Centre for Advanced International Theory (CAIT)

2018 Sussex International Theory Prize

We are very pleased to announce CAIT's 2018 Sussex International Theory Prize Winner. The CAIT Prize Committee decided after a stimulating meeting to award the prize for the first time in CAIT's history to joint winners:

Sean Molly, Kant's International Relations: The Political Theology of Perpetual Peace (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2017)


 Catherine Lu, Justice and Reconciliation in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2017)

It was a real pleasure choosing from a very strong and diverse set of submissions, which further enhances the standing of the Prize in the world of IR and beyond. I would like to thank the CAIT Management Team - Beate Jahn, Louiza Odysseos, Kamran Matin & Akanksha Mehta - for their fantastic work in the prize selection process. 

Both winners will be invited to Sussex in 2019 to deliver the 2018 Sussex International Theory Prize Lectures.

Sean Molloy's Kant's International Relations: The Political Theology of Perpetual Peace provides a compelling revision of a reigning orthodoxy in IR Theory. Carefully refuting the discipline-defining assumption that Immanuel Kant stands as the founding father of the liberal tradition in IR Theory, based on the conjunction of the enlightened subject-citizen and republicanism as conditions for perpetual peace institutionalised in a republican federation and a cosmopolitan constitution, Molloy shows Kant's ultimate reliance on political theology - providence, divine plan, God - to argue for the absence of a secular and rational drive for the self-reformation of self-seeking humans towards betterment. How, then, to move from humans' 'unsocial sociability' towards humanity's salvation? Re-situating Kant's standard texts on international politics within his wider writings on anthropology, epistemology, and political theology, Molloy recovers the leading idea that Kant anchors the possibility towards perpetual peace not in the forward march of a progressivist Weltgeschichte (world history) or an empty moral 'ought', but rather in his eschatological conception of a Heilsgeschichte (history of salvation). This requires a 'leap of faith' into the pre-ordained purposiveness of divine nature. This transcendental move, belief and faith in the 'all-unifying Church triumphant' - however incredulous to contemporary eyes - provides the ultimate guarantuee in Kant's reasoning to bridge the gap between a debased 'is' and a better 'ought', which stand opposed to each other in contemporary cosmopolitan thought. Molloy's study is an outstanding work of erudite and rigorous intellectual scholarship of the highest academic standard. Deploying the critical-historical method of textual exegesis and avoiding facile and opportunistic readings of de-contextualised passages and texts, Molloy returns ad fontes (back to the sources) to reconstruct a more precise and holistic and reading of Kant, which is destined to generate sustained controversy in IR Theory, political theory, and political philosophy. Molloy’s book achieves the extraordinary feat of presenting Kant’s work (and that of his cosmopolitan interlocutors) in a beautiful, clear and widely accessible language without sacrificing its depth and complexity.

Catherine Lu's Justice and Reconciliation in World Politics provides an original, highly topical, and profound analysis and critique of liberal conceptualisations and practices of international justice, reconciliation, and redress - redistributive, transitional, reparatory - after major political catastrophes: war, genocide, dispossession, sexual violence, alienation. By arguing that contemporary practices of post-catastrophic political-legal redress are constrained by case-by-case logics of interaction between perpetrators and victims in which the righting of wrongs often reproduces the structural status quo ante, Lu advocates moving towards an expanded, structural notion of injustice. This re-definition is historically grounded in the construction of the modern colonial order and its attendant inter-state and intra-state hierarchies of race, class, gender and indigeneity. Righting instances of structural colonial-hierarchical injustices calls for a much more demanding and exacting set of strategies of transformative redress, not restricted to the backward-looking tasks of rectifying and repairing historic wrongs and reconciling past victims with perpetrators, but oriented towards the forward-looking tasks of addressing the colonial legacies that still inflict contemporary structural injustices and alienations. In a radical step, Lu suggests moving beyond internationally sanctioned state-to-state practices of compensation and towards measures that pre-empt the reproduction of such structural injustices. These include decolonial, decentered, and disalienating strategies of transformative justice that draw on the knowledges and experiences of situated sub-state actors in post-colonial societies, geared towards the incorporation of the oppressed and marginalised into definitions of justice, to build up capacities of non-alienated agency outside the liberal norm. Rather than attending only to recurring victim-perpetrators scenarios on case-by-case bases, whose exceptional redress unwittingly legitimises underlying norms of structural injustices, Lu calls for a wider notion of justice that targets the proactive removal of inter-state and intra-state structural power-hierarchies, before they manifest themselves again and again in inter-actional scenarios of post-colonial injustices and their liberal compensations.

Dr. Benno Teschke
Director, Center for Advanced International Theory