Summaries mandatory readings : Vital Interest exam
WHAT ARE VITAL INTERESTS? What states seeks to protect
- What = infrastructure, institutions human activities, lives and values, etc.
- States: authorities that have the power to make decisions about vital interests and
secure them In global context, governing authorities = states, organisations & actors
who have the power to make decisions about collective affairs
- Seeks = requires identification (framing) and intention (agenda-setting)
- Protect = an exercise of power; securing the ‘what’ against external threats through the
use of various policy tools
UNDERSTANDING VITAL INTERESTS : Key questions
- Power: Who defines vital interests?
- Security / protection: How are vital interests protected against external threats?
- Framing: How are interests framed (and by whom)?
- Agenda setting: How do vital interests become a priority for governments?
- Global governance: How to govern vital interests shared by a plurality of actors? How
do actors/state negotiate to defend their interests in global governance?
1.1 Ansell, Christopher (2019). The Protective State. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Chapter 1 Thou Shalt Protect
The States protective role has dramatically increased in the past half century. The protective
role is a social contract between state and society (Citizens expect protection). The protective
state is also international with the idea of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), where in states can
intervene to protect citizens from other states.
Welfare and protective states are overlapping concepts with some differences:
the protective state seeks to protect against discrete harms, accidents, hazards, threats, and
risks; the techniques are from reactive to protective. A state’s protective role is full of moral
ambiguity; states may infringe on liberties to protect citizens. Three broad features of
protective state politics are noted at the outset: (1) its debates about prevention, (2) its focus
on risk, (3) and its tendency to securitize issues.
Debates about prevention: the public expects states to prevent accidents. in reaction to failed
prevention, more prevention is proposed
Risk: the states focus on risk and how to respond to it. But by focusing on risks can lead to
overestimating the threats.
Security and securitization: threat as a potential but intentional harm.
Chapter 2 The rise of the protective state
Because of state building, states got the need to be more protective. States got bigger so they
needed to expand their influences on protection. It had multiple waves of protective state
First wave: disease prevention. And protective legislation to protect people
Second wave: states created more protections for its citizens
Third wave: environmental protection and more security protections
The Contemporary Transformation of the Protective State: risk society was replacing
industrial society; this led to a societal shift from equality to safety, risk society oriented
towards the future of risks.
Rising Expectations and Loss of Control: people became better in controlling risk; this led to
people taking bigger risks thus creating manufactured risks. This also led to the idea of fail-
safe societies which indicate that people think accidents should not happen.
The Policy State and the Expanding Role of Science: rise of protective state this was to
institutionalize concerns to protect citizens. The expansion of the policy state gave an
expanding role of science in policy making. Scientists can mobilize for polices.
Rights and Changing Social Structure: after WO2 human rights became a universal language.
Welfare, Regulation, and Crime: In advanced industrial nations, the regulatory state has
expanded in part in response to the privatization and the deregulation of markets. Ironically,
“freer markets” have led to “more rules”.
Consumerism: consumers are protected by the state.
Public Health: state started focusing more on public health after industrialization
Changing Security Demands, Terrorism, and Globalization: with different threats the public
focuses on different issues which leads to the state focusing on different things.
Chapter 3 The Political Dynamics of the Protective State
Demands for protection often start when the public notices a threat exist. Framing harms and
risk is central to the protective states. Some framing strategies: framing who to blame,
framing who is vulnerable. Public opinion is needed to see if a framing issue will succeed.
Advocacy and Policy Entrepreneurship: advocacy mobilization is an important source of
demands for state protection. Advocacy groups will need support from groups to state
protective issues. When mobilizing support for an issue advocacy groups try to link up
different issues. Advocacy may also build around existing policies, programs, and institutions
operating at different levels
Focusing Events and the Media: by dramatizing events can lead to state protection. Media has
two features to lead to wider attention;
(1) identifying dramatic events that look like a similar event,
(2) and have an easy explanation of known cases. Public opinion is often cynical.
Executive and Agency-Centered Political Mobilization: the executive branch of government
is expected to provide a rapid authoritative protective response. Agencies are responsible to
monitor and evaluate situations. They can ally with advocacy groups to advance states
Science, Experts, and Politics: Science and the politics of science play a large role in building
support for the protective state. science can state if protections are warranted.
1.2 Walt (2017) “Who is afraid of a balance of power?”, Foreign Policy
The concept of the Balance of power:
- Definition: there is no world government, so states need to protect themselves from
other states, worried states can try to seek alliances with each other if the face the same
Realists like Waltz, Morgenthau and Carr have discussed and conceptualised the Balance of
Power for centuries. The US foreign policy relies heavily on this concept. But policy makers
often forget that states (allies and adversaries alike) are not only shaped by their internal
characteristics (leaders) but also because of external characteristics (external threats).
This incompetence of US leadership often drives enemies closer together with other adversaries
which would not have happened if not for US foreign policy mistakes. In an extreme case of
the Balance of Power concept forming a balancing coalition might require a state to fight
alongside another country it previously regarded as an enemy. The collaboration between the
Soviet Union and the US/UK in the Second World War is an example of this.
Internal vs External characteristics
It can be problematic if you only assume that a state’s internal composition determines its
friends and enemies: