonstrate that gender is crucial to fully comprehending the factors and forces that shape people’s experiences in and of state military institutions and modes of organisation. These chapters tie earlier discussions of conceptual approaches to illustrative empirical examples.

In Part III, we consider state militaries in action. Chapters in this section draw on many of the issues introduced earlier to consider how gender intersects with different operational contexts and transformations. Whether direct combat, counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, humanitarianism, or the roles militaries play in political transformations, gender can be seen as a profound influence on the goals and practice of military operations.

Part IV draws together engagements with gender in non-state military contexts. Covering private military and security companies, NATO, the UN, terrorist and other non-state armed groups, our authors explore gendered dynamics from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Here too, it is clear that to fully understand the rise of privatised security, what motivates terrorists, or the dynamics of rebel groups, gendered analysis is crucial.

The final section of the Handbook examines a range of ways in which different cultural forms represent gender in the military. It provides a novel take on the topic, as few social science books venture into the terrain of popular culture, and thus moves the Handbook into more groundbreaking interdisciplinary territory. Focusing on cultural representation reminds us that the relationships between gender and the military play out not only within military institutions and through the bodies and experiences of military personnel but also through popular culture and mass consumption. Our contributors in this section engage with a variety of forms of representation, including visual, cinematic and textual.

The Palgrave International Handbook of Gender and the Military has been published as part of Palgrave’s Handbooks series, and you can encourage your university library to order a copy by forwarding your subject librarian a copy of this flyer [link to flyer].

Here at The University of Edinburgh, copies will soon be available at the main library. Students across SPS will find it a great resource for courses such as Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World, Global Security (UG) and International Security (PG), Global Politics of Sex and Gender, and Armed Force and Society. It should also provide a great starting point for those students interested in undertaking a dissertation related to the gender-military nexus, as each chapter provides both a sense of the ‘hot topics’ and debates relating to the issues and a guide to the key literature.

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Contrary to popular opinion, there is no populist upsurge in Britain

by Luke March

This blog originally appeared on the LSE British Politics and Policy blog *

It has become a standard cliché that populism, like communism before it, is the ‘spectre’ haunting Europe. There is allegedly a populist Zeitgeist, and politicians of right and left, of fringe and mainstream, from Le Pen to Macron and Mélenchon, Trump to Sanders, appear to evidence a populist surge. Britain also appears at the forefront of this surge, with the rise of UKIP and its role in Brexit, and new forms of ‘left populism’, from the Greens to Ed Miliband and now Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently, we are all populists.

But is populism really so ubiquitous? Does it really unite politicians across the political spectrum? While analysts have noted that populism is ‘chameleonic’ and adaptable, they have also noted a tendency for the term to be bandied about indiscriminately. If the concept is so promiscuous, is it still in any way useful?

My recent study shows that, providing we use accurate definitions and measurement techniques, populism remains a revealing and useful term. However, at least in the British case, populism is far less omnipresent than often assumed: it exists on the fringes of the party system for sure, but its use by mainstream parties is at best fleeting, and generally seems to exhibit demoticism (closeness to the ordinary people), which is necessary but not sufficient for populism. Many observers who find populism are arguably seeing demoticism instead.

In this study, I analysed the manifestos of key left- and right-wing parties in Westminster and Scottish elections from 1999-2015, comparing the mainstream (Labour and the Conservatives) and the allegedly populist parties (Respect and the Scottish Socialist Party [SSP], UKIP and the British National Party [BNP]). The Scottish focus was chosen to maximise data, because the SSP was (once, before an acrimonious and tawdry split), one of Europe’s better performing populist radical left parties.

A profusion of techniques for measuring populism have emerged in recent years. These can be criticised for replicating the problem they claim to solve, i.e. instead of helping accurately identify populism, they end up arguing that populism is a matter of degree, and because they provide only an aggregate populism score, they don’t sufficiently focus on how populism and mainstream parties differ.

