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International politics as global politics from below: Pope Francis on global politics

Abstract

There are several considerations of the papacy’s vision of what global politics should be like. There are, however, few mappings of the papacy’s actual concept of global politics, of how it evaluates the current state of global politics, understood as global political, social, and economic trends, patterns, actors and their relationships. This article delineates Pope Francis’ conception of global politics and contextualises it within the papacy’s trajectory of participating in global politics. Attending to a particular concept, of how the pope thinks about global politics, helps to better understand and place the papacy in the study of global politics. The article shows how Francis conceptualises global politics from below, from the periphery of society and politics, which leads him to unmask global inequalities. In particular, the article illustrates that Francis contests widespread assumptions of central hierarchic interstate relations and individualism, dominating the conceptual discourse about global politics.

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Notes

  1. From a theological point, this perspective from the periphery is obvious in Pope Francis’ ‘theology of the people’ (Luciani 2017; see also McCormick 2020): ‘While radical liberation theologians looked to Marxist, immanentist interpretations of the Gospel, theology of the people was founded on common peoples’ culture and devotion, including their spirituality and sense of justice’ (Gagliarducci 2015).

  2. For example, Pope Francis’ (2015b) attempts in Laudato Si’ ‘to halt the deterioration of “our common home” can be regarded as a “milieu goal”’ (Ferrara 2019: 2).

  3. The pope, like Ines Claude (1971: 211; see also Troy 2017) noted for the UN Secretary-General, has the ‘constitutional licence to be as big a man as he can’.

  4. After the First World War, for example, ‘Vatican diplomats took advantage of the turmoil following the Great War to disseminate a theocentric vision of “governing the world”, and inscribe this alternate conception of international affairs into the legal and political framework of nearly a dozen European states’ (Chamedes 2013: 976).

  5. For more nuanced studies, challenging the view that ethics and doctrine are static see, for example, Lynch (2020) and Stummvoll (2017).

  6. Other examples of diplomatic ‘fringe players’ are the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the European Union (Bátora and Hynek 2014).

  7. On this conceptual take on practice, see also Frost and Lechner (2016) who stress that the understanding of practices requires an internal point of view.

  8. This conviction is part of his Jesuit identity and mind-set (Massaro 2018).

  9. This is to except studies focusing on Latin America (e.g. Levine 2012; Wilde 2016; Schwarz 2018b).

  10. The term ‘human rights’ was first mentioned by Pope Pius XI (1937).

  11. The encyclical Pacem in Terris (John XXIII 1963) was published in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  12. The term ‘out-narrate’ is from Milbank (2006) who uses it to demonstrate that a mythos cannot be refuted (i.e. by arguments) but only ‘out-narrated’ by offering a better story (ibid.: 331).

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Acknowledgements

Austrian Science Fund project J3906-G16. I would like to thank Daniel Levine, Erin Wilson, Scott Thomas, Timothy Byrnes, Cecelia Lynch, Dustin Gamza, Mariano Barbato, Robert Joustra, Ron Hassner, Gregorio Bettiza, Tanya Schwarz, Pasquale Ferrara as well as the journal’s anonymous reviewers who have been supportive and helpful in commenting on earlier versions of the paper.

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Troy, J. International politics as global politics from below: Pope Francis on global politics. J Int Relat Dev 24, 555–573 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-020-00202-y

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Keywords

  • Church
  • global politics
  • human rights
  • international society
  • Pope Francis
  • religion