In This Review

Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village

Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village
By Daniel H. Deudney
384 pp, Princeton University Press, 2006

A long-awaited and truly brilliant book, "Bounding Power" presents nothing less than a major new vision of world politics -- while, along the way, reinterpreting the classic philosophical traditions in international relations, providing striking portraits of the evolving logic of order in major historical eras, and illuminating possible global futures. With its scope, imagination, and scholarly mastery of theory and history, it has few peers among the offerings of recent decades. Deudney reaches back into Western political thought to reconstruct what he calls "republican security theory," obscured by the dominance of contemporary realist and liberal schools, which are chiefly concerned with political arrangements that create security through the restraint of violent power. Out of this he constructs a "structural-materialist" theory of security institutions: as the technologies of violence grow in lethality and reach -- from the spear and the sword to gun powder and thermonuclear ballistic missiles -- the scope and the type of political restraints on violence also change; traditional answers to insecurity -- anarchy and hierarchy -- fail to provide adequate restraints. Just as Montesquieu and James Madison saw republics as polities with institutions designed to neutralize coercive rule through the dispersal of power and mutual restraint, Deudney argues that global governance institutions across history have followed a similar trajectory. Looking to the future, he sees the relentless globalization of violence creating incentives for new forms of governance -- unions, federations, communities -- that can protect liberty but also monitor and regulate insidious technologies of destruction. This book is not for the theoretical faint of heart -- and there is much in it to debate -- but few books on world politics have ever looked so searchingly at the past to see the future.