In order to obviate such criticisms, I adapted one of the most robust content analysis schemes originated by Matthijs Rooduijn and Teun Pauwels. I made it more fine-grained and discerning, by focussing on sentences, not paragraphs, and added a category (popular sovereignty), so that three populist sub-components were examined (people-centrism, anti-elitism, and popular sovereignty). This makes my schema match more closely one of the most influential definitions of populism in the literature: ‘a thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people’. I also examined the party manifestos in-depth, to avoid relying simply on numerical data for questions requiring nuanced interpretation.

The analysis results (Figure 1) show the utility of breaking populism into components rather than relying on aggregate populism scores, as do many other scales. So doing is not especially revealing, and even misleading – after all, the overall scores of some populist and mainstream parties are little different. The table clearly shows that the populist parties score consistently and (mostly) equally across each of the three core populist components, whereas the mainstream parties scores load very heavily on the people-centrism scale, with low popular sovereignty scores and negligible anti-elitism scores.

The scale proves accurate in showing that only the supposedly populist parties truly fulfil the full ideological definition of populism. Focussing on the results over time further indicates that there is no real upsurge of populism – the only consistent increase is in the people-centrism scores of the mainstream parties. All in all, evidence for a British populist Zeitgeist is meagre, although demotic rhetoric is increasingly evident.

A more detailed focus on the manifestos reinforces this. It indicates that: 1) only the allegedly populist parties have a detailed, coherent populist critique which consistently attacks a range of elites (political, economic, international) and focuses on measures designed to empower a broad homogeneous people; and 2) left and right populisms are not substantially similar, but are clearly distinguishable by the nature of their core ideology. That is, they attack different elites (economic vs. cultural), have different conceptions of the people (more inclusive and pluralist for the left, more exclusive [against immigrants] and monocultural for the right). In other words, their populism has little substantive content separate from the parties’ core ideological positions.

In contrast, the mainstream parties’ focus on popular sovereignty and (in particular) anti-elitism is very fleeting, vague, and tokenistic (e.g. providing more accessible public services, or attacking ‘remote politicians’). But their people-centrism is ubiquitous – they repeatedly speak in the name of the people to emphasise common projects (the 2010 Conservative claim that ‘we are all in this together’ is typical).

This indicates that, in the UK, apart from the obvious electoral rise of UKIP (until its dramatic collapse in the 2017 elections), there is no real populist upsurge. There are populist parties to the left and right of the party system, but their fundamental programmatic differences make them hardly examples of the same phenomenon. The ‘populism’ of the mainstream parties exists only in a handful of vague phrases, but for the most part, such parties are demotic, which is arguably mainly a product of catch-all parties operating in a majoritarian party system than any consistent mainstream populism.

At first glance, such findings seem counterintuitive given the Brexit referendum. Focussing on party manifestos certainly doesn’t exclude that populism is a major feature of some of the British press or that it is used periodically by individual politicians (e.g. Michael Gove’s attack on experts, or Theresa May’s post-Brexit insistence on fulfilling the ‘will of the people’). Yet, it does show how the UK party system acts to confine genuine populism to the fringes. In this respect, the populism associated with Brexit is arguably far more a product of the referendum campaign than anything whose prior rise made the referendum inevitable.

Certainly, the 2017 election campaign shows more continuity than change, not least because of the demise of UKIP and the Conservatives’ un-populist (and unpopular) campaign. Although Jeremy Corbyn is often portrayed as a left-wing populist, the 2017 Labour Manifesto contains only a handful of invocations against the ‘rigged system’, and its central slogan (‘For the Many not the Few’) is authentically Blairite. So seeing Corbyn as a populist is, at best, a half-truth.

As a consequence, we clearly need to be more accurate and judicious in who/what we call populist, especially by noting substantial left/right differences, and distinguishing populism from demoticism. Manifestly, populism works as a general category, but like the similar term ‘Euroscepticism’, it is not always particularly revealing. To define, observe, clarify, and delimit populism further does not necessarily mean that it is an unimportant term; it is merely to note that it is often the most observable, but not necessarily the most significant, of several concurrent phenomena. For instance, the central campaign slogan of the victorious Leave campaign, ‘Take Back Control’ was evidently populist (seizing control from remote EU elites) but equally, and perhaps even more importantly, it was demotic (emphasising individual, community and national empowerment and sovereignty). This explains why it was so effective at the time. Certainly, subsuming all such elements beneath the catch-all label of populism threatens to oversimplify and obscure, rather than illuminate.

