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Beyond East and West: Reorienting Political Theory through the Prism of Modernity

  • Loubna El Amine

While critiquing the dominance of the Western tradition in the discipline of political theory, recent methodological discussions in Comparative Political Theory (CPT) fail to move beyond the East-West dichotomy. More specifically, CPT does not offer the resources to deal with global convergence as embodied in the phenomenon of modernity. I focus on the emergence of the sovereign state in the modern period and argue that the universal acceptance of the state form creates a globally-shared institutional condition. This condition, in turn, necessitates a shared normative and conceptual apparatus centered on ideals like constitutionalism, rights, and democracy. Two implications follow from my argument. First, we should reconceptualize the history of political thought such that we move from an East/West division to a modern/pre-modern division. Second, alternatives to the dominant (“Western”) model are not real alternatives unless they transcend the sovereign state itself, charting a new course of multilayered local, regional, and global political arrangements.

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