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This chapter introduces and contextualises the international arms trade. It explores the links between the activities of state and corporate elites through the lens of warrior-protector and bourgeois-rational models of masculinity. The legitimate arms trade is defined and monitored, over and against illegitimate trading as a criminal activity, through ‘nested’ hierarchies of male-dominated elites. Visual analysis shows how the overtly gendered masculinity of moralised patriarchy interacts with covertly gendered humanness. In that way money-making in the national/international arms trade is sanitised as patriotic. Taking the UK as a particular state-agent, the chapter shows how legitimating strategies invisibilise policy contradictions and human rights-violations.

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This chapter takes readers to the very pinnacle of global power where nation-states, military establishments and commercial interests come together at international arms fairs. At those venues arms traders and weapons-manufacturers address their legitimacy-deficit. Their strategies are stabilised by reinscribing the heterosexual certainties of the gender-order hierarchy of masculinity over femininity. Gender-sensitive ethnography, informed by performativity, explicates this in detail, with particular attention to the role of women. In turn weapons-company promotional videos do this similarly with the race-class order to stabilise themselves politically. This conjuncture is dominated by American ‘defence’ spending and thus by ‘western-liberal’ norms. Legitimation then works against any idea of hypocrisy and subterfuge.

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This chapter considers the anti-militarism activisms which confront the imbrication of weaponry and masculinity that the preceding chapters have outlined. Those activisms include both men and women. However, they have a particular and often problematic relationship with feminisms and with feminist activists. Moreover those groups and movements include a variety of understandings of, and internal conflicts about, critical approaches to masculinity. Rather than typologising any masculinities therein as somehow ‘alternative’, the analytical focus here is on grassroots efforts to delegitimise weaponry and militarism. Some queer activists attempt to do this by destabilising the gender-order hierarchy directly. This chapter avoids descriptive typology and relates instead to great-power politics.

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Gender is widely recognized as an important and useful lens for the study of International Relations. However, there are few books that specifically investigate masculinity/ies in relation to world politics.

Taking a feminist-inspired understanding of gender as its starting point, the book:

  • explains that gender is both an asymmetrical binary and a hierarchy;

  • shows how masculinization works via ‘nested hierarchies’ of domination and subordination;

  • explores the imbrication of masculinities with the nation-state and great-power politics;

  • develops an understanding of the arms trade with commercial processes of militarization.

Written in an accessible style, with suggestions for further reading, this book is an invaluable resource for students and teachers applying ‘the gender lens’ to global politics.

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This chapter genders the supposedly gender-neutral founding concepts of the study of international relations. The security dilemma arises in and through the ordered hierarchies of male-dominated institutions. The state is rightly conceived as masculine and masculinising. The great-power politics of the international system is thus coincident with the militarisation and weaponry through which nation-states compete. This international ‘normality’ is legitimated by the gender-order hierarchies of male dominance. That order of dominance is legitimated in turn by the nation-state in masculinising practices and weapons-displays. States without a military establishment are thus queer, yet normalised into the ordered hierarchies of militarism by other means, such as national sporting prowess.

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This chapter explains that gender is not simply a binary. It is also a hierarchy of masculinity over femininity. Within that hierarchy there are ‘nested’ hierarchies of some men over others. This chapter also distinguishes between domination and hegemony, which is domination by consent. And it explains that masculinity and femininity are asymmetrical. Men can stand for generic, de-gendered humanity. When they are gendered as overtly male, that representation is moralised as good. Moral badness is then displaced into a generic human nature. Women have only the overtly gendered option. Men thus accumulate power within hierarchies of domination and subordination by mutual consent.

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As previous chapters have laid out, the primary threats to democracy are deteriorations in the rule of law, and greater executive control over the media, civil society and institutions that can check executive power. For the most part, electoral manipulation has been less common in advanced democracies. Nevertheless, for the first time in decades, there is evidence that the number of countries in which freedom and fairness of elections are declining is more than the number in which they are improving (Lührmann et al, 2019). In grey-zone regimes in particular, electoral manipulation is becoming more sophisticated and prevalent. At the same time, there are increasing challenges to the fairness and legitimacy of elections in advanced democracies. Thus, it is not just authoritarian regimes that are engaging in electoral malpractice, but also regimes that once held free and fair elections.

