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Change in International Society: How not to Recreate the 'First Debate' of International Relations
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
(English)Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

The English School of International Relations is remarkably unclear on how to conceptualise change in between the idealist belief in progress and the Realist eternal cycles of recurrence in international affairs. This article seeks avoid this dead end by questioning the School’s understanding of change as a commonsensical concept, either taken for granted or treated as trivial. It is argued that change would be better understood as composed of three facets: one ontological (what is change?), one explanatory (what causes change?), and one normative (is change desirable?). This reconceptualization of change permits cross-checking the three facets against each other for internal coherence, but most importantly, it makes visible the underlying assumptions used to study change, so that history, causation and normative preferences can be openly scrutinized, questioned and defended rather than treated as self-evident. The resulting suggestion of an internally coherent understanding of change in international society as change in institutions, made intelligible by ex-post narratives which contribute to the discursive connection between practices and the norms, beliefs and expectations which make them institutions, and guided by a sustained normative debate on the nature of improvement, signifies a much-needed addition to the English School tool-kit. It brings a promise of a significant meta-theoretical overhaul of the theory, which, if taken up, will open up new horizons for the School. In addition, it opens for similar theoretical inquiries into other IR theories.

Keywords [en]
international relations, English School, meta-theory, international society, international order, social facts
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-327969OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-327969DiVA, id: diva2:1131422
Available from: 2017-08-14 Created: 2017-08-14 Last updated: 2018-03-26
In thesis
1. Change, Institutions, and International Organisations: Essays on the English School of International Relations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Change, Institutions, and International Organisations: Essays on the English School of International Relations
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall topic of this thesis is the English School understanding of international order, which I approach specifically by analysing the English School idea of international institutions and their change. The purpose is to develop the theory in a meta-theoretically conscious and coherent way. The three essays in this volume are independent in relation to each other, yet in some ways cumulative. Essays I and II aim to address primarily the question of how to conceptualise the current international order of multilateralism and international organisations. Essay I uses the empirical issue of UN reform to formulate one English School conceptualisation of international order, building specifically on the School’s central theme of international institutions. Essay II theoretically develops the tools of the English School for capturing how international institutions, according to English School theory the fundaments of international order, might change. Essay III approaches the meta-theoretical question of how change itself is understood in the English School, and how different theoretical readings of what we might mean by change give rise to different approaches to the normative question of what might be improvement in the international order. I argue that an internally coherent understanding of change in international society should emphasise change in institutions, made intelligible by ex-post narratives which contribute to establishing the discursive connection between practices and their normative legitimation, and guided by a sustained normative debate on the nature of improvement. This understanding of change signifies a much-needed addition to the English School toolbox, and brings a promise of a meta-theoretical grounding of the theory. In addition, it opens for similar theoretical inquiries into other IR theories.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2017. p. 79
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 146
Keywords
international relations, English School theory, international society, change, the United Nations, primary institutions
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-327970 (URN)978-91-513-0034-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-10-07, Brusewitzsalen (sal 3312), Östra Ågatan 19, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-09-08 Created: 2017-08-14 Last updated: 2018-01-13

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