Forthcoming book "Man, Agency, and Beyond" and a sneak peek…

Edited by Daniel Jacobi & Annette Freyberg???Inan, Man, Agency, and Beyond: The Evolution of Human Nature in International Relations will soon go to print at Cambridge. The editors have, in all honesty, willed this book along; they were able to provide two rounds of reviews in two months! The book is built from earlier discussions from a 2011 Catalytic Workshop, which even has some good notes available on-line — interesting stuff.

Jan and I are contributing a chapter that draws on our interests in state theory (mainly from social theory and political theory, but also, with encouragement from the editors, literature from international relations too).

We ask a deceptively simple question: during international relations, who or what acts?

Here is an excerpt:

TITLE: Acting in International Relations? Political Agency in State Theory and Actor-Networks  

AUTHORS: Jan-H. Passoth, Department of Sociology, Bielefeld University; Nicholas J. Rowland, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University

Introduction

Who acts in international relations? From state theory generally, and the field of International Relations specifically, the readymade answer is: ‘states do’ – so long as we assume states to be the high-modern regime of nation-states that so dominantly sorted-out conceptual possibilities of political agency during the 20th century. An alternative approach to global politics, in contrast, searches for political power beyond the state. Contemporary shifts toward neo-liberal and other transnational regimes are reshaping the political landscape to enable entities beyond the state to gain importance in governance. We are, thus, left with two options: We see states as entities capable of acting on the stage of global politics, or we see states as one of many patterns through which political activity is enacted. This dichotomy neatly parallels how agency has been conceptualized in social theory: Either we swallow the bitter pill of essentializing a high-modern model of human nature to understand how actors establish, maintain, and transform political order, or we join the deconstruction camp and dissect the mechanisms, techniques, and discursive patterns that surround this model of human nature, which will then one day probably be ‘erased, like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea.’[1] We develop this tension in our paper about who or what acts during international relations.


[1] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Pantheon, 1970), p. 387.

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About Nicholas

Associate Professor of Sociology, Environmental Studies, and Science and Technology Studies at Penn State, Nicholas mainly writes about understanding the scientific study of states and, thus, it is namely about state theory. Given his training in sociology and STS, he takes a decidedly STS-oriented approach to state theory and issues of governance.

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