Approaching Irreversibility in Global Nuclear Politics

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Despite growing interest in irreversibility, it remains one of the least-studied concepts in the nuclear disarmament and arms control literature. Scratch beneath the surface and it becomes clear that ‘irreversibility’ needs to be unpacked both conceptually and empirically. How can we meaningfully and productively address irreversibility in the context of global nuclear politics? Should irreversibility be seen as a distinct concept to be taken seriously or is it superfluous and unnecessary? Should consideration of irreversibility be deferred, and only opened once disarmament has been achieved? These, among other questions, highlight the importance of trying to pin down what is meant by irreversibility. The article starts by asking why we should care about irreversibility. It then examines how irreversibility has been used in disarmament and arms control politics. In doing so, it highlights how irreversibility has frequently meant different things to various actors and sometimes used in conflicting ways. The bulk of the article is dedicated to exploring how irreversibility can be defined and approached including proposed parameters for the concept. It ends by introducing the contributions to this special issue.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal for peace and nuclear disarmament
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Dec 2023


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