Friday, August 19, 2016

Venzke: Cracking the Frame? On the Prospects of Change in a World of Struggle

Ingo Venzke (Univ. of Amsterdam - Law) has posted Cracking the Frame? On the Prospects of Change in a World of Struggle (European Journal of International Law, forthcoming). Here's the abstract:
Critical scholarship classically lays bare the assumptions and choices that people make when they argue. By displaying the consequences of those assumptions and choices, it seeks to instil a sense of responsibility for them. Drawing them out into the open, critical scholarship presents them for contestation, unsettles them, and opens them up for change. In his latest book, A World of Struggle, David Kennedy directs our attention to the background work of expertise – how it rules through arguments, how it shapes the global political economy and how it sustains unjust distributions of gains. Kennedy offers a warm invitation to join the struggle to imagine and remake the world differently. In the present review, I discuss this invitation’s specific appeal. More generally, I ask about the prospects of change in international law as well as the activities that might support such change. I argue, first, that carving out background assumptions and choices is not enough. What is needed is an account of transitions – something that Kennedy acknowledges but does not provide. Second, I approach the vexed question of who could effectively crack existing frames – a question that Kennedy ducks. And, third, I discuss the role of violence, rhetoric and reason in the argumentative practice of expert work – distinctions that Kennedy refutes. I am ultimately happy to accept Kennedy’s invitation. It surely comes with immense acuity, subtle side blows and not so subtle punches – always in his signature style. I conclude that, with the aim of inducing change, a core activity of scholars should be to trace changes in concrete contexts and to thereby regain a sense for the possibilities of the past.