Something is Rotten in Western Democracies

‘Many now are furious’ – A protestor holds up a sign during a demonstration in front of the government office in Bucharest, Romania

by Max Kratschke (PhD candidate in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine’s School of Clinical Sciences)


Most of us have probably begun to feel that something isn’t quite right in our western democracies. Voters are increasingly turning away from establishment parties, and towards fringe parties and populists. The clearest example of this was Donald Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election of 2016, during which he ran under a promise to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington, while depicting his opponent as the face of the establishment. In fact, most western countries have experienced a decrease in the appeal of the large centrist parties that have so long dominated the political landscape. The causes of this trend are multi-facetted and intricately interwoven, including stagnating living standards and the perception of rising immigration. However, one factor is rarely mentioned in this context, yet it frequently influences public opinion of politicians and politics in general, sometimes to the extent that it can lead to the downfall of government. That factor is corruption.

Corruption kills

On 30 October 2015, a fire started in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, leading to the death of 64 people. The causes were illegal indoor use of outdoor pyrotechnics and the lack of emergency exits, among other legal requirements. Within days it became clear that the club’s owners had illegally obtained the licence to run the club from the mayor of Bucharest’s fourth district, while health and safety inspections were essentially being conducted pro forma. Soon, tens of thousands of people were demonstrating in the streets, carrying slogans such as ‘corruption kills’. Before long, Romania’s government was forced to resign.

The reason for this rapid fall of the Romanian government was that the people had had enough of politicians’ brazen nepotism and the fact that they seemed more interested in lining their pockets than ensuring the safety of Romanian citizens. However, in most other Western democracies cases of corruption that become public rarely lead to a government’s downfall, and often are simply swept under the rug. The question that arises nonetheless is whether these instances have any long-lasting effect on the public’s perception of its political class, and its voting behaviour.

Where the Balkans begin

A few countries to the west of Romania lies the republic of Austria, known for its alpine scenery, love of music, and high living standards of its capital, Vienna. Rarely do people associate it with corruption. Nevertheless, an old saying in Austria translates to ‘The Balkans begin in Vienna’, and for good reason. In fact, Austria has experienced a number of large corruption scandals throughout its history, ranging from the Lukona affair in the 1970’s to the more recent BUWOG affair and the ongoing Eurofighter investigation. Together, these and other large-scale political corruption scandals have undermined the Austrian public’s confidence in its political establishment. The extent of this can be seen in successive European commission reports, revealing that in Austria, 60% perceive national politicians and political parties as corrupt, and the most corrupt institution in the country. In 2016, the Austrian Market Research Organisation (OGM), found that 82% of Austrians had little to no trust in politics.

What effect has this had on the voting behaviour of Austrians? For a long time, post-war governance was an exclusive dominion of the two centrist parties, the conservative People’s Party and the Social Democrats. However, as people became increasingly fed up with successive governments that put nepotism before the interest of the state, this provided fertile ground for the right-wing Freedom Party. Thus, since the turn of the millennium the centrist parties have seen their voter share drop dramatically. This culminated in the recent Austrian presidential elections, in which both centrist parties were soundly defeated in the first round, and the former Green party leader Alexander Van der Bellen beat the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer by a slim margin. While a far-right head of state has been narrowly averted, a new storm is brewing: it is quite likely that Austria will hold its parliamentary elections (far more important than the presidential ones) earlier than anticipated, perhaps even in the fall of 2017, and since there is only a single round of voting there is a very real possibility that the Freedom Party may clinch the victory this time.

