Antonio Zotti Michele Gaietta

Does Multilateralism still Matter? The institutional Forms of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime and the liberal international Order

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The article sets out to investigate whether multilateralism has a value that only depends on the degree to which it facilitates the pursuit of their political goals, or rather it has become an end in itself in the eyes of the participants in the liberal international order. In order to do so, the article investigates what is largely regarded as a fundamental element of the liberal international order: the non-proliferation regime This contribution focuses in particular on the centrepiece of the regime – the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – and the pressure under which it has been put by conducts that have either openly defied the norms regulating the area, or have attempted radical reforms of the nuclear global order undermining the pragmatic, incremental rationale of the current regime. After having presented the conditions in which the multilateral institutional form informing the liberal international order emerged and developed, a detailed diachronic account of the Treaty of Non-Proliferation, and the more comprehensive regime that hinges on it, is provided. Based on this description, the article points out the multilateral dimension of this regime, and in what sense it is representative of the role that multilateralism has been playing within the liberal international order and the challenges that it has been increasingly facing in recent times. In presenting the “functionalµ and the “axiomaticµ rationales underpinning the adoption and continuance of the multilateral institutional form in the non-proliferation regime, the article identifies the re-production of a certain set of practices – i.e. deeds embodying shared intersubjective knowledge and concepts – as a factor that, albeit not sufficient, has proved strongly conducive to the reinforcement of the non-proliferation regime. Accordingly, the re-production of these practices might be crucial to resist the pressure put on the regime – and multilateralism in general – by unilateral behaviour of attempts at radical reforms – as happened with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


  • multilateralism
  • liberal international order
  • nuclear non-proliferation


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