Searching for the Princess?

By Tickner, Ann J. | Harvard International Review, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

Searching for the Princess?


Tickner, Ann J., Harvard International Review


Abstract:

Princesses are scarce both in the discipline of international relations and in the realm of international politics. Princes, however, abound. For example, Machiavelli's Prince is enshrined in the canon of the field. The Prince tells how states and their princes ought to behave if their foreign politics are to be successful. There are no princesses in Machiavelli's text, but Fortuna is described as a woman whom it is necessary to beat and coerce into submission. A brief review of the development of international relations is presented; then, thoughts are offered as to why the field has been so resistant to gender analysis and what is likely to be seen when the field is looked at through feminist lenses. Finally, it is asked whether the future task of feminist perspectives on international relations should include looking for princesses.

Text:

Feminist Perspectives in International Relations

Princesses are scarce both in the discipline of international relations and in the realm of international politics. Princes, however, abound. For example, Machiavelli's Prince is enshrined in the canons of the field: The Prince tells us how states and their princes ought to behave if their foreign policies are to be successful. Machiavelli warns us that the way to lose one's state is to neglect the art of war. The prince must demonstrate courage, sobriety, and strength, for the only enduring methods of defense are those based on one's own action. Yet, as princes strive for power and control, dangers in the cruise of Fortuna abound: random events that Machiavelli compares to violent rivers, which show their unpredictability and destructive capacities when there is no well-regulated power to resist them.

There are no princesses in Machiavelli's text, but Fortuna is described as a woman whom it is necessary to beat and coerce into submission. In contemporary international relations, dangers similar to Machiavelli's Fortuna are found in the realm of anarchy-spaces outside the sovereign state where force is the ultimate arbiter of disputes, Anarchy is frequently compared to Thomas Hobbes's pre-contractual state of nature where men exist in a state of war. For Hobbes the solution was the might, Leviathan, a prince endowed with the sovereign power necessary for subduing dangerous environments. For scholars of contemporary international relations, possible solutions to the dangers of international anarchy can be found in either a hierarchy of states or a balance of power.

I will come back to the gendered implications of these representations of the anarchy-order distinction and the policies necessary for state survival later. I will now proceed to a brief review of the development of the discipline of international relations: then I will offer some thoughts as to why the field has been so resistant to gender analysis and what we are likely to see when we look at the field through feminist lenses. Finally, I will ask whether the future task Of feminist perspectives oil international relations should include looking for princesses.

Evolution of Global Politics

In its formative years, the discipline of international relations was concerned with the prevention of war through the development of international institutions. Woodrow Wilson's belief in democracy as a model for the conduct of diplomacy was epitomized in his Fourteen Points put forward near the end of World War 1. However, in 1939, the hopes for the restraining influence of international law and democracy were shattered by another more terrible war. Kantian internationalists were replaced by self-named realists who, like Machiavelli's Prince, advised that only through power projection, military preparedness, and self-help could state survival be assured. Realists labeled their predecessors, idealists in their view, misguided individuals who believed in the possibility of human improvement and law-governed behavior in the international system. …

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