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Protean Power
Exploring the Uncertain and Unexpected in World Politics

$26.00 USD

Part of Cambridge Studies in International Relations

Lucia A. Seybert, Peter J. Katzenstein, Christian Reus-Smit, Phillip Ayoub, Noelle K. Brigden, Peter Andreas, Rawi Abdelal, Erin Lockwood, Stephen Nelson, Barak Mendelsohn, Jennifer Erickson, Jessica Green
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  • Date Published: July 2018
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781108651127

$ 26.00 USD
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About the Authors
  • Mainstream international relations continues to assume that the world is governed by calculable risk based on estimates of power, despite repeatedly being surprised by unexpected change. This ground breaking work departs from existing definitions of power that focus on the actors' evolving ability to exercise control in situations of calculable risk. It introduces the concept of 'protean power', which focuses on the actors' agility as they adapt to situations of uncertainty. Protean Power uses twelve real world case studies to examine how the dynamics of protean and control power can be tracked in the relations among different state and non-state actors, operating in diverse sites, stretching from local to global, in both times of relative normalcy and moments of crisis. Katzenstein and Seybert argue for a new approach to international relations, where the inclusion of protean power in our analytical models helps in accounting for unforeseen changes in world politics.

    • Introduces the concept of 'protean power' to help scholars of international relations better understand responses to unexpected change in world politics
    • Distinguishes 'protean power' as the agile reaction to uncertainty, from the conventional notion of 'control power' that focuses on risk calculation
    • Includes twelve real-world case studies to illustrate and analyse the ways in which these power dynamics interact
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Protean Power is the most important statement on power in international relations in over a decade. Ambitious, creative, and analytical, it sets out a new agenda for imagining how power operates in world politics. The authors make a compelling case that power can be divided between protean and control. Control power dominates much thinking in international relations, with the presumption that one actor forces another to do something against its will. Protean power highlights the improvisational and creative responses to conditions of uncertainty. This distinction directs attention to the uncertainties and social capacities that provide a stage for actors to creatively engage the world and in ways that have the unintended effects of transforming it; the possibility of agency for even the weakest actors; the imperative to distinguish more fully between 'power to' and 'power over'; how, when, and why control power is sandwiched by protean power; and how protean power itself can scramble existing social relations and usurp control power. A masterful volume that not only hits the 'reset' on discussions of power in international relations theory, but also helps us understand the bewildering and unanticipated changes that have occurred over the last half-century.' Michael Barnett, George Washington University, Washington DC

    'In a world where uncertainty permeates the most important policy and theoretical questions, this book is indispensable. The authors take us to the heart of 'protean' power. Decisions based on planning for risk differ from decisions based on managing uncertainty. If you've not thought about the difference, this book will help you through that process. It has theory and cases. A vital read for everyone.' Peter Gourevitch, University of California, San Diego

    'Katzenstein and Seybert argue convincingly that power should not be viewed only in terms of control under conditions of risk. World politics is also a realm of uncertainty, in which 'agile innovation' generates important effects. Protean Power is an important contribution to international relations theory.' Robert O. Keohane, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University, New Jersey

    'This important book expands not only our theories of power, but also our understanding of America's future in the world.' Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University, Massachusetts

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2018
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781108651127
    • contains: 1 b/w illus. 5 tables
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Theory and Evidence:
    1. Protean power and control power: conceptual analysis Lucia A. Seybert and Peter J. Katzenstein
    2. Uncertainty, risk, power and the limits of international relations theory Peter J. Katzenstein and Lucia A. Seybert
    Part II. Protean Power: Embracing Uncertainty:
    3. Protean power and revolutions in rights Christian Reus-Smit
    4. Protean power in movement: navigating uncertainty in the LGBT rights revolution Phillip Ayoub
    5. Border collision: power dynamics of enforcement and evasion across the US–Mexico line Noelle K. Brigden and Peter Andreas
    6. High tech: power and unpredictability at the technological frontier and in Bitcoin Lucia A. Seybert and Peter J. Katzenstein
    Part III. Mixed Worlds: Agility Meets Ability:
    7. Firms in firmament: hydrocarbons and the circulation of power Rawi Abdelal
    8. Incomplete control: the circulation of power in finance Erin Lockwood and Stephen Nelson
    9. Terrorism and protean power: how terrorists navigate uncertainty Barak Mendelsohn
    10. Slumdog versus Superman: uncertainty, innovation and the circulation of power in the global film industry Lucia A. Seybert, Stephen Nelson and Peter J. Katzenstein
    Part IV. Protean Power between Risk and Uncertainty:
    11. Changing history?: Innovation and continuity in contemporary arms control Jennifer Erickson
    12. From Green to REDD: protean power and the politics of carbon sinks Jessica Green
    Part V. Conclusion:
    13. Power complexities and political theory Peter J. Katzenstein and Lucia A. Seybert.

  • Editors

    Peter J. Katzenstein, Cornell University, New York
    Peter J. Katzenstein has served as President of the American Political Science Association and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy.  He has been the recipient of the Helen Dwight Reid Award, the Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in the United States on international affairs and the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize as well as five honorary degrees of European and Chinese universities. He has taught at Cornell for over forty years.

    Lucia A. Seybert, American University, Washington DC
    Lucia A. Seybert is a Professorial Lecturer at American University, School of International Service. She is a former Title VIII Research Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a recipient of a number of research grants and fellowships, including from the American Council of Learned Societies.


    Lucia A. Seybert, Peter J. Katzenstein, Christian Reus-Smit, Phillip Ayoub, Noelle K. Brigden, Peter Andreas, Rawi Abdelal, Erin Lockwood, Stephen Nelson, Barak Mendelsohn, Jennifer Erickson, Jessica Green

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