In the name of democracy: UNSC reform at the intersection of discourse and governmentality

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Both scholars and practitioners are frustrated by the complexity of United Nations Security Council reform. Most research on the reform process is situated within international relations, and almost no attention is granted to the discursive dimensions of the reform. This article approaches democracy promotion as a governmental rationality within the United Nations, and it traces how this governmentality is co-constituted and negotiated discursively in the reform debate. The analysis focuses on argumentation and topoi in statements from debates about reform during 2015 to 2016 by two groups: The Group of Four and The Uniting for Consensus. The analysis demonstrates how the two groups utilise a topos of majority and a topos of equality, respectively, and how the groups thereby in different ways co-constitute and negotiate the governmental rationality of democracy. Through this, the article unravels the subtle ways in which the rigidity of the reform process is co-constituted through discourse.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDiscourse & Society
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)231-253
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Argumentation
  • United Nations Security Council
  • critical discourse studies
  • democracy
  • global governance
  • governmentality
  • international relations
  • topoi


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