Clean hands and construction bubbles

For other nations, the fear of being governed by populists has long since become a reality, and may even already lie in their past. Italy’s political landscape was dominated by the conservative Christian Democratic party (and to a lesser extent the socialist party) for nearly 50 years. In the 1980’s, corruption among the political elite became more and more widespread, and after the ‘Mani Pulite’ investigations, the Tangentopoli scandal burst the bubble in 1992. With the arrests of many political and industrial leaders in the wake of this vast corruption scandal, establishment politics was reduced to a rubble. After the new elections of 1994, Italy’s political landscape was practically rebuilt from scratch. Gone were the large centrist parties, while the winners were radical populist parties of the Right, such as the Lega Nord, and the election’s victor, Silvio Berlusconi. Ironically, his is a name that would not only be associated with Italy for the next 17 years, but ‘Berlusconi’ became a byword for all that can go wrong in politics.

A vast corruption scandal has more recently erupted in another European nation, though the process here has been more drawn-out. Like Italy, Spain was accustomed to being governed by large centrist parties- the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party (PP). However, in 2009 the Gürtel case became public, with the investigations lasting until 2016 and primarily involving members of the PP. Bribery, money laundering and tax evasion are some of the accusations, but perhaps most significantly these activities appear to have fuelled Spain’s construction bubble that burst during the recent economic and financial crisis and which contributed to the subsequent depression during which Spain’s unemployment levels soared to over 25%. These revelations have contributed to a disillusionment among the population with its political leaders. Indeed, Spaniards’ perception of its political parties (84%) and national politicians (72%) as corrupt is the highest in the EU. While Spain has ultimately ended up with another conservative government, this has led to the dramatic rise of new left-wing parties, such as Podemos. Moreover, the country’s wider political landscape is a shadow of the stability it once was, having recently experienced multiple inconclusive elections, political paralysis, and countless protests. Corruption, too, is high on the agenda.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s populist right-wing leader, is another controversial leader who initially ran on an anti-corruption platform, although he has now, in turn, entrenched corruption in the country’s political system further. The result: the far-right party Jobbik bases much of its propaganda around anti-corruption and anti-establishment politics, and is seeing its popularity rise. Poland is another country that recent experience of political upheaval, with corruption scandals of the previous government among the causative factors.

One current election campaign in which corruption has arguably taken on a decisive role is in the French presidential election. Francois Fillon, the erstwhile frontrunner, was confronted with multiple claims of nepotism involving his wife and children, and subsequently saw his popularity slide. Another candidate beset by accusations of corruption (albeit to a lesser effect) is Marine Le Pen, who is being investigated over alleged misuse of EU funds. Ultimately in this election, too, corruption is shaping up to be the king(un-)maker.

Politicians for sale – nothing illegal

In all these aforementioned cases there is a common theme: illegal practices by the political establishment have led to the degradation of public trust in Western political institutions, leading voters to turn their backs on this establishment towards, not uncommonly, populist anti-establishment parties. A primary concern of many voters is that businesses and politicians appear too close and cosy, with the revolving door system of particular concern. The worry is that interest groups lobby politicians by bank-rolling their political campaigns, thereby indebting them for future gain. This practice has become globally widespread in recent years, and may be one of the leading causes of popular disgruntlement with established political systems.

One particular nation stands out because of the extent to which it is legally possible to financially support a politician’s campaign, with great political impact on its governance and the public resentment this has generated. That nation, of course, is the United States. After the fateful Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, the floodgates were opened. Since then, it has been possible for non-profit corporations to support a political candidate’s campaign with no limit to the amount of money spent, as long as this support is not coordinated with the candidate. Furthermore, recent examples have made it clear that the definition of ‘coordination’ is very loose, liberating this spending spree even further. The effect of this ruling has been to unleash a vast amount of funding from untold interest groups, each keen to provide their political candidate of choice with financial support, and thereby gain their share of leverage.

Interestingly, this had less of an effect during recent presidential races than, say, gubernatorial elections, since there is so much money going around for everyone now during presidential campaigns. Nevertheless, this system seems to have poisoned the public’s view of politics even further- an effect not unlike that of traditional corruption.

Ultimately, it appears that this system may indeed have had a huge impact on the Western public’s perception of ‘the establishment’. Of course other factors have tarnished its image too, such as the banking scandals after the crash in 2008. But then again, did the bailout not also serve the interests of large corporations (banks), represented by government officials closely linked to said banks, arguably to the detriment of the rest of society? The lack of the voter’s trust in the establishment was never clearer than during the 2016 presidential race. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ran on an anti-establishment ticket, and it is very likely that it was the image of ‘Establishment candidate’ that cost Hillary Clinton the race. Many who sided with Trump argued that a candidate who is so rich will be incorruptible in office- revealing what they thought of all the other politicians taking part in the race.

