This article looks at the possibility of a meaningful relationship between the concepts of hegemony and governmentality. It does this by applying the combined concepts to the realm of international relations and to issues of global governance. It interrogates the two concepts by looking at the conditions of possibility and modes of expression. It does this through a critical realist approach to social reality, arguing that hegemony and governmentality operate within a structures and stratified social field where they intersect and overlap. It argues that the two concepts have their own strengths and weaknesses. Hegemony is better at relating governance to underlying social relations and it emphasises the longer-term strategic element in governance projects. Governmentality is better at highlighting the rationalities that underlie forms of governance. Hegemony better helps us to understand such things as institutional context, the role of social and class forces, how particular interests are represented and how political projects are constructed. Governmentality is much better at showing us the specific techniques and technologies of power. While hegemony might provide the better link to the social context, governmentality better shows how this finds its expression in particular forms of governance. These arguments are applied to neoliberal forms of governance and used to analyse the changing role of the state in international politics. The article addresses issues of structure and agency and poses the question of how governance is constructed.
Keywords: Hegemony, Governmentality, Governance, Critical Realism, Marxism, Neoliberalism
The three-decades old call for an inter-disciplinary rapprochement between IR Theory and Historical Sociology, starting in the context of the post-positivist debate in the 1980s, has generated a proliferating repertory of contending paradigms within the field of IR, including Neo-Weberian, Post-Structuralist, and Constructivist approaches. Within the Marxist literature, this project comprises an equally rich and diverse set of theoretical traditions, including World-Systems Theory, Neo-Gramscian IR/IPE, the Amsterdam School, Political Marxism, Neo-Leninism, and Postcolonial Theory. More recently, a “third wave” of approaches has been announced from within the field of IR, suggesting to move the dialogue from inter-disciplinarity towards an integrated super-discipline of International Historical Sociology (IHS). This proposition has been most persistently advanced by advocates of the theory of Uneven and Combined Development (UCD), claiming to constitute a universal, unitary and sociological theory of IR. This article charts the intellectual trajectory of this ongoing IR/HS dialogue. It moves from a critique of Neo-Weberianism to a critique of UCD against the background of the original promise of the turn in IR to Historical Sociology: the supersession of the prevailing rationalism, structuralism, and positivism in extant mainstream IR approaches through the mobilization of alternative and non-positivistic traditions in the social sciences. This critique will be performed by setting UCD in dialogue with Political Marxism. By anchoring both approaches at opposite ends on the spectrum of Marxist conceptions of social science – respectively the scientistic and the historicist – the argument is that UCD reneges on the promise of Historical Sociology for IR by re-aligning, first by default and now by design, with the meta-theoretical premises of Neo-Realism. This is most visibly expressed in the articulation of a deductive-nomological covering law, leading towards acute conceptual and ontological anachronisms, premised on the radical de-historicisation of the fields of ontology, conceptuality and disciplinarity. This includes the semantic neutering and hyper-abstract rearticulation of the very category, which in IR’s self-perception lends legitimacy to its claim of disciplinary distinctiveness: the international. The article concludes by suggesting that an understanding of Marxism as a historicist social science subverts all calls for the construction of grand theories and, a fortiori, a unitary super-discipline of IHS, premised on a set of universal, space-time indifferent, and abstract categories that hold across the spectrum of world history. In contrast, recovering the historicist credentials of Marxism demands a constant temporalisation and specification of the fields of ontology, agency, conceptuality and disciplinarity. The objective is to lay the foundations for a historicist social science of geopolitics.
Keywords: Historical Materialism and IR Theory, International Historical Sociology (IHS), Neo-Weberianism, Uneven and Combined Development (UCD), Political Marxism (PM), Scientism vs Historicism