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About David Held

David Held is master of University College, Durham University, professor of politics and international relations there. He is also a Director of Polity Press and General Editor of Global Policy journal.

Articles by David Held

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Global politics at a crossroads

The retreat to nationalism and militant identity politics is counter to the process of accommodation that has underpinned European and world peace since the end of the Second World War.

Beyond gridlock in world politics

Deepening interdependence, due in part to the success of the postwar order, has contributed to an anti-global backlash across the world. Beyond Gridlock, (Polity Press, 2017) seeks pathways of change through the gridlock.

Trump handbook for aspiring autocrats

At issue is due process, the rule of law and the division of powers that defines American democracy.

Broken politics: from 9/11 to the present

The years since 9/11 have cast a dark shadow over global politics in many respects. But we have the option of recalling where the pursuit of authoritarianism leads.

Gold plated populism: Trump and the end of the liberal order

Four years after Romney lost to Obama, Trump, travelling in a private plane with a gold-plated bathroom, has been embraced by the working class as a man of the people.

Globalization and global political theory

How much we can do for ‘distant strangers’ is of course a matter of great controversy: most would accept that our role should not be limited to that of spectators.

Path to authoritarianism: the collapse of the politics of accommodation

The alternative is to recover the constitutive elements of the politics of accommodation, the core ideas of democratic public life mediated by the rule of law and accountable to all citizens.

Britain riding the tectonic plates

The referendum is at the centre of these shifting plates. It is the crack which can become a chasm in the postwar order.

To be, or not to be: Europe under siege

In the short term, Europe can only survive as a way of solving common problems, worth having insofar as the EU stabilises crises and protects the economic wellbeing of its citizens.

The vicious cycle of pitiless violence

ISIS fighters must be held to account as criminals, not conventional military adversaries, for their violent crimes. Snared by geopolitical interests, post-9/11 interventions have too easily been captured by leading states.

10 questions for the Labour Party

Labour's problems cannot be fixed by minor tweaks. They need to address the big questions.

From shore to shore: regional collapse and human insecurity

These are policies that, whilst having a humanitarian veneer, radically exacerbate the burdens of migrants and displaced persons from and in countries like Libya, Syria, Eritrea, and Somalia, alike. 

9/11 wars: a reckoning

Snared by geopolitical interests, post-9/11 interventions have too easily been captured by leading states. A robust law enforcement process must serve enforcers of law, not agents of geopolitical interests.

Reflections on intervention in the 21st century

Where stands now the ‘responsibility to protect’? Recent egregious intervention failures require simplistic nostra to be replaced by a more complex understanding.

The Arab Spring and the changing balance of global power

From an empirical-analytical point of view, what has happened in the Middle East and North Africa since Mohammed Bouazizi died? This is not an opinion piece, but an assessment of underlying factors which have put pressure on the aspiration for justice and political reform launched by the Arab Spring. (5,000 words) 

Europe, the EU and European identity

European identity was the negative construct of a Europe torn apart by world war. It was a negative outcome of an attempt to forge a European identity in the Cold War, squeezed, as Europe was, by the rivalry of the USA and USSR. But negative cultural formation cannot carry the day.

Is the WTO deal good news for multilateralism?

Resolving gridlock involves the search for a new kind of politics that builds on the many and various partial solutions to global challenges that can be found today. The only alternative is collective drift.

Climate leadership in the developing world

There is a level of political dynamism at the national level that seems all but absent from global negotiations. But what is particularly interesting about this growing trend is that it appears to be strongest in the developing world.

Democracy, Syria and the western way of war

The manner in which the Syrian crisis has been addressed by western polities signals a shift, at least for now, in how acts of war are deliberated by those governments considering military intervention. But how significant is this? There is both some good and bad news in this regard.

Red lines and dangerous incoherence: Syria and the international community

While the region slips further into instability, the rejection of military action over Syria by the US Congress would be a huge stepping stone to undoing the US and western way of war since 9/11.