Thus, ‘corruption’ has shaped American politics in multiple ways. First, by enhancing the power of money, allowing corporations to promote their interests over the welfare of the entire country (one dollar, one vote). Second, it has turned people against the establishment, providing a fertile ground for populists like Trump. Interestingly, people appear to largely tolerate a corrupt ruling elite if they associate it with increased economic prosperity and stability, as in Russia, China, Turkey and elsewhere. Yet they do not if they take these things for granted, or are even experiencing stagnating living standards, as is the case in Europe.

Ultimately, we find serious questions about the state of our Western democracies. The official measure of corruption is often quite deceiving as it tends to focus solely on illegal bribery. Perhaps it is time for us to take a closer look at our political systems and make some long overdue changes, rather than merely shaking our heads at those we routinely disagree with who vote to overturn the ‘Establishment’.


The president as healer and unifier

by Mark Aspinwall

Americans soon go to the polls in one of the most bitter and polarized elections in living memory. They will have a new president. What will the job entail? Both main candidates have promised policy changes. Among other things, Candidate Clinton wants tax reform, action on climate change, immigration reform, while Candidate Trump has promised law and order, improved inner cities, destroying ISIS, and cutting taxes.

Offering policy choices to Congress is an important part of the president’s job. It is divisive, whatever side of the aisle the president is from.

There is an equally important aspect to it, often unappreciated and usually impossible to plan for. But presidents forget it at their peril, for it can mark their legacy. It is to act as the ceremonial leader of the nation, the unifier and healer.

When the country is struck by natural disaster, terrorist attacks, or some other calamity, a good president goes to the scene, roll up his or her sleeves, and stands knee deep in the grief and destruction. She draws together those affected and lets them know that the entire country stands with them.

Note that in these tragedies the president does not represent one political party over others. She does not ignore those who probably did not vote for her and certainly does not favor the places where he has personal investments over other parts of the country. The material and moral support is for everyone, no strings attached.

Take some examples.

As he took office for the first time, President Franklin Roosevelt faced a nation in the throes of the Great Depression. At his inaugural he said:

We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good.

Like Roosevelt, President Reagan’s policy choices were divisive, but his speech following the 1986 Challenger disaster helped define him as a leader. He said:

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

Reagan made the loss of seven astronauts a loss to the entire nation.

A president’s policy choices can frustrate her job as a unifier, because policy choices generate antipathy. Lincoln is celebrated for his 1863 Gettysburg Address and forgiven for the deeply divisive policy decisions he made which led to the Civil War because his was a unifying mission. It takes a skillful politician to be able to push forward policy reform and also unify. As I said in an earlier post, the president plays for the home team, but she also sings the National Anthem.

Unfortunately, tragedies and disasters will occur in the next four years. Now think about the two presidential candidates. Are they equally able to unite and heal? What would they have said to the homeless in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? To the families of the Challenger astronauts? Those who divide through gratuitous insults and bullying create ‘walls within’ – metaphorical but powerful divisions in society which leave us all weaker, angrier and more selfish.

Rising powers and the collapse of the Doha Round

by Kristen Hopewell

This post originally appeared on the United Nations University’s UNU-Wider blog.

Rising powers have had a profound impact on the WTO. For over half a century the trading system was dominated by the US and other advanced industrialized states, with developing countries and their interests severely marginalized. However, over the course of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, which began in 2001, new powers from the developing world — China, India and Brazil — emerged as major players at the WTO and came to have a significant impact on the negotiations.

Democratization and difficulties

Contemporary power shifts have helped to democratize and bring greater equality to the WTO. Yet the irony is that greater democratization has caused the core negotiating function of the WTO to breakdown.

