Chris Reus-Smit (born 8 August 1961) is Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is a leading constructivist scholar in the field of international relations, and is arguably Australia's pre-eminent scholar in the field. Professor Reus-Smit's research focuses on the politics of International Ethics and institutions, and he has published widely on issues of American and Australian foreign policy, international law, global governance, multilateralism, human rights, and international relations theory. At present, he is co-editor (with Nicholas J. Wheeler) of the Cambridge Studies in International Relations book series, and co-editor (with Duncan Snidal and Alexander Wendt) of the journal "International Theory".
Reus-Smit was educated in Australia and the United States, receiving his B.A. and M.A. from La Trobe University in Melbourne. His M.A. dissertation concerned Australian foreign and security policy under during the Fraser era. After completing his M.A. in the mid-1980s, he taught at La Trobe University. During the mid-1990s, Reus-Smit undertook his PhD at Cornell University, along with other emerging constructivist scholars such as Audie Klotz and Richard Price. His doctoral dissertation was co-chaired by Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, which was later published as The Moral Purpose of the State in 1999.
Reus-Smit returned to teach in Australia in 1995 and held positions as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Monash University before taking up a position as Senior Fellow at the Australian National University in 2001, and was promoted to Professor in 2004. Reus-Smit served as Head of the Department of International Relations at the ANU from 2001 until 2010, and as Deputy Director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) from 2006 to 2008. In September 2010 Reus-Smit moved to Florence to take up the Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute, and in 2013 was appointed to a Chair in International Relations at the University of Queensland, Australia. Reus-Smit is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
Reus-Smit's interventions in the field of IR have been wide ranging and theoretically significant. His innovative analytical focus and highly imaginative, brilliant synthesis of ideas over a relatively brief period (he completed his PhD in 1996) distinguish his contribution to constructivism.
Contribution to International Relations Theory
Reus-Smit’s most significant contribution to the field is reflected in his answer to the question of the 'enigma of fundamental institutions,' laid out in 'The Moral Purpose of the State.' Here he analysed the different practices and norms of very different international societies, including ancient Greece, the Renaissance city-states and the modern states system. He argued that underpinning each is an assemblage of three elements that he refers to as 'constitutional structures.'
- “Constitutional structures are coherent ensembles of intersubjective beliefs, principles and norms that perform two functions in ordering international societies: they define what constitutes a legitimate actor entitled to all the rights and privileges of statehood: and they define the basic parameters of rightful state action.”
These three intersubjective, normative elements are:
- An hegemonic belief about the moral purpose of the state [centralised, autonomous political organisation]
- An organising principle of sovereignty
- A norm of pure procedural justice
This hegemonic belief about the moral purpose of the state is arguably the most important, because it provides the normative basis on which the other two develop. As Reus-Smit puts it: ‘historically different international societies, in which different ideals of legitimate statehood prevailed, have developed different institutional orders, with multilateral diplomacy and contractual international law only emerging in a world where liberal states, and their principles of governance, have been ascendent’.
Other early work explored the relationship between critical international theory and constructivism. One of the key arguments he presented in an early article he co-authored with Richard Price 'Dangerous liaisons? Critical international theory and constructivism', is that constructivism, in spite of its engagement with the mainstream 'on issues of interpretation and evidence, generalisations, alternative explanations and variation and comparability', remains compatible with critical international theory.
- "Individual Rights and the Making of the International System" (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
- "Special Responsibilities: Global Problems and American Power" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). Co-authored with Mlada Bukovansky, Ian Clark, Robyn Eckersley, Richard Price, and Nicholas Wheeler.
- "The Oxford Handbook of International Relations" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Co-edited with Duncan Snidal.
- "International Crises of Legitimacy" (Special Issue, International Politics, 2007). Co-edited with Ian Clark.
- American Power and World Order (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004).
- The Politics of International Law Editor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
- Theories of International Relations Coauthored with Scott Burchill, Andrew Linklater, Jacqui True, Matthew Patterson, and Richard Devetak (London: Palgrave, 2001, 2005, 2008 Editions).
- The Moral Purpose of the State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
- Between Sovereignty and Global Governance Coedited with Albert Paolini and Anthony Jarvis. (London: Macmillan, 1998).
- 'Human Rights in a Global Ecumene', "International Affairs", 87 (5), 2011.
- 'Struggles for Individual Rights and the Expansion of the International System', "International Organization", 65 (2), 207–242, 2011.
- 'Reuniting Ethics and Social Science in International Relations', "Ethics and International Affairs", 37 (2), 395–414, 2008. With Duncan Snidal.
- 'International Crises of Legitimacy', "International Politics", 44 (2/3), 2007.
- ‘Liberal Hierarchy and the License to Use Force’, Review of International Studies, 31 (December 2005).
- 'Imagining Society: Constructivism and the English School', British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 4 (3), 487–509, 2002.
- 'Human Rights and the Social Construction of Sovereignty', Review of International Studies, 27 (4), 1–20, 2001. (Awarded the BISA Prize.)
- 'The Strange Death of Liberal International Theory', European Journal of International Law, 12 (3), 573–593, 2001.
- 'The Constitutional Structure of International Society and the Nature of Fundamental Institutions', "International Organization", 51 (4), 1997.
- Griffiths, Roach and Solomon (2008). Fifty Key Thinkers in International Relations (2nd Edition). London: Routledge, p. 139
- Reus-Smit, C. (1997) ‘The Constitutional Structure of International Society and the Nature of Fundamental Institutions’
- Christian Reus-Smit, ‘Imagining society: constructivism and the English School’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations 4 (2002), p. 503.
- Richard Price and Christian Reus-Smit, 'Dangerous liaisons? Critical international theory and constructivism', European Journal of International Relations 4 (1998), p. 260.