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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Logo der Einrichtung

Thomas Müller

The Anarchical Society and Its Government: The Great Powers and Rightful Rule in the World Political System

Great powers are ascribed a special responsibility for ensuring order and peace within international society both by the great powers themselves as well as by other members of international society at least since the Congress of Vienna 1815. This responsibility implies a socially recognised - and not solely coercively imposed - privileged status to act in concert on behalf of international society (e.g. permanent membership and veto-power in the UN Security Council). The prevailing narrative of great power struggle fails to acknowledge the political dimension of this status: its resemblance to a form of legitimate, hierarchical rule. The dissertation therefore asks: To what extent does the special status assigned to great powers constitute a form of legitimate rule in the world political system and how has this rule been exercised?
Drawing on Max Weber's notion of legitimate rule and the English School's account of great powers, a three-dimensional analytical framework will be developed which differentiates between (a) a constitutive legitimacy structure ("rightful rule" as part of the un-written constitution of international society), (b) the institutional forms and practices of great power systems and (c) the respective environments (that is, international society and the world political system). This analytical framework will be applied in a case-based historical comparison to the three forms of great power rule that have been established with varying success since the Congress of Vienna: (1) the Concert of Europe, (2) the League of Nations, and (3) the United Nations.
Specifically, the dissertation traces the contingent evolution of the great power status and its legitimacy (using conceptual history and discourse analysis) and scrutinizes the ways in which these three great power systems institutionalised legitimate rule (using structured, focused comparison and ideal-typification). The dissertation thus aims at contributing to a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the role of great powers and legitimate rule in the world political system both in the field of International Relations and the field of International History.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Mathias Albert

Curriculum Vitae

Since 10/2011
Doctoral Student at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (Bielefeld University)
10/2005 - 07/2011
Master in Political Sciences (with Modern History, Communication and Mass Media) at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, degree: Magister Artium (with Distinction)
04/2010 - 08/2011
Student Assistant at the Chair in International Politics and Conflict Studies, Prof. Dr. Stephan Stetter, UniBW Munich
01/2010 - 03/2010
Internship at the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Deutscher Bundestag, Berlin
10/2009 - 12/2009
Internship at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK), Frankfurt/Main
02/2009 - 09/2009
Student Assistant at the Chair in International Politics and Conflict Studies, Prof. Dr. Stephan Stetter, UniBW Munich
10/2007 - 06/2008
Academic Year at Sciences Po Paris (Erasmus Programme), Certificate with Distinction

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