Powers of the Gun: Process and Possibility in Global Small Arms Control

  • Mike BourneEmail author


Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are the principal tools of armed violence, but the development of a global ‘regime’ has been a fragmented and fragile process that reinforces sovereignty more than it regulates violence. This article argues that rather than a settled regime, the global processes on SALW is better understood as a ‘global assemblage.’ Drawing on ‘new materialism’ and process philosophy, the chapter draws attention to the ways in which unity and diversity co-exist and co-constitute each other. Indeed, one of the key features of the SALW process has been the continuous production of both agreements and disagreements in which the meaning of consensus (as well as the specific commitments agreed) are shifting. The forms of power that constitute the regime are themselves produced as a global collective for action and particular modes of action on SALW are composed.


Small arms and light weapons Assemblage Disagreement Consensus Standardisation 


  1. Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, M., & Duvall, R. (2005). Power in International Politics. International Organization, 59(1), 39–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett, J., & Finnemore, M. (1999). The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations. International Organization, 53(4): 699–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry, A. (2002). The Anti-Political Economy. Economy and Society, 31(2), 268–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barry, A. (2006). Technological Zones. European Journal of Social Theory, 9(2), 239–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barry, A. (2012). Political Situations: Knowledge Controversies in Transnational Governance. Critical Policy Studies, 6(3), 324–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Batchelor, P., & McDonald, G. (2005). Too Close for Comfort: An Analysis of the UN Tracing Negotiations. Disarmament Forum, 4, 39–47.Google Scholar
  8. Bolton, J. R. (2001, July 9). U.S. Statement at Plenary Session Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
  9. Borrie, J. (2009). Unacceptable Harm: A History of How the Treaty to Ban Cluster Munitions Was Won. Geneva: UNIDIR.Google Scholar
  10. Borrie, J., & Thornton, A. (2008). The Value of Diversity in Multilateral Disarmament Work. Geneva: UNIDIR.Google Scholar
  11. Bourne, M., Godnick, B., Greene, O., Kirkham, E., Macalesher, J., Vivekananda, J., & Watson, C. (2006). Reviewing Action on Small Arms 2006: Assessing the First Five Years of the UN Programme of Action. London: Biting the Bullet and IANSA.Google Scholar
  12. Bowker, G., & Star, S. L. (2000). Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Capie, D. (2008). Localization as Resistance: The Contested Diffusion of Small Arms Norms in Southeast Asia. Security Dialogue, 39(6), 637–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Caughley, T. (2012). The Elusive Consensus.
  15. Collier, S. J., & Ong, A. (2005). Global Assemblages, Anthropological Problems. In A. Ong & S. J. Collier (Eds.), Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (pp. 3–21). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Cooper, N. (2011). Humanitarian Arms Control and Processes of Securitization: Moving Weapons Along the Security Continuum. Contemporary Security Policy, 32(1), 134–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Deleuze, G., & Parnet, C. (2007). Dialogues II. Columbia: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Drezner, D. W. (2008). All Politics Is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Eyal, G., & Pok, G. (2015). What Is Security Expertise? From the Sociology of Professions to the Analysis of Networks of Expertise. In T. V. Berling & C. Bueger (Eds.), Security Expertise: Practice, Power Responsibility (pp. 37–59). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Florini, A. (1996). The Evolution of International Norms. International Studies Quarterly, 40(3), 363–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Garcia, D. (2006). Small Arms and Security: New Emerging International Norms. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Garcia, D. (2011). Disarmament Diplomacy and Human Security: Regimes, Norms and Moral Progress in International Relations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Geneva Declaration Secretariat. (2015). Global Burden of Armed Violence 2015: Every Body Counts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gomez Robledo, J. M., Amb. (2013, March 28). Statement by Amb: Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, Head of Delegation of Mexico, Final UN Conference on the ATT.
  25. Goose, S., & Williams, J. (2004). The Campaign to Ban Antipersonnel Landmines: Potential Lessons. In R. A. Matthew, B. McDonald, & K. R. Rutherford (Eds.), Landmines and Human Security: International Politics and War’s Hidden Legacy (pp. 239–250). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  26. Greene, O., & Marsh, N. (2012). Governance and Small Arms and Light Weapons. In O. Greene & N. Marsh (Eds.), Small Arms, Crime and Conflict: Global Governance and the Threat of Armed Violence (pp. 163–182). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Grillot, S. R., Stapley, C. S., & Hanna, M. E. (2006). Assessing the Small Arms Movement: The Trials and Tribulations of a Transnational Network. Contemporary Security Policy, 27(1), 60–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hansen, S. T. (2016). Taking Ambiguity Seriously: Explaining the Indeterminacy of the European Union Conventional Arms Export Control Regime. European Journal of International Relations, 22(1), 192–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hansen, H. K., & Porter, T. (2012). What Do Numbers Do in Transnational Governance? International Political Sociology, 6(4), 409–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holtom, P., & Pavesi, I. (2017). Trade Update 2017: Out of the Shadows. Geneva: Small Arms Survey.Google Scholar
