Leadership in Question

The foreign policy of Brazil, India, and South Africa is no longer determined by the respective central governments alone. GIGA researcher Johannes Plagemann has investigated how the importance of regional and transnational actors is increasing.

In September 2011, the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), a regional party in India, blocked an agreement with neighbouring Bangladesh that had already been agreed upon by the government coalition. In Brazil and South Africa, sub- and non-state actors are also playing an increasingly important role. In all three emerging powers, the understanding of national sovereignty has changed over the course of the last two decades: from centralism to pluralism and from sovereignty as autonomy to sovereignty as a positive understanding of interdependence. Simultaneously, the governments of these states have been trying to maintain the appearance of unimpeded national sovereignty.

In his book Cosmopolitanism in a Multipolar World, Johannes Plagemann terms this phenomenon “soft sovereignty”: increasingly, regional parties, transnationally networked NGOs, businesses, and traditional associations are shaping policy areas that were previously monopolised by the state. They are thus calling into question the state’s claims to leadership. Johannes Plagemann investigates the thesis that the networked individual is gaining in importance in the globalised world. He examines the extent to which this is impacting those states that are simultaneously gaining weight in the increasingly multipolar sphere of global politics.

“Soft sovereignty,” Plagemann says, “captures a cosmopolitanism that is pluralist and moderate and that also recognises the importance of national communities to the formation and realisation of cosmopolitan ideas.” Dr. Johannes Plagemann is a research fellow at the GIGA Institute for Asian Studies. His work focuses on Indian foreign policy and the consequences that the rise of “new powers” has for the legitimacy of international institutions.

The book can be ordered here.

Johannes Plagemann Cosmopolitanism in a Multipolar World: Soft Sovereignty in Democratic Regional Powers Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015


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