In This Review

A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Expertise Shape Global Political Economy
A World of Struggle: How Power, Law, and Expertise Shape Global Political Economy
By David Kennedy
Princeton University Press, 2016, 312 pp
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Accounts of global politics are usually organized around time periods of settled order, during which powerful states laid down rules and established institutions. In this illuminating study, Kennedy tells a different story, in which contemporary international relations play out as a continuous struggle between technocratic elites around the world, in which nothing is ever settled and everything is negotiable. Technocrats have not supplanted powerful states and capitalist interests at the top of the global power hierarchy, but their rise has changed how the major players maneuver for advantage. Kennedy focuses on the “knowledge work” of experts in areas such as development, human rights, and national security. He is particularly interested in international law, which seeks to enshrine universal rights and protections but, as Kennedy points out, also plays a role in legitimating power and entrenching influence. In Kennedy’s portrait of the world, geopolitics, nationalism, and grand ideological projects disappear into a thousand points of contention. And with lawyers and experts firmly tied to existing power structures, it is unclear what means exist for genuine reform.