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Africa and International Relations: Regional Lessons for a Global Discourse Author(s): Tandeka C. Nkiwane Source:

Africa and International Relations: Regional Lessons for a Global Discourse Author(s): Tandeka C. Nkiwane

Source: International Political Science Review / Revue internationale de science politique, Vol.

22, No. 3, Transformation of International Relations: Between Change and Continuity. Transformations des relations internationales: entre rupture et continuité (Jul., 2001), pp.

279-290

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InternationalPoliticalScienceReview (2001), Vol 22, No. 3, 279-290

Africa and International Relations:

Regional Lessons for a Global Discourse

TANDEKAC. NKIWANE

ABSTRACT.Case studies,

are

exceedingly rare in international relations. Indeed,

are, at best, valued for their nuisance the study of international relations is

Africa, and by a larger ignorance of African contributions. Key debates

of

and self-

on

from Africa

that

limited by this interpretation of

theories,

and

examples

from

Africa

argues

concepts

examples

potential. This article

the

central

the

African

are

continent

surrounding

mainstream international relations,

with a view to expanding their use in

contemporary

Africa, the African debate on political economy and development, and

paradigm, are to the

African

this article

of

more

global

discourses.

scholarship

used

African perspectives on questions raised by the liberal

determination,

examples of apartheid South

including the state, power,

interrogated international relations. The

to illustrate the importance

In

examining

to debates

the

of the region

important

contribution

relations,

central to international

highlights the necessity

discourses of international relations.

Keywords: Africa * Political economy * Apartheid International relations

for engaging African scholars in the broader

Introduction

International relations (IR) involves the study of power between and among states.

The concept of power is one open to dispute, and typically theorists have argued over definitional aspects as well as empirical applications. This article uses power as a starting-point of analysis, but examines both the power of the discipline of

international relations, and power dynamics within the discipline. As posed by Kate Manzo, "Just how independent of imperial relations of power is the knowledge produced by moder academic disciplines?" (Manzo, 1999). When power is viewed from this perspective, contestation moves away from states and

0192-5121 (2001/03)

SAGEPublications (London, Thousand Oaks, CAand New Delhi)

22:3, 279-290; 017882 ? 2001 International Political Science Association

280

InternationalPoliticalScienceReview22 (3)

into the realm of what is studied and

typically is

ignored in mainstream IR studies. Phrases such as "off the radar,"

pessimism," and "collapsed states" have come to depict the relationship of the

African continent to international relations. Is this because Africa has little to

contribute to IR, or because the

power dynamics of the discipline are such that

African voices are not heard? The aim of this article is to outline the contribution

of African

and to highlight the notion that power

dynamics within the discipline affects what is studied and why (ibid.).

why. The African continent

"Afro-

scholarship to the study

of IR,

The field of IR is in crisis. Michael

generated

Brecher

argues more heat than

that "the clash of

light

paradigms for a field in distress"

in International Studies has

(Brecher, 1999). Indeed, in the

new millennium, the

paradigmatic debate must of

intolerance," to a more

among

states and

necessity shift from what Brecher describes as "intellectual

nuanced and

their citizens.

liberalism,

Western constructs. As Bobrow notes,

scholars

as a field" (Bobrow, 1999).

Eurocentric approaches define the normative content of what is studied, and

global understanding

Typically

of relations between and

understood as the "canon" of IR, realism, neorealism,

and to a lesser extent critical theory as derived from Marxism, are all

have loomed

"for

better or worse, Anglo-American

relations

very large

in

the development of international

Denemark agrees and goes further, noting

place

that

why

is laden with hierarchies, stated and unstated, and it

on one form of

is crucial as a starting-point

inquiry as opposed

IR have tended to place at the periphery the study and utility of Africa as a region.

