Third Workshop

Third and Fourth Workshops

Preparation is ongoing for the second stream of workshops organised by the Network and its partners. Prof. Timothy W. Luke will be the next workshop host at Virginia Tech on June 5-6, 2015; a fourth workshop will be hosted by Prof. Richard Beardsworth at Aberystwyth University on January 15-16, 2016. Broadly themed “The Nuclear Condition”, these workshops seek to analyse social and political issues, relationships and strategies which exist under this condition, within the frame of Classical Realism and Critical Theory. Taking off from the exploratory nature of the initial workshops held in Newcastle University in 2013, followed by Ottawa University in 2014, these final workshops aim to stimulate policy-orientated discussions on the theme. The papers of the 3rd and 4th workshop will be published by Timothy Luke and Richard Beardsworth.

Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the “Classical Realism meets Critical Theory”- Network is a collaborative project of academics and researchers interested in a dialogic reading of both movements to explore and elaborate innovative ways of understanding and addressing present-day political crises.  

The presenters for the third and fourth workshops are:

  • Campbell Craig (Abersytwyth University)      
  • Daniel Deudney (Johns Hopkins) University)
  • Daniel Levine (University of Alabama)                  
  • Columba Peoples (Bristol University)
  • Patrick Roberts (Virginia Tech)                
  • Sonja Schmid (Virginia Tech)
  • Casper Sylvest  (University of Southern Denmark)        
  • Rens van Munster (Danish Institute for International Studies)


Not long after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, intellectuals within the respective traditions of Classical Realism and Critical Theory addressed the implications of nuclear arms for international politics and the human condition in general. Thinkers from Morgenthau to Marcuse put forward important ideas about the strategic, political, moral, and existential implications of nuclear energy. Yet, seven decades after the WW2 atomic bombings, to what extent can we remain content with their assessments, developed during the darkest days of the Cold War? Twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR, we want to conduct a reappraisal of the significance of the "nuclear condition" in the twenty-first century through reference to, and interlocution between, the traditions and perspectives of Critical Theory. Four blocs of research questions emerge from post-Cold War realities for such a reappraisal:

What are the consequences for the "nuclear condition" following the dissolution of old ‘East/ West’ ideological blocs and geopolitical frictions into a more multipolar, global, and fragmented world -- a dissolution which appears to undercut the "nuclear taboo" set in place by the logic of MAD in the 1970s?

As the practices of stockpile stewardship, reliable replacement, and virtual testing of warheads drift away from their putative mission as developed in the 1990s, how should one assess the agency of new state, non-state, corporate, and non-governmental organizations that are develop-ing different understandings of how nuclear weapons should be designed, manufactured, operated, and/or used?

What are, and how does one assess, new systemic approaches to, and new technologies for, the weaponizing of nuclear materials by non-state militias, transnational firms, scientific networks, superpower militaries, or radical terrorists for operational applications that range from defending the entire planet against asteroid strikes, to degrading complex electronic network technolo-gies, destroying discrete subterranean assets with precision-guided systems, and/or devastating toxic attacks using nuclear wastes, etc.?

What are the consequences of the new nuclear condition for the governing of nuclear weaponry? Does this new condition accelerate the need for a world monopoly on nuclear weapons or does it demand alternative governance solutions? And: How does knowledge of the new "nuclear condition" impact thinking about international politics and about the options that global actors have?

This workshop shall ask, in other words, how can, and should, we understand the "nuclear condition" today, exploring and clarifying the degree to which the epistemic assumptions, psychological attitudes, and moral aspirations surrounding the nuclear condition before 1989 can be reassessed by those working with the tenets of Classical Realism and Critical Theory.