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Nuclear Authority: The IAEA and the Absolute Weapon, Robert L. Brown

Reviewed by Jane Vaynman



The recent resurgence of research on nuclear proliferation has focused on several new factors in understanding why states pursue or forsake nuclear weapons. These include energy assistance, U.S. nonproliferation policy, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, among others. Robert L. Brown’s focus on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—the organization tasked with both overseeing peaceful uses of nuclear technology and monitoring its diversion for weapons—is a welcome addition to the nuclear nonproliferation literature and to broader work on institutions and organizations in international relations. While the IAEA has played a prominent and public role in all of the contemporary nuclear proliferation cases—Iraq, Iran, North Korea—it has not been widely studied. Brown makes an important claim by arguing that the IAEA is an organization with rising international political authority, defined as the power to change the behavior of states without coercive tools.

Brown argues that international political authority is “the product of persistent demand and successful agent supply” (p. 181). The demand side has two components: demand for nuclear “policy partiality” (investment in expertise for achieving specific policy goals; p. 32) and demand for organizational “impersonality” (rule-governed ad

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