Despite their paradigmatic differences, the "canon"of

been

solely in its disruptive potential

(Denemark, 1999). The globe

to be clear about the values we

to another. In this hierarchy of values, mainstream scholars of

international relations has

argue

that this is to the detriment of IR.

suggestion, on the contrary,

important insights

lend

consistent in its dismissal of Africa. I

For the IRscholar, the

examples

significance of Africa lies

and African

scholarship

for neat theoretical paradigms. This article offers the

and

that African

critiques to the various perspectives on international relations (Sindjoun, 1998;

Zeleza, 1997; Grovogui, 1998; Nyango'oro,

to the problems of resistance as

represented in contemporary debates on the

continent, Africa is a

of states and

building,

markets,

with respect to theory-

1999). From the lessons of colonialism

functioning

relatively underexplored region of the

for their failure.

a

and

yet

as well

offers

powerful understanding

as the potential

This article first discusses some of

the postcolonial debates parallel to the

Second, it examines the main

development of IR as a field in Western scholarship.

assumptions and propositions

scope of its applicability in international relations and in Africa as advocated by its

international

proponents.

relations, and in particular on liberalism, and discusses some of the important

critiques offered by

about the contribution international relations.

scholars of Africa. The article concludes with observations

of Africa to an interrogation of the various assumptions of

of liberalism, as well as an understanding of the

African

perspectives

on

Third,

it

acknowledges

Colonialism, Apartheid, and Framing the Debate

A fact that is

in Africa existed

Berlin Conference

European conquest and settlement. The colonial state, therefore, was very much a

African colonies were formed as territories of

rarely

mentioned in the literature is that colonialism

parallel to the development

of

1884-1885,

and imperialism

Following

the

of the canon of IR.

NKIWANE: Africa and InternationalRelations

281

creation of European history

Africans,

the wars of resistance against settler colonialism. From this

history

study of

international relations would become evident only decades later. In 1945 when the

United Nations organization

member-states, including the Republic

member-states from

during the 1960s. In 1948, the same year

Rights was signed, the National Party came to

of

apartheid policy of separate development and group

African population

four African founder member-states of the

apartheid international relations.

and its

discrimination

notorious

in South Africa on a platform

World War, emerged

four countries in Africa were

(UN) was formed, only

in Africa; a fact not lost

in the

upon

many

particularly throughout of violence and

imposition, especially

period following to the

the Second

a variety of responses whose significance

Africa, the majority of which gained

of white

privilege,

of South Africa.1At present there are 53 UN

their independence

the Universal Declaration of Human

power transformed into

the

disenfranchisement of the

of South Africa was one of the

legendary policies

and

ironic

of racial

study

in

the

protection

and

which

(Black, 1999). The Republic

make

it

UN,

an

interesting

The response of African scholars and

pan-Africanism. As

both

inward

politicians

looking,

This was in

to these anomalies was to

or

both

national

and

of

embrace

expression

continental

pan-

African

African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963.

relations,

the organization, it is

instructive that a commitment

African states (as well as Latin

American and Asian states) in the 1960s enabled them to use the principles and

established forums of international relations and

cause

attentive, now became the teacher. In 1963 the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial

ever

looms large. The growing numbers of independent

African nationalism in its

Mkandawire notes,

and

outward

was (Mkandawire, 1999: 32-37).

essence the nature of

Organization

Africanism. A pan-Africanist ethos enveloped

states as they gained

it is instructive to

108-111;

OAU,1992).

independence

the relations

and formed

between and among

the

In order to understand Africa's international

OAU (Clapham, 1996:

look at the Charter of the

guiding

Of the seven principles

to the

total liberation of the African continent

global

discourse to advance the

student,

for Africans. The

of

sovereignty and

self-determination

Discrimination was

passed in the UN General Assembly,

and came into force in

in

in 1969 when

1969. The Africa Group guided the General Assembly in

a crime

against humanity.

the

General Assembly recognized

This was

to

Resolution 2202A(xxi)

expanded

declaring apartheid

of self-

and

fundamental freedoms

self-determination turned on its head, and used by African countries to assert their

year, to ending white minority rule on the

right

the

determination

rights 1969). In effect this was

South African struggle as one

and majority rule, as well as a struggle for human

(Resolution 2506, 21 November

At the

OAU, during

the same

independence.

the Lusaka Manifesto

signed, committing the regional body continent.

