2021 – Lora Anne Viola
The 2021 prize was awarded to Lora Anne Viola, Freie Universität Berlin, for her book The Closure of the International System. How Institutions Create Political Equalities and Hierarchies (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
As global governance appears to become more inclusive and democratic, many scholars argue that international institutions act as motors of expansion and democratization. The Closure of the International System challenges this view, arguing that the history of the international system is a series of institutional closures, in which institutions such as diplomacy, international law, and international organizations make rules to legitimate the inclusion of some actors and the exclusion of others.
While international institutions facilitate collective action and common goods, Viola’s closure thesis demonstrates how these gains are achieved by limiting access to rights and resources, creating a stratified system of political equals and unequals. The coexistence of equality and hierarchy is a constitutive feature of the international system and its institutions. This tension is relevant today as multilateral institutions are challenged by disaffected citizens, non-Western powers, and established great powers discontent with the distribution of political rights and authority.
Our jury noted the outstanding account of statehood and international organisations, and the global perspective and multiple themes that resonated with the legacy of Hedley Bull while retaining a contemporary relevance for students of global governance. The panel acknowledged the book’s innovative approach towards the core idea of war and peace as mutually constitutive, and the comprehensive approach adopted by the author to take account of institutions, states, and different actors in the global governance system.
In light of this year's award having been presented to Lora virtually, we have created a short video to capture this special moment.
2020 – George Lawson
The 2020 Prize was awarded to George Lawson, Australian National University, for his book Anatomies of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2019).
George's book offers a novel account of how revolutions begin, unfold and end. By combining insights from international relations, sociology, and global history. It outlines the benefits of a 'global historical sociology' of revolutionary change, one in which international processes take centre stage. Featuring a wide range of cases from across modern world history, this is a comprehensive account of one of the world's most important processes. It will interest students and scholars studying revolutions, political conflict and contentious politics in sociology, politics and international relations.
Our jury noted that the book provides a nuanced and lively account of the history and theory of revolutions, introducing important and surprising comparisons across time and historical space. It is a timely reminder that the concept of revolution is still crucial for making sense of the language of political upheavals, clearly showing the continuing relevance of historical and history-of-ideas studies in international relations and political science in general.
2019 – Arjun Chowdhury
The 2019 Prize was awarded to Arjun Chowdhury, University of British Columbia, for his book The Myth of International Order: Why Weak States persist and alternatives to the state fade away (OUP 2018).
Arjun’s book challenges some of the core tenets of international relations theory and makes an important contribution to the literature. He develops his discussion around two questions:
What has the modern state been consistently incapable of fulfilling its fundamental tasks?
Why, despite this incapability, does the state, and not some alternative institution, remain the central unit of world politics?
Arjun questions the accepted view of international order as emanating from the agency of strong states and their capacity for war-making as well as public goods. Instead, he proposes an explanation for why most states in the international system are weak and self-undermining. The Myth of International Order provides a macro-revision of key domestic and international explanatory theories of state formation and international system development, and it offers an array of empirical implications for small and large states as well as colonial and post-colonial states.
Our jury noted that the book is written in a lively and eloquent style, full of wit and a feel for the right anecdote to illustrate a general point, and an ease with which cultural and anthropological knowledge is integrated in a general theory of international relations that amply justifies a prize in the political science of international relations.
2018 – Simon Curtis
The 2018 Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations was awarded to Simon Curtis for his book Global Cities and Global Order (OUP 2016).
The re-emergence of the city from the long shadow of the state in the late twentieth century was facilitated by the state itself. The unprecedented size and scale of today's global cities and mega cities owe their conditions of possibility to a fundamental shift in the character of political order at the level of the international system. This book argues that we must understand the rise of the global city as part of a wider process of the transformation of international political order, and of the character of international society.
From our prize Jury: 'Simon’s book investigates the growing importance of global cities in international politics. Taking a longue durée approach, it shows how the rise of the global city is part of a wider process of global transformations in the state and the international system. Drawing on different strands of academic literature – notably urban studies, political geography and international relations – this book represents a long-overdue contribution on the crucial role of cities in the contemporary global political order, and it provides new avenues for further research on the link between cities and states in contemporary global governance.’
2017 – Vincent Pouliot
Vincent Pouliot of McGill University was awarded the first Hedley Bull Prize in International Relations, for his book International Pecking Orders: The Politics and Practice of Multi-lateral Diplomacy (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
In any multilateral setting, some state representatives weigh much more heavily than others. Practitioners often refer to this form of diplomatic hierarchy as the 'international pecking order'. This book is a study of international hierarchy in practice, as it emerges out of the multilateral diplomatic process. Building on the social theories of Erving Goffman and Pierre Bourdieu, it argues that diplomacy produces inequality. Delving into the politics and inner dynamics of NATO and the UN as case studies, Vincent Pouliot shows that pecking orders are eminently complex social forms: contingent yet durable; constraining but also full of agency; operating at different levels, depending on issues; and defined in significant part locally, in and through the practice of multilateral diplomacy.
From our prize Jury: 'Pouliot's book provides a critical engagement with contemporary diplomacy in the context of inequality in international political life. Using a theoretical approach that builds on social theories, it reveals the hierarchical structuring and social practices that pervade multilateral diplomacy. In his empirical analysis of the politics of diplomacy in NATO and the UN, Pouliot shows that international pecking orders are complex social forms that the anarchy principle may not fully capture. His work opens up a new research agenda for the scholarly community.'