William Hague’s Activist Foreign Policy: The Perils of Merging Practices

Gaskarth, Jamie (2023). William Hague’s Activist Foreign Policy: The Perils of Merging Practices. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 36(4) pp. 532–550.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09557571.2022.2106822


Assuming office as UK Foreign Secretary in 2010, William Hague asserted a desire to pursue an ‘activist foreign policy’. Despite studies into Hague’s period in office, the significance of this phrase and its implications for Hague’s diplomacy have been overlooked. This article plugs that gap. It suggests ‘activist foreign policy’ merges two separate and potentially conflicting practices, namely, activism and diplomacy. Using insights from the practice turn, the author examines two policies of Hague’s tenure: his promotion of the Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), 2012-2014 and his diplomatic response to the Syria conflict, 2011-2014. Exploring these cases highlights the creative potential of merging practices, but also the extent to which they can conflict in ways that provoke resistance from other participants. It concludes that efforts to merge practices need to be aware of the underlying logic of existing behaviours and actions within each practice to be transposed successfully.

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