Reshaping Power, Shifting Boundaries

In a globalising world, everywhere power is being reconfigured, creating opportunities for change:

  • New players are emerging on the world stage, reflected in G-20, the ‘BRICs’ and in North-South relations.
  • Climate change and the financial crisis have altered global dynamics.
  • Transnational governance is taking on new forms, such as the reformed EU and Mercosur.
  • Within states, there is increased devolution and the recognition of sub-identities.
  • State functions are increasingly being shared with non-state actors such as corporations and non-governmental organisations and are affected by the dynamics of an international society.
  • Substantial changes are taking place in social life including gender roles and the nature of the family.
  • Religious cleavages refuse to disappear, and may be evolving into a major axis of political and social conflict.
  • The Westphalian model of inter-state relations is not sufficient to cope with the challenges of global governance.   This emphasises the importance of the dialogue between political science and international relations.

The nation-state remains the key crucible of power in terms of elections, public policy and in international negotiations, but it faces new challenges.  Territory and power no longer align.  Boundaries and borders are shifting. 

Boundaries can be geographical, social, cultural, religious or economic.  We need to understand how they are created and interpreted.   Every boundary is an expression and exercise of power and this raises normative issues, particularly those relating to justice and the divisions between public and private and at the global level between North-South and South-South relations.   The debate about the centrality of trust in social and political life has been reactivated.

How we frame these issues depends in part on our disciplinary assumptions and methodologies.  We need to think again about how to conceptualise power, for example in terms of legitimacy, sovereignty or questions of global governance/locality.  Boundaries within our discipline and with other disciplines are shifting. Space and scale are becoming increasingly important in the thinking of political science. What other tools or multi-method approaches do we need to respond to these changes?    Political science can play an important role in informing the choices that come with the reshaping of power.

The main congress themes are:

We invite you to share your research on the reshaping of power and shifting boundaries at the World Congress of the International Political Science Association, in Madrid 2012.

 

Our Local Sponsors