Acting as leaders of the developing world, Brazil and India emerged as central players early in the Doha Round. They had a significant influence on the negotiating agenda and in shaping the substance and content of the draft Doha agreement. As a result, the prospective deal that emerged was widely considered a relatively good one for developing countries — it contained meaningful reductions in rich country agriculture subsidies and significant gains in market access across the negotiating areas, while its substantial special and differential treatment provisions meant comparatively little liberalization would be required of developing countries.

In 2008, the WTO looked close to concluding the Doha Round, with most states generally satisfied with the deal on the table. At that point, however, it was the US that balked — and it did so specifically because of China.

Changing US-China economic relations

China joined the WTO in 2001, at the start of the Doha Round. The US was an important advocate and driver of China’s accession, based on the expectation that it would make major gains in the Chinese market for its merchandise exports, as well as in areas such as services and intellectual property. The US anticipated that China’s WTO accession would boost US exports and help to ameliorate its trade deficit.

But what in fact happened was that China’s exports exploded following its WTO accession (Figure 1).

Figure 1: China’s merchandise exports

blog1Source: World Bank

Concurrently, the US saw a significant decline in its share of global manufacturing (Figure 2). The US was still the world’s largest manufacturer as late as 2000, but over the course of the Doha Round it came to be eclipsed by China.

Figure 2: Share of global manufacturing value added

blog2Source: OECD.

Contrary to what the US expected at the beginning of the Doha Round, its trade deficit with China has grown dramatically since China’s WTO accession (Figure 3).

Figure 3: US trade balance with China

blog3Source: US Bureau of Census.

In this context, the draft Doha agreement on the table at the WTO in 2008 had by that point become politically untenable in the US. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, China would be entitled to the substantial special and differential treatment that developing countries — under the leadership of Brazil and India — had been able to secure in the round.

A clash between old and new powers

The US began to demand additional liberalization from China in manufacturing and agriculture in order to ‘rebalance’ the deal. But China steadfastly refused. From its perspective, this violated the development mandate of the Doha ‘Development’ Round as well as the implicit bargain struck during its accession, where, in exchange for the deep concessions China was forced to make in opening its market, it was promised that relatively little new liberalization would be required of it during the Doha Round. From China’s point of view, the US was now trying to renege on its promises.

The result has been a clash between the old and new powers — with the US, backed by other advanced industrialized states, demanding additional liberalization from China and other emerging economies. With the two sides relatively evenly matched, neither has been able to overpower the other. This stalemate caused the collapse of the Doha Round in 2008 and has been the basis of the continued impasse since then.

Key challenges for the trading system

Contemporary power shifts present three key challenges for the multilateral trading system.

First, can the trading system adapt to, manage, and accommodate growing economic rivalry between the US and China — the clash of a hegemon and its emerging challenger? This is a key part of the conflict that broke the Doha Round, and persists today as a major impediment to progress in WTO negotiations.

A second major and related question is: how should China and the other emerging economies be classified and treated in global trade governance? These countries face significant poverty and development challenges but are also now economic powerhouses and major competitors. Should they be treated as developing countries and therefore entitled to the same special and differential treatment as other developing countries (i.e., granted the same flexibilities and shielded from liberalization)? Or should there be differentiation among developing countries, with emerging economies subject to stricter commitments, closer to those of developed countries? This is a core issue at the heart of the Doha breakdown —the US and other advanced industrialized states have been willing to extend extensive special and differential treatment to much of the developing world, but far less willing to do so for China and other emerging challengers.

Finally, is there a fundamental conflict between liberal governance institutions and development? For several decades, under the Washington Consensus, the multilateral economic institutions, such as the WTO, IMF and the World Bank, operated under the principle that economic liberalism — open markets and free trade — offers the best path to development. Within a neoliberal development paradigm, the WTO’s objective of liberalizing trade and the goal of fostering development appear highly compatible. But that faith in free market economics is increasingly being destabilized — by the success of China and other interventionist developmental states, along with the rise of new structural economics and renewed emphasis on the importance of an active state and industrial policy. If there is a growing consensus that development requires significant scope for state intervention, can that be accommodated in, or reconciled with, governance institutions predicated on liberal principles that equate government intervention with protectionism?