War as a Duel. The Two meanings of reciprocity

Departmental Seminar
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Room 309
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 3:30pm
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Chair: Matteo Fumagalli, IRES

The seminar will address the general topic of limited war, by focusing on three archetypical solutions (epitomized by three archetypical traditions); that no limits on violence are possible in an anarchic condition (Hobbes); that actual limits usually result from such material factors as the “magic circle” of technologies, the subordination to politics, and strategic interaction (Clausewitz); that further limits can arise from explicit conventions among actors (Aron, Bull, Schmitt).

The brakes on violence, which the last two solutions underline, correspond to the two fundamental factors of order in international relations; power and institutions. Power does not require the existence of a social network among actors; indeed, it may also act among actors who do not share anything and perceive one another as perfect strangers, while having only isolated contacts with each other (i.e. actors who do not even make up a system); or it may act on actors who are forced to have mutual relations but, at the same time, do not mutually acknowledge their rights (i.e. actors who make up a system, but not yet a society). Institutions, on the contrary, require the actors to feel themselves involved in a somewhat common context, even though they are not oblivious of the way power is distributed. While power can also dictate its «structural constraints» in spite of the absence of any agreement among the parties, institutions at least require the parties to agree that war ought not to damage or disrupt their future relations. However, both from the perspective of power and the perspective of institutions, a common condition is required for war to be limited, that is to say, reciprocity. On the one hand, reciprocity means that each party cannot act independently of the will and the capacity of the other. On the other hand, it further means that both are willing to recognize the same right in one another.

Alessandro Colombo graduated in 1985 in Law and in 1989 in Political Sciences at the University of Milan and got the PhD in International Relations from the University of Padova (1995). He is full professor of International Relations at the University of Milan since 2006, as well as Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Observatory on “Security and Strategic Studies” at the Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (Ispi). He has published books, chapters and articles in several areas, including security studies, theory of alliances, transatlantic relations, and the European tradition of International Relations Theory.

His recent research interests are focused on geopolitics and the geopolitical changes of the international context, the continuities and discontinuities in US Grand strategy, the changing form of armed conflicts, classical realism, Italian foreign policy and its constant relationship with Italian domestic fragilities.