Strategies of disarmament: civil society and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty

Roberta Mulas

Tutor: Raffaele Marchetti and Stuart Croft

This thesis explores the ideological bases of the global governance of nuclear weapons by analysing the role of civil society, an actor generally left aside by nuclear scholarship. Here the question of nuclear order is tackled with an unconventional approach that combines critical works in nuclear studies, critical constructivist works on security, and Antonio Gramsci’s theory of civil society. Such approach brings civil society to the forefront of analytical attention in order to show the cultural domination exercised by the bomb by inquiring into the common sense nature of nuclear discourse. This rests on the assumption that uncritically accepted ideas about what nuclear weapons do have been instrumental in generating the current nuclear order that, although under mounting challenges, remains based on a hierarchy between states protected by the bomb and all the rest. To understand how civil society challenges and reproduces that order, this thesis analyses the calls for nuclear disarmament advanced by organised collective actors and inquires, in a Gramscian way, into the common sense ingrained in those calls as well as their ability to constitute a united front. As a result, the thesis problematises the notion of disarmament, marking the importance of a struggle on its very concept between reductionist and abolitionist frames. It indicates that while the latter are involved in a radical opposition, the former are culturally dominated by the system of deterrence, thus coming to represent two distinct historic blocs: a counter-hegemonic opposition, on one hand, and an unwitting part of the hegemonic apparatus, on the other. This thesis concludes that 1) civil society is far from having created a unity of intent; and 2) the bases for the reliance on nuclear weapons are deeply entrenched, because of the pervasiveness, even inside civil society, of a common sense view of the nuclear threat.

Link: HERE

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.