was

During

spearhead the imposition of mandatory sanctions against

the 1960s and 1970s there were several

Council

attempts by

the African Group

through

to

the

veto of the

the

Punishment

South Africa

thwarted

by

UN

Security

adoption

(Klotz, 1996), attempts periodically

Kingdom,

and

Convention

triple

France.2 In 1974, following

and

of 30 November

on the

the

United States, the United

of

of the

the

International

Crime of Apartheid

suspended

the

Suppression

(Resolution 3068 [xxvIII]

Assembly.

the

1973), South Africa was

from the General

South Africa throughout

1970s systematically used

threat or application

282

InternationalPoliticalScienceReview22 (3)

of force, as well as economic sanctions, as policy instruments in the Southern

African region.

economic measures, was first elaborated

This model

of

aggression, encompassing

military and

by the establishment of a Constellation of

the then South African Prime Minister

both

Johannes Vorster, who in 1975

proposed

African States. P.W. Botha, who took over from Vorster in 1978,

the securityproblematic

minister, the policy of "total strategy."

expanded upon

in the sub-region by proposing in 1977, while still defense

was based on South Africa's claim of a "right to

intervene" in any African state south of the equator. This, of course, was part of

apartheid South Africa's flagrant violation of, and refusal to comply with, both

treaties and norms of international law.Between 1975 and 1985 the allocations for

defense rose

military incursions into and destabilization of South Africa's neighboring states,

including

increasing.

also

from 692 million rands to 4.27 billion rands, with

The concept of "total strategy"

dramatically,

Lesotho,

Mozambique,

Angola,

Botswana,

and

Zimbabwe

As a political response to both apartheid

South Africa and colonial rule in

spearheaded by Tanzania Zaire

southern Africa, the Frontline States were born in 1974,

and Zambia, but also

and Botswana. The 1975 fall of the

the regional balance of forces, with Angola and Mozambique

members of the Frontline States. This

Congo-Brazzaville South Africa to block the

economic dominance. The

consisting of Congo-Brazzaville,

Portuguese

colonial

also led to

(Congo-Kinshasa),

altered

regime drastically included as

the withdrawal of Zaire and

key

grouping, and an increased effort by

from the Frontline States

efforts of the sub-region

independence

and

of Zimbabwe in 1980, of Namibia in

to free itself from

political

1990, and the democratic election

of a South African government in 1994, finally

of the OAUliberation

altered

committee.

this regional balance, and led to the disbanding

Centrality of the Development

The

historically

of Ghana, in a famous paraphrase said, "Seek

things shall follow." Questions of poverty,

development,

concerning

economy in Africa. Is political control central to African governments' ability to

poverty? answer has been

"yes," and this in turn has posed questions. Many of these questions interrogate

its broadest sense, and examine the concept of neo-colonialism. The African

debate

adjustment

programmes (SAPs), as advocated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and

a "post-adjustment"period. of Western IRtheorists

from the

marriage of

penetration.

concern most

liberal market reform in Africa have faced a sustained

in Africa has outlined this

tackle issues of

Debate in African International

independence

of

on

post-colonial

the

and

Relations

significance

defined

of

political

African continent

post-apartheid

has

many aspects

relations.

Kwame Nkrumah, the first

ye the political kingdom,

president and all other

and underdevelopment

international

relations,

have always been central in the debates

more

specifically

international

political

by

the

the definition of

independence

question

of structural

position scholars is with

economic

regard to the and

political

From the point of view of many African scholars, the

a number of interesting

in

has been

best

exemplified

the World Bank, and whether Africa has reached

One of the most

point

the

problematic aspects

a variety

of

of the

of view of

propagation

of African

democracy to foreign

adjustment

The debate on structural

clearly. The advocates of

NKIWANE: Africa and InternationalRelations

283

challenge

mechanism"

(Olukoshi, 1999). been characterized to the movement

international financial institutions.

by Africans on the implications

to

operate

highly

of allowing an unfettered

vulnerable

"market

in

the 1980s and 1990s has

enforced constraint and market failure, which has led

the

and

dependent

economies

in

The sphere of economics throughout

by

both

towards a

post-adjustment discourse

in Africa and

The

current transnational neoliberal

for

democracy.

economic

offensive

African

open that Africa is

being designated as who are the

agents

which

state

particularly with

to

markets seeks to claim, in the face of

being prepared

choiceless democracies?

of market reform, and to whom are

international financial institutions have

intervention in Africa has been the

respect

the continent.

strong internal opposition,

countries, then,

Are African

(Mkandawire, 1999). In other words,

social, and

they responsible?

approached

subject

of much

The

the

hostility with

question

of

discussion,

to the economic,

political effects of structural

argument

adjustment on

that modernization theory failed

Fukuyama makes an unambiguous

development.

