Interventionism as Practice: On 'Ordinary Transgressions' and their Routinization

Christian Olsson
2015 Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding  
In this article, the aim is to bridge the gap in the international relations (IR) literature on contemporary interventionism between a strand of research mainly focusing on the concepts of intervention, sovereignty and their meanings, and a strand more interested in the particular practices bound up with the phenomenon described as 'intervention'. This is done by exploring how the literature on the so-called 'practice-turn' might allow light to be shed on both dimensions. Such an approach might
more » ... prove fruitful provided attention is paid both to the material and discursive practices of interventionism; both to the transgressive practices constitutive of interventionism and their routinization. Finally, this piece also introduces each of this special section's contributions by showing how they illustrate and expand on the different problématiques here outlined. When international relations (IR) theorists say that a state is 'intervening' (or 'doing' anything), they are using a convenient yet simplifying shortcut to social reality. As a legal entity the state cannot be seen to be 'doing' anything in the concrete and embodied sense of the term. If we want to clear our empirical observations of pre-conceived metaphysical concepts, we should rather say that a specific set of (state) agents are doing something, or rather many different things, thus collectively performing what we, under specific circumstances, might call 'intervention'. It would, however, be equally misleading to give ontological primacy to the abovementioned agents. They are not the demiurgical creators of their 'doings'. When state professionals act, they are enacting and acting out a set of behavioural patterns that largely precede and transcend them: their 'doings' are 'historic and collective acts' (Balzacq et al. 2010, 2). How can their actions and behaviour then be accounted for without somehow personifying the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 2015 http://dx.
doi:10.1080/17502977.2015.1089664 fatcat:ph47fms2brhprn6gpqqn2dqq2q