Alexander D. Barder, Empire Within: International Hierarchy and its Imperial Laboratories of Governance

Date01 January 2022
Published date01 January 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
International Studies
59 (1) 99 –102, 2022
© 2022 Jawaharlal Nehru University
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DOI: 10.1177/00208817211060913
Book Review
Alexander D. Barder, Empire Within: International Hierarchy and its
Imperial Laboratories of Governance (Routledge, 2015), £34.39, xiv+163
pp. ISBN: 9780815377184
Many scholarly texts in the field of international relations have been published in
recent years to show that inter-state relations remain hierarchical rather than
anarchic (see, Lake, 2009; Zarakol, 2017). However, these texts focused on the
importance of dominant norms in establishing, maintaining and legitimizing
hierarchical relationships while ignoring how these norms (i.e., hierarchy)
influence the hegemonic powers’ domestic policy. In other words, certain
approaches to international hierarchy theorizing disregard the historical and
present imbrications, feedbacks and reverberations of political, social, and
institutional norms and behaviours that were/are tested in what were/are the (neo)
imperial labs that form the primary site of the global order.
Empire Within: International Hierarchy and its Imperial Laboratories of
Governance, investigates how international hierarchies (as either imperialism or
hegemonic) affect the internal policies of hegemonic powers (it means the spread
of hierarchies). In this book, Alexander Barder seeks the answer to the following
question: ‘In what ways does the practice of empire or hegemony reflect within
domestic state institutions, culture, or ways of thinking? How can we understand
the effects that the practices of international imperial relations have upon the
domestic space?’ (p. 1).
To answer this question, Barder (2015, 5–6, 53) develops the following two
The idea that imperial spaces were sites of creative experimentation to transform the
socio-political environment of both metropole and periphery is critical for
understanding the circulation of norms, practices, knowledge, and culture.
Hierarchical relations (specifically, colonial or hegemonic relations) are important
circuits for the multidirectional flow of government norms, practices, and
technologies. These governance norms, traditions, and innovations originate from
colonial labs that innovate new modes of violence, social regulation, and, more
broadly, disciplinary practices. In this context, these emerging modes of coercion,
social control, and disciplinary action are critical to comprehending how
contemporary Western states arise and rule.
Barder criticizes European-centered hieararchy texts in two aspects. First, early
hierarchy studies do not clarify the effect of hierarchy on the ruling state’s

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