The

liberal

in the 1970s due to attacks from those he terms

"generic postmodernists," or

is a

welcome

between democracy and capitalism

underlying economists at a variety of levels.

centrality pragmatic perspective,

much of Africa. As Claude Ake notes, since the 1970s there have been some

of Africa that have declined so

established once and for all the notion of the

1995). Samir Amin has further argued that liberalization on the continent merely

reinforces

(Ake,

due to market reforms that they have

parts

dependency theorists (Fukuyama,

position, there is an assumed compatibility

1989). He further states that its

in much

been

challenged

argument

has

resurgence

theorists

In the liberal

has

of the literature; this

by African

been

assumption

and

thought

of

this

economic

challenged from a

throughout

after over two decades of liberal market reform

decisively

in

reversibility of development

unequal development

in

a mythical

Africa (Amin, 1996).

The

belief

market that will alleviate the African economic

contestation. There is no firm consensus

condition, therefore,

on the effects of liberal market reforms in Africa,

African perspective argues

African

perspective true the liberal

opportunities for mutual gain will of necessity be open to question.

is open to empirical

they

but a powerful and growing

only failed to improve the

this

cannot be overstated, because if

that these reforms have not

have

actually worsened

paradigm

it.

condition,

The

importance

of

as a criticism of the liberal

assumption

in international

relations of

open markets offering

African Perspectives

The liberal tradition in international

on Liberalism

in International

Relations

relations looks to individual

rights and

global Although much of liberalism is drawn from the realm

as fundamental to its of liberalism and the

history the West. notes four definitional

market-based economies, the

republican

relations,

individual welfare as the normative basis for international institutions and

exchange (Keohane, 1990).

of

ethos. As a European

examples from which it drawsare located largely in

economics, the political

Michael

realm is

increasingly represented

tradition, the

theoretical

Doyle,

characteristics. These are the

in his

description of liberal regimes,

presence of private

with

existence of external sovereignty, a citizenry

representative governments (Doyle, 1995).

juridical rights,

In the field of international

and

284

InternationalPoliticalScienceReview22 (3)

liberalism occupies a central

peaceful

competition and peaceful common marketization can lead to all round peace.

Liberalsalso make the argument that the democratic ethos can be used to

the limits or absence of makes a

goods and services. This exchange, liberals argue, along

and

prosperity.

Fukuyamapublished

explain

explanatory space

in the

in

outlining

how

war, particularly

post-cold-warperiod. Liberalism

of

open exchange with international rules

international peace and economic

History?", in which he argued viable

triumphed over any

powerful argument concerning the necessity for an

promotion of both

political

institutions, leads to the

In 1989 Francis

and

Hegelian thought,

of

"TheEnd of

liberalism had

that Western economic

systemic alternatives (Fukuyama, 1989). In this piece and later works, Fukuyama

draws from

point achieved in the modern democratization

self-esteem to the

which traces the

and

evolution of self-awareness and

has been

that

main

perfection, liberal democratic

and

consumer

which Fukuyama argues

society. Fukuyama have resolved the

contends

political contradictions over which,

to fight. With the fall of the communist

political identity have been eliminated in the sense that they

either

Fukuyama asks, reached the end of history?

capitalism

throughout history,

human beings have been

prepared

all rival forms of

bloc, he further

argues, have failed to

satisfy Have we not then,

the desire for wealth or the desire for freedom.

for international relations

theory. First, it implies that peace will be accessible to all nation-states willing to

reform. Indeed, this civil peace brought about by

undertake liberal democratic

liberalism, he argues, should logically have its counterpart in relations among

nation-states. The

proposition, positing

instead to fight undemocratic or illiberal regimes.

