Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Book Review

 Edited by T.V.Paul 
Cambridge University Press,Cambridge, Year 2017, pp.236, $36.99

The Book Review, VOLUME XLI NUMBER 5 May 2017

The editor of the volume under review,   T.V. Paul, is James McGill Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. The book is rather dense and a difficult read, and consequently can only be recommended for the cognoscenti. Its 14 contributions are by well-chosen academics who attended a workshop with the theme ‘Globalisation and the Changing National Security State’ organized by the editor and his project team in late 2013. The book aims to preempt the usual manner of system change in the international arena: violent conflict. It visualizes new kids on the block threatening the current overlords. Often this sets up a confrontation. International relations is little different. However, war as a means to settle the differences between status quo and rising powers is no longer an option. In the nuclear age, it is far too destructive not only for the putative belligerents but also for the planet. Therefore, fresh ways of change need to be thought through to effect peaceful change through long term strategies on the part of both the emergent powers and the dominant powers. With China, Russia and India among others playing an increasingly significant role, change is underway. The key is to keep this peaceful. The book is a notable contribution to that end. In an incisive opening chapter, Paul charts the theoretical course for the volume. He inquires whether violent conflict between the aspiring and established great powers is inevitable in power transitions. He asks the question as to what extent power indices, including of military power, matter in today’s international order that is deemed to have changed considerably as to make armed conflict between great powers an unlikely manner of passing on the power baton. If war is not an option, what can substitute is the object of the inquiry in the book. Can institutions serve the purpose of accommodation? The alternative to accommodation is containment. This entails delicate balancing on the part of the dominant power. The book probes such questions by first looking at the mechanisms of accommodation. Among these number mechanisms stemming from balance of power theories; interdependence theory; institutionalism; and constructivism, dealing with ideas on accommodation and change. In its second part, it deals with historical case studies including the passing of Pax Brittanica in favour of Pax Americana and the US opening up to China in the Kissinger years.