Power in practice: Negotiating the international intervention in Libya
Rebecca Adler-Nissen et Vincent Pouliot, "Power in practice: Negotiating the international intervention in Libya", dans European Journal of International Relations, vol. 20, n. 4, janvier 2014, p. 889-911.
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 International Relations 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 the 2011 international intervention in Libya. Through a detailed account of the negotiations at the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the European Union, 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 International Relations, demonstrating that, in practice, power also emerges locally from social contexts.