Power in Concert: The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Global Governance

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How states cooperate in the absence of a sovereign power is a perennial question in international relations. With Power in Concert, Jennifer Mitzen argues that global governance is more than just the cooperation of states under anarchy: it is the formation and maintenance of collective intentions, or joint commitments among states to address problems together. The key mechanism through which these intentions are sustained is face-to-face diplomacy, which keeps states’ obligations to one another salient and helps them solve problems on a day-to-day basis.

Mitzen argues that the origins of this practice lie in the Concert of Europe, an informal agreement among five European states in the wake of the Napoleonic wars to reduce the possibility of recurrence, which first institutionalized the practice of jointly managing the balance of power. Through the Concert’s many successes, she shows that the words and actions of state leaders in public forums contributed to collective self-restraint and a commitment to problem solving—and at a time when communication was considerably more difficult than it is today. Despite the Concert’s eventual breakdown, the practice it introduced—of face to face diplomacy as a mode of joint problem solving—survived and is the basis of global governance today.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Mitzen is associate professor of political science at Ohio State University.

Review:

Power in Concert offers a sophisticated theoretical argument about the origins of international cooperation and speaks to some of the liveliest and most important debates in the field—debates about sources of international cooperation and changing state interests and strategies. Jennifer Mitzen has written an important book that will have far-reaching implications in international relations and the study of global governance.”
(Martha Finnemore, George Washington University)

“Jennifer Mitzen has written an essential book in International Relations (IR) theory, which will change the way we think about the power of words and international authority. While the book’s specific theoretical subject is the emergence of global governance during the Concert of Europe, Mitzen’s theory on the establishment of international public power by collective intentionality and talk in public forums is generalizable to other times, places, and subjects. The theory not only challenges and complements liberal, constructivist, and English school IR theories, but also suggests how to build bridges between these approaches.”
(Emanuel Adler, University of Toronto)

Power in Concert is the best sort of scholarship. It makes a bold, original, theoretical statement, convincingly arguing that global governance can be a product of a ‘visible hand’ that is characterized by collective intentionality, a public purpose, and a reasoning disciplined by a public. It is clearly written and demonstrates, historically, why the Concert of Europe, one of the world’s first instances of global governance, can be fruitfully approached with this alternative lens. And, critically, it shows the power of the argument to illuminate not just history, but also the present. Highly recommended for scholars of international relations theory and all students of global governance.”
(Michael Barnett, author of Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism)

“Mitzen argues in her superb book that peace may very well be attainable through international institutions. . . . Her argument unveils a new mechanism by which states cooperate, namely the pursuit of a common goal to which all cooperating states commit themselves and which becomes effective through public discourse. . . . Mitzen's book represents the best among current international relations scholarship: a key question is directly addressed, an innovative theory is proposed, and the theory is persuasively and elegantly defended, while remaining, despite the argument's complexity, accessible to a wide audience. . . . Highly recommended.” (Choice 2014-10-21)

"Power in Concert contain[s] important insights into a key period in the formation of modern international order, introducing themes that will be of wide-ranging interest: the rights and wrongs of intervention, the legalized hegemony that lies at the heart of international governance, dynamics of revolution and counter-revolution, and more. In this way, [the book] shine[s] a light on a theme that should be fundamental to IR, but which receives relatively scant scholarly attention: the extent to which IR’s principal dynamics were forged within the nineteenth-century ‘global transformation.’” (George Lawson, London School of Economics and Political Science H-DIPLO | ISSF 2015-02-02)

"Power in Concert aims to extend our understanding of the core role of states and their intentionality in global governance and to 'push back' against the heavy influence of neoliberal thinking in IR scholarship about it. Although at first glance, Mitzen’s book might appear to be yet another study of the Vienna Settlement of 1815 and the Concert of Europe, it is something else altogether. Mitzen has coupled a careful re-examination and analysis of historical accounts with a sophisticated use of the IR literature about collective intentionality to construct her argument about the centrality of concerted international public power to governance. . . . Whereas much of today’s global-governance literature downplays the role of states and the value of forums, Mitzen’s book emphasizes the importance of the international public power that only states can create together." (Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2015-02-16)

“Mitzen is right to draw attention to the importance, and the potential, of joint intentionality and of “forum effects” for international politics, and does an excellent job analyzing them.” (Ethics and International Affairs 2015-04-06)

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