Theorizing international security regimes: a power-analytical approach

Hynek, Nik (2018): “Theorizing International Security Regimes: Power-Analytical Approach”. International Politics, Vol. 55, No. 3-4, pp. 352-368. ISSN 1384-5748.


This article seeks to develop alternative ways to conceptually grasp international prohibition/regulatory regimes. It attempts to go beyond existing, and piecemeal, analysis of regimes within the intellectual field of IR based on conventional grand/mid-range theorization. It is argued that traditional theorization of regimes fashioned as IR theory has hindered, rather than helped, to understand regimes in their complexities, vagaries, and in terms of various forces simultaneously involved. The article answers a question of how to strike a balance between theoretical eclecticism, which is believed to be vital for a comprehensive analysis of security regimes, and the need to have a uniting device to organize such research. It is for these reasons that a power-analytical approach utilizing four types of powers—productive, structural, institutional, and compulsory—is used, and its advantages for regime analysis are flagged. The value added of such an advancement lies in international security regimes being understood more plastically than through conventional lenses. Specifically, they are approached as intertwined sets of normative discourses, political structures (anarchies, hierarchies, and heterarchies), and agencies through which power operates within a given security issue area with a regulatory effect. Specific renderings of discourses and heterarchies establish channels through which sociopolitical and economic privileges get distributed; they create structural relations among actors with a possibility of their reversal or rearticulation; and they build up, challenge, and relocate walls of legal obligations.

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