that democracies rarely if ever fight each other, tending

of this

Fukuyama's argument has important implications

"theory" of a democratic peace

has been the

outgrowth

The liberal perspective in international relations does not take Africa

examples

that

and

its

perspectives are regarded

and

lack

of

political

and

as

sub-SaharanAfrica has so economic

primarily

development

Bernard

Magubane

Western thought,

of

and

in

particular liberal thought,

Hegel

Africa. For example,

At

seriously.

of nuisance value. In

many

African

his "Second Thoughts," Fukuyama states, "

problems

overdetermined" (Fukuyama,1999:19).

seems

reminds us that much of the historical literature that has

an

influenced

uncritical ignorance

PhilosophyofHistory states,

this point

displays

in the Introductionto the

weleave Africa, not to mentionit again. Forit is no historical part

exhibit. Historical to the Asiatic or

part-belong Whatwe properly understand by Africais the unhistorical,

development to

of the

movement in it-that

European world

UnderdevelopedSpirit,

whichhad to be presented here as on the childhoodof the

The History of the WorldtravelsfromEastto West, for

end ofhistory;

added]).

world, it has no movement or

is in its northern

still involvedin the conditionsof mere nature, and

world's history

Europe is absolutely the

Asiathe beginning(quoted in Magubane, 1999:25 [myemphasis

disregard for Africa and African contributions in much of the liberal

tradition is, in my view, unfortunate. The assumption is made by many liberal

democracy in this assumption exposes

respect or consumer capitalism. The ignorance ingrained

theorists that Africahas little to contribute with

This

to either liberal

NKIWANE: Africa and InternationalRelations

285

liberalism not only to a vast

important international relations enhances the

breadth and depth of our theoretical and operational understanding, and offers

critique,

but leaves the theory untested in a variety of

circumstances. The African

from African scholars,

array of critiques, particularly

direct or indirect, of liberalism in

an important contribution to our interpretation

following sub-sections examine a number of these critiques.

of how nation-states relate. The

Whose Rights?

There have

respect to the question of "rights," recent history from

fundamental

historically in

rights

been a variety

rights

the

of important contributions from African scholars with

a centerpiece

of the liberal doctrine. The

colonized

were

excluded

The

by liberal theorists were applied

(Mamdani,

1999).

advocated

with

of European colonialism of the African continent offers a regime of

which

and freedoms

a racialized and exclusive manner in the African context,

liberalism virtually silent on this selective application.

Mamdani

further argues that after independence,

the defense of racial

privilege

could no

longer

be made in the

language

of

racism.Confronted by a deracialized state, racismnot only receded into civil

but also defended itself in the language of individual rights and

vocabulary of rightsrang

society

institutional autonomy. To the

hollow, a lullaby for perpetuating racial privilege(Mamdani, 1999: 193).

indigenous ears, the

Therefore the

question by decolonization; it

of

conceptually. that is used

rights

This is

of racialized privilege is not only an historical question

which liberalism does

eliminated

not address

language

the

discourse of justice

privilege is an important question for

the liberal discourse, because it asks, "Whose rights?" The in this

goes to the heart of the debate over remedies. If apartheid is understood, as the

then

liberal discourse would have us believe, as the denial of individual civil

in South Africa is interesting

regard, because the definition of apartheid

is a contemporary problem,

precisely

because it is

to

protect

the same discourse and

privilege.

In

(usually racialized)

of the

Mamdani's view, this has

in the

led to a separation

post-colonial

discourse of rights from

African context.

The question of historically accumulated

post-apartheid context

rights,

the restoration of

would

denial of collective socio-economic and

necessity

Truth

identified the individual

collective beneficiaries of apartheid,

these rights through

remedy.

