This book complements extant histories of diplomacy by discussing change in the form of tipping-points, understood as the culmination of long-term trends. The first part of the book discusses social evolution on the general level of institutions. The diplomatic institution has undergone four tipping-points: between culturally similar small-scale polities, between culturally different large-scale polities, permanent bilateral diplomacy, and permanent multilateral diplomacy. The consular institution has seen three: the emergence of the consul as the judge of a trading colony, the judge as a representative of the state, and the imbrication of the consular institution in unitary foreign services. The second part challenges extant literature’s treatment of diplomacy as a textual affair and an elite concern. It lays down the groundwork for the study of visual diplomacy by establishing diplomacy’s visual genres, discussing how diplomats spread images to wider audiences and drawing up a taxonomy of three visual strategies used for this purpose: a hegemonic and Western strategy, a national strategy, and a strategy that is spiteful of Western hegemony. Two case studies discuss the evolving place of the visual in one diplomatic practice, namely accreditation, and the importance of the social imagination. One possible evolutionary effect of the latter seems to be as a lair of hibernation for the otherwise threatened idea that diplomacy is not about dialogue but about the confrontation between good and evil. The book concludes by seeing the future of diplomacy in a continued struggle between state-to-state-based diplomacy and diplomacy as networked global governance.
The chapter complements historical discussions of diplomacy by understanding its emergence in terms of social evolution. I draw on Eldredge and Gould’s idea of punctuated equilibria or tipping-points, understood as the culmination of long-term trends. Taking note of two tipping-points for human cooperation generally, namely big-game hunting and classificatory kinship, I go on to identify four tipping-points for diplomacy. These are regular and ritualized contacts between culturally similar small-scale polities; regular and ritualized contacts between culturally different large-scale polities; permanent bilateral diplomacy; and permanent multilateral diplomacy. I round off by discussing what seems to be a trend on its way to become a new tipping-point, namely that states increasingly hybridize their diplomacy by working with and through non-state actors.
This chapter is co-written with Halvard Leira and discusses the evolution of what we have come to call the consul. The first part looks at consular work avant la letter. We discuss the emergence of intermediary functions between a polity or a group within a polity and a group from another polity and excavate the phenomenon’s Muslim origins. We trace how, beginning in the sixth century BCE, the consular institution evolved to reach a tipping-point in the Eastern Mediterranean at the beginning of the second millennium CE, as the judge of a trading colony. A second tipping-point was brought on by the emergence of sovereignty in Europe, which transformed the judge into a representative of the state. This tipping-point was reached in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. A short century afterwards, a third tipping-point enveloped the consular institution in the emergent unitary foreign services. We end by speculating that with the increased density of global communication, the consular institution may be on the way to a return to separate institutions and a new tipping-point.
Extant literature on diplomacy is thoroughly text-oriented. While texts are obviously very central indeed to diplomacy, diplomacy precedes literacy as a phenomenon, and diplomats still spend large chunks of their working time on planning for and executing what we may call visual work. Beginning with a discussion of how the visual emerged in diplomacy, Chapter 4 goes on to lay down the groundwork for the study of visual diplomacy in three ways. First, it establishes diplomacy’s visual modalities – that is, how seeing is constitutive of this particular social institution relative to other social institutions. Secondly, it draws attention to the importance of the diplomatic practices that make the visual visible – that is, how diplomats spread images to wider audiences. Thirdly and in conclusion, it draws up a taxonomy of three visual strategies used for this purpose – a hegemonic and Western strategy, a national strategy, and a strategy that is spiteful of Western hegemony. The power differentials involved between these strategies make visual diplomacy constitutive of the lingering Western hegemony in international relations at large.
This chapter discuss how visual diplomacy is actually carried out. Diplomats have to be presentable – that is, ‘clean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public’ (Oxford English Dictionary). The first part of the chapter discusses why visual and aesthetic aspects tend to be under-communicated by Western practitioners and scholars of politics and diplomacy and accounts for this by pointing to a deep-seated scepticism of visual props and a twentieth-century reaction against Nazi aestheticizing of politics. The second part sets out what it takes to stage a successful visual performance and points to three factors: the agent’s own preparations, audience assessment and mediation to a broader public. The third part uses the typology suggested in Chapter 4 of the book to analyse two particularly successful performances of accreditation and highlight how they succeed because they were deemed to be particularly presentable as a result of being particularly smart and decent, respectively. It also discusses two spiteful performances. In conclusion, I argue that smartness trumps decency and spitefulness.
The chapter opens by discussing how diplomacy is represented in popular culture and the arts. Since few people have first-hand knowledge of it, and it is rarely given much news exposure, most people owe their understanding of diplomacy to such representations. These representations have legitimacy effects, feeding back into how diplomats represent themselves to the public and therefore how politicians represent issues to the public. Representations of diplomacy thus have an indirect constitutive effect on diplomacy. The chapter gives a concrete example of an imagined diplomat, from the world of Harry Potter. When the rector at Harry’s school, Albus Dumbledore, draws up plans for defending his world against Voldemort, he pays particular attention to forging an alliance against him. To get the giants on board, Dumbledore sends half-man-half-giant Hagrid as his envoy. The chapter discusses this case of imaginary diplomacy as a comment on how states seek to liaise with indigenous peoples. What emerges is that a version of diplomacy now rarely found in scholarly literature – so-called anti-diplomacy, which sees relations to the Other in terms of confrontation between good and evil and diplomacy as an exercise in gathering the forces of good – seems to be hibernating within popular culture.
Increasingly, diplomats seem not only to represent states and negotiate with one another but also to work in tandem to shore up the global system overall. Diplomats are trying to reduce tension and state collapse by mediating in crisis environments. Not only multilateral diplomacy, but bilateral diplomacy as well, seem to be focused increasingly on global governance. The conclusion therefore argues that, while the rise of non-Western powers like China and India and the continuing Realpolitik approach to diplomacy taken by Russia seem to uphold and strengthen a state-centric ‘old’ diplomacy, we are nonetheless witnessing the emergence of a new variant of diplomacy that may be traced back to the European Enlightenment and that has now come to focus on global governance.
The introduction argues that diplomacy is in the throes of a tipping-point that may transform it from a primarily states-oriented business to a multi-oriented activity focused on global governance. While the change in agents that this would entail has been much discussed, this book’s approach to diplomacy as an emergent phenomenon allows us to complement these debates by focusing on possible changes in subject matter. Increasingly, diplomats seem not only to represent states and negotiate with one another but also to work in tandem to shore up the global system overall. Diplomats are trying to reduce tension and state collapse by mediating in crisis environments.