Power in Practice: Negotiating the International Intervention in Libya

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Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Vincent Pouliot

How does power work in practice? Much of the “stuff” that state agents and other international actors do, on an everyday basis, remains impenetrable to existing IR theory. This is unfortunate, as the everyday performance of international practices actually helps shape world policy outcomes. In this article we develop a framework to grasp the concrete workings of power in international politics. The notion of “emergent power” bridges two different understandings of power: as capability or relation. Emergent power refers to the generation and deployment of endogenous resources – social skills and competences – generated in particular practices. The framework is illustrated with an in-­‐depth analysis of the multilateral diplomatic process that led to 2011 international intervention in Libya. Through a detailed account of the negotiations at the UN, NATO and the EU, the article demonstrates how, in practice, state representatives translate their skills into actual influence and generate a power politics that eschews structural analysis. We argue that seemingly trivial struggles over diplomatic competence within these three multilateral organizations played a crucial role in the intervention in Libya. A focus on practice resituates existing approaches to power and influence in IR, demonstrating that in practice, power also emerges locally from social contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Volume20
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)889-911
Number of pages22
ISSN1354-0661
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Libya, Diplomacy, Diplomati, power, Magt, emergence, practices, Practice theory, UN, NATO, EU, negotiations

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