If, on

the legislative elimination of discrimination

the other hand, apartheid

then a

is understood as a would of

remedy The South African

legacies. (TRC), in Mamdani's view for

may

be

example,

apartheid abuse, but failed to identify the

a more important question.3

point

towards a

political justice, need to examine the redress of these collective

and Reconciliation Commission

perpetrators of

which

Interpretationsof Democracy

Fukuyama in

construction,

the

elections

This narrow definition would include the

present day.

his

definition

of

democracy

outlines

an

extremely

formulaic

which defines democratic regimes as those that

equal

grant their people

right

to choose their

government through on the basis of universal and

periodic, secret-ballot, multiparty

adult

suffrage (Fukuyama, 1989). of African countries in the

vast majority

286

InternationalPoliticalScienceReview22 (3)

African scholars have led a debate on the substance of

meaningful and useful ways.

framework of liberal versus

democracy that deepens

This debate has been cast in

popular or radical democracy (Saul, 1997). There

primarilyby African scholars, to expand the

democratic space and to discuss democratic attributes in relation to social agents.

very illiberal,

Indeed, liberal

and there has been

reduced to the question of electoral politics alone.

the liberal construct in

the

has been an obvious need, identified

democracy in the African context has tended to be

recognition

forma

that the defense of democratic rights cannot be

democracy

that evokes little

In

As Richard Saunders argues in the case of Zimbabwe, the liberal democratic

enthusiasm

popular Zimbabweans (Saunders,

viewpoint

this case

arguing the Nigerian case, and

construct outlines a

pro and diminishes the active

participation of ordinary

in

1995). Claude Ake concurs with this

notes

democracy

that liberal

democracy then becomes a condition of

often

"democratic model" to

repudiates popular power. power (Ake, 1995).

The definition of democracy is more than

real-world

just a conceptual question. to the

pertaining

There are

export and therefore an

globe, becomes crucial. The

democracy debate on the African continent

of

very

the

interrogation of the substance and meaning of

devil indeed is in the details, and a

regarding

the

continuing

policy implications and consequences

countries throughout

the

this democratic substance is an

important contribution and critique of

liberal paradigm.

Challenging theDemocraticPeace

Liberalism claims to

assumption

preferences is highlighted

The logic of the new world order,

that there is a tendency for liberal regimes

tendency to define the liberal

promotion of democracy

Africa is rarely mentioned in the debate over whether democracies fight each

other, because it is asserted that there are no democracies in Africa. As

mentioned, not only is this untrue, but the entire notion of democracy is open to

of a democratic peace has been criticized on the

selective in

the way its proponents use to argue their cases,

Africa.

has not resolved

many of the contradictions in Africa, but has rather in many cases exacerbated

logic and this has led

of the

internal sociopolitical struggles, externalized in a variety of forms. The

new world order to

grounds

disputation. Although the theory

this criticism is not exclusive to

explain the systemic

outcomes of inter-state actions. The

of

the "democratic peace."

peace, argues as well as a

domestic

theories

that systemic

predictions in much of the literature on

can follow from

under the theory of a democratic

not to fight each other,

for liberal

regimes to fight

non-liberal regimes. This construct has come

cooperation through the

promise of international peace and

and democratic institutions.

already

that both

spread

historically

and in the

present day

this debate is

capitalism

very

The

of liberal

democracy

and consumer

necessarily disenfranchises the poorest regions, income

of socio-economic distribution,

an increasing

questions

distribution gap. On the African continent, the prospects

in its liberal sense, and more to

or a deepened understanding of

to countries that undertake liberal institutional reform

for peace, arguably, have less to do with democracy

do with

the democratic

question.

The promise of peace

has proven elusive on the African continent. The litmus test for democratic peace

to

theory

is

its ability to define its variablesin a comprehensive format, as opposed

NKIWANE: Africa and InternationalRelations

287

dismissing African countries as anomalies. In this sense the relationship between

political and economic reforms, as well as issues of distribution, must of necessity

be taken into account.

state in Africa is key in

this regard. Liberal scholars have here made a concession, in acknowledging that

liberalism

puts accommodates too

Keohane

As

and

A proper understanding

of the historical nature of the

or

liberalism

can have imperial consequences

it,

normatively

easily

ethos

can lead to imperial pursuits. is

"distressingly

plastic,"

to dominant interests seeking to use its institutional skills

to restructure them (Keohane,

is

of liberalism is

significant

in the sense that

a conservative project, and has had contentious

promotion

of

"good governance."

to improve the situation rather than fundamentally

1990: 192). This normative orientation