The chapter begins by looking at the type of accountability that is undermined by electoral malpractice – vertical accountability. We explain what vertical accountability is, how elections provide it, and the importance of elections and electoral systems in a democracy. The chapter then examines how executives (and the ruling party) weaken vertical accountability by engaging in different types of electoral malpractice, such as manipulating the rules governing elections and voting, the ease of voting, the choices voters have, how people vote and the administration of voting (Schedler, 2002; Birch, 2008; Van Ham and Lindberg, 2016). Generally speaking, electoral manipulation is more common in grey-zone regimes that have weaker accountability mechanisms in other areas as well.

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More recent literature on democratic backsliding has shown increasing concern over executive aggrandizement. In the past, the process of undermining institutional checks and balances took place rapidly as the result of military coups.1 Since the Cold War ended, the risk of coups has decreased, while the accumulation of too much power in the hands of the executive is the biggest threat to democratic stability (Svolik, 2015). As this chapter will explain, democratic backsliding takes place because of the executive’s strategic manipulation of laws that weaken checks on executive power. This occurs in a piecemeal fashion, through a series of changes that usually happen within the confines of the law and which may seem innocuous in isolation. The leadership then gradually modifies governing institutions in ways that insulate them from any challenges.

The chapter begins by explaining what horizontal accountability is and how legislative, judicial and administrative institutions are important in a democracy. It then clarifies how these institutions are weakened, both at the direction of the executive and because of their own inherent vulnerability. Eliminating checks on executive power is a clear marker of democratic backsliding (Huq and Ginsberg, 2017). The chapter details the discrete changes to formal and informal institutions and procedures that undermine the rule of law and accountability (Lust and Waldner, 2015). It also explains one of the key preconditions for autocratization – weak rule of law. Newer democracies often lack strong rule of law as a foundation, but we are also seeing rule of law erode in more consolidated democracies, well before autocratic power grabs have taken place.

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Although it is common for media freedoms and civil liberties to come under attack in autocracies, these practice have become more prevalent in democracies as well. Many countries around the globe have seen freedom of expression and of the media deteriorate. The pervasiveness of declining media freedom in democratic settings is highlighted by Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom of the Press report (Dunham, 2017, 3), which found that ‘press freedom worldwide deteriorated to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016, driven by unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies’. Studies have also pointed to civil society coming under particular attack from 2006 to 2016 (Mechkova et al, 2017). This chapter explains how regimes looking to expand executive control seek to undermine media freedom and civil society. Incumbent regimes do so in order to minimize these institutions’ ability to expose anti-democratic behaviour and to amplify narratives that support their own efforts to consolidate control.

This chapter explains how regimes looking to expand executive control are vilifying civil society and the media, and provides examples of this. It argues that this process degrades citizens’ rights and engagement with the state, which makes it more difficult for citizens to access accurate information about their governments (Bermeo, 2016). Unfortunately, it has been easier to delegitimize the media because of its self-inflicted wounds. The media in many democracies has become increasingly sensationalist and polarizing, and thus less trustworthy (Newton, 2017). Before doing so, we look at what how the media and civil society can provide discursive and diagonal accountability.

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Since the 2010s we have seen a rise in authoritarian populism, a style of political leadership and political force that has generated new challenges for democracy (Norris and Inglehart, 2019). Previous chapters explained how the perception of rising levels of corruption, unemployment, inequality and migration have caused citizens in democracies to be concerned that the world is in crisis. This is where populist authoritarianism comes in. The rhetoric of populist authoritarian leadership claims that democratic institutions and freedoms are what is standing in the way of resolving crises. Though populist leaders do not usually directly attack democracy, they delegitimize the institutions of accountability (see Chapters 9, 10 and 11).

This chapter explains the concept of authoritarian populism (both left- and right-wing) and explores the role of populist leaders in shaping authoritarian narratives and fostering polarizing environments on which they can capitalize. This chapter begins by outlining the strength of populism around the world. Since the 1980s, populist parties have gained a sizable vote share in Western Europe and the Americas by tapping into fears of immigration, xenophobia and corruption. We then define what populism is and explain how populist leaders activate populist attitudes. After doing so, the chapter lays out the arguments for why populism is at odds with liberal democracy. We conclude by looking at populism in Latin America and Africa – exploring the prevalence of populist styles of leadership in Latin America and their relative absence in Africa.

In 2012, José Manuel Barroso head of the European Commission (2004–2014) claimed his biggest concern was the rise of populist movements in Europe (Stavrakakis and Katsambekis, 2014).

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