  31. Holtom, P., Pavesi, I., & Rigual, C. (2014). Trade Update. In G. McDonald, E. LeBrun, A. Alvazzi del Frate, E. G. Berman, & K. Krause (Eds.), Small Arms Survey 2014: Women and Guns (pp. 109–143). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hubert, D. (2000). The Landmine Ban: A Case Study in Humanitarian Advocacy. The Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies Occasional Paper #42.
  33. Karp, A. (2008). A Semi-automatic Process? Identifying and Destroying Military Surplus. In E. Berman, K. Krause, E. LeBrun, & G. McDonald (Eds.), Small Arms Survey 2008: Risk and Resilience (pp. 77–111). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Krause, K. (2001). Norm-Building in Security Spaces: The Emergence of the Light Weapons Problematic.
  35. Krause, K. (2011). Leashing the Dogs of War: Arms Control from Sovereignty to Governmentality. Contemporary Security Policy, 32(1), 20–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Latour, B. (1986). The Powers of Association. In J. Law (Ed.), Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge? (pp. 264–280). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Laurance, E. J. (2014). The Small Arms Problem as Arms Control: A Policy Driven Agenda. In P. Batchelor & K. M. Kenkel (Eds.), Controlling Small Arms: Consolidation, Innovation and Relevance in Research and Policy (pp. 13–35). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Macospol. (2007, November 5). Consortium Agreement Annex I, p. 6. Unpublished Document Submitted to the European Union.Google Scholar
  40. Marres, N. (2007). Pragmatist Contributions to the Study of Public Involvement in Controversy. Social Studies of Science, 37(5), 759–780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mathur, R. (2012). Practices of Legalization in Arms Control and Disarmament: The ICRC, CCW and Landmines. Contemporary Security Policy, 33(3), 413–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McLay, J. (2014). Beyond Stalemate: Advocacy and Action in the UN Small Arms Process. In P. Batchelor & K. M. Kenkel (Eds.), Controlling Small Arms: Consolidation, Innovation and Relevance in Research and Policy (pp. 286–301). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Rappert, B., & Moyes, R. (2009). The Prohibition of Cluster Munitions: Setting International Precedents for Defining Inhumanity. The Nonproliferation Review, 16(2), 237–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rose, N., & Miller, P. (1992). Political Power Beyond the State: Problematics of Government. The British Journal of Sociology, 43(2), 173–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sears, N. A. (2012). Controlling Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation: The Potential of the Arms Trade Treaty. Patterson Review of International Affairs, 12, 35–60.Google Scholar
  46. Serres, M., & Latour, B. (1995). Conversations on Science, Culture and Time. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stavrianakis, A. (2011). Small Arms Control and the Reproduction of Imperial Relations. Contemporary Security Policy, 32(1), 193–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stavrianakis, A., & Yun, H. (2014). China and the Arms Trade Treaty. London: Saferworld.Google Scholar
  49. Strange, S. (1982). Cave! Hic Dragones: A Critique of Regime Analysis. International Organization, 36(2), 479–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tholens, S. (2013). Localization Strategies in Post-war Security Governance: Bringing in State-Society Narratives. Paper Presented at the International Studies Association Annual Conference, San Francisco, April 3–6, 2013. Cited with Permission.Google Scholar
  51. UN. (2013). Arms Trade Treaty Will Generate ‘Much-Needed Momentum’ for Other Global Disarmament, Non-proliferation Efforts, Secretary-General Says, UN Press Release SG/SM/14919-DC/3426; 2 April 2013. Accessed March 22, 2016.
  52. Walters, W. (2002). The Power of Inscription: Beyond Social Construction and Deconstruction in European Integration Studies. Millennium Journal of International Studies, 31(1), 83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walters, W., & D’Aoust, A. (2015). Bringing Publics into Critical Security Studies: Notes for a Research Strategy. Millennium Journal of International Studies, 44(1), 45–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Whitehead, A. N. (1929/1978). Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  55. Wisotzki, S. (2010). Between Morality and Military Interests: Norm Setting in Humanitarian Arms Control: PRIF Report No. 92. Frankfurt: Frankfurt Peace Research Institute.Google Scholar
  56. Wood, A. (2012, January 12). How to Reach Consensus on an Arms Trade Treaty. Arms Control Today.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

Personalised recommendations