Behind the veil of good intentions: Power analysis of the nuclear non-proliferation regime

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Susan Strange argued that one of the main problems with the use of the concept of regime in IR is the way in which it ‘distort[s] reality implying an exaggerated measure of predictability and order in the system’. Instead, she claimed, scholars should look at the numerous and dynamic bargains on which regimes are based. This article examines four bargains displaying various operations of power that have underpinned the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The four bargains are: first, the superpower collusion in the establishment of the non-proliferation treaty; second, coercive diplomacy and the use of force in preventing access to nuclear materials and technology; third, institutional contestation regarding the aims of the non-proliferation regime and its technical maintenance; and fourth, the creation of particular hierarchies of states via the non-proliferation norm. These bargains have been hidden behind the veil of good intensions, which is the conviction that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is an unquestionable global good. The veil of good intentions, in turn, has helped to maintain the unequal distribution of material capabilities at the heart of the non-proliferation regime
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2017


  • nuclear weapons
  • nuclear non-proliferation
  • non-proliferation treaty (NPT)
  • grand bargain
  • nuclear powers


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