Gridlock: the growing breakdown of global cooperation

Economic and political shifts in large part attributable to the successes of the post-war multilateral order are now amongst the factors grinding that system into gridlock.

Wars of Decline: Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

This article assesses the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in terms of their legality, their consequences - local, regional and global - and their impact. It describes the growing impotence of western powers in reshaping global politics by force. Rather, it argues, the flawed application of organised violence as a tool in the defence and projection of western power has dissolved the grandiose project of the ‘American century.’

From the American Century to a cosmopolitan order

The universal constitutional stepping stones of the twentieth century give clues as to what the form and shape of organizations and institutions should be, globally, but they offer no simple blueprints. These can only be worked out in the process of travel, with fellow travel companions, in dialogue and activities shaped by and consistent with cosmopolitan principles.

The Arab 1989 revisited

The establishment and deepening of a democratic culture is a long-term project and is intergenerational. As divisions open up between the elites and the street as well as within the elites, the events of 2011 across the Middle East and North Africa represent a powerful first step in a larger process of transformation.

9/11, and the end of the American century

The “war on terror” launched in response to the crime of 9/11 signalled the decline of American and western power and marked the emergence of a multipolar global landscape. The challenge now is to work out a politics of mutual recognition that meets the permanent reality of intertwined human fate, says David Held.

Dealing with Saif Gaddafi: naivety, complicity or cautious engagement?

How should the London School of Economics have handled its Libyan connections? Fred Halliday strongly opposed engagement, while David Held, Co-Director of LSE Global Governance, has been a major supporter. Is this shown to have been naïve or complicit? No - a risk worth taking, argues the author

The Arab 1989?

The uprisings sweeping across the Middle East portend a political transformation as significant as those of 1989. The economic stagnation of the region, the failures of corrupt and repressive autocratic regimes, conjoined with a disenchanted youthful population wired together as never before, have triggered a political struggle few anticipated. Yet 1989 is not an entirely clear point of reference - the emergence of peaceful mass movements of change is a parallel, but the pull of the West, so marked in 1989, is weaker and more complex. Accordingly, the path ahead for these brave, inspiring, challenging movements is more uncertain.

Global challenges: accountability and effectiveness

"The post-war multilateral order is in trouble. Clear, effective and accountable decision-making is needed across a range of urgent global challenges; and, yet, the collective capacity for addressing these matters is in doubt." David Held maps the pressing needs of global governance in a perilous age.

Gordon Brown’s foreign-policy challenges

Britain's new prime minister must use his real but brief opportunity to shift the country's focus and priorities in the global arena, say David Mepham & David Held.

Building bridges: a reply to Anne-Marie Slaughter & Thomas N Hale

Globalisation needs a new politics and set of institutions. What should they look like? David Held assesses the issues of language and substance underlying Anne-Marie Slaughter & Thomas Hale’s critique of his ideas.

What are the dangers and the answers? Clashes over globalisation

David Held’s argument on openDemocracy that the challenge of globalisation requires a new “global covenant” informed by social democratic political values provoked lively debate and strong disagreement. Here, he responds to his critics, clarifies his vision, and looks ahead.

Globalisation: the dangers and the answers

Washington-led neo-liberalism and unilateralism has failed the world. It is urgent that we find a way beyond its legacy. This calls for a new model of globalisation, that works for humans everywhere. In a brilliant, extended essay, David Held provides a unified critique of the present global order and sketches his alternative.

Return to the state of nature

The US-led war on Iraq is more than a failure of American strategy, diplomacy and thinking; in its heedless rejection of international institutions and their norms of co-operation, it represents a dangerous retreat to the law of the jungle.

Davos: a view from the summit

The annual World Economic Forum was moved this year from its regular location of Davos, in Switzerland, to New York. A key participant in openDemocracy’s globalisation dialogue, present at the five-day event, is impressed by its quality of exchange and commitment. But what kind of action will follow?
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