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History, theory, and contingency in the study of modern international relations: the global transformation revisited

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2016

Alexander Anievas*
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut, Department of Political Science, Storrs, CT, UK

Abstract

Debates engaging the problems of ahistoricism and Eurocentrism in International Relations (IR) theory have taken on new dimensions in recent years. Scholars from a variety of different theoretical traditions have aimed to reconstruct IR theory on stronger historical–sociological grounds, while re-orienting the study of IR away from the fetish of ‘Western’ thought and agency. Buzan and Lawson’s The Global Transformation offers a welcome contribution to these endeavours to furnish a non-Eurocentric historical sociology of international relations. This article seeks to push their project further by re-assessing the relationship between history, theory, and contingency. In particular, it interrogates whether Buzan and Lawson’s ‘configurational’ approach to the ‘global transformation’, emphasizing the contingent concatenation of historical events and social processes, results in a displacement of theory through an over-emphasis on the interaction of free-floating contingently related causes, causes that are external to any theoretical schema. This approach obscures the deeper, structural forces in the making of global modernity, most notably those that escape Buzan and Lawson’s singular focus on the ‘long 19th century’.

Type
Symposium: Theory, History, and the Global Transformation
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2016 

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