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Hegemonic metronome: the ascendancy of Western standard time


To date, studies of international politics have little space for time. In this article, I argue that time is constitutive of the international system by offering a genealogical historical sketch of the coeval rise of territorial state sovereignty and Western standard time (consisting of seconds, minutes, and hours). Sovereignty is rightly a foundational concept of both the international system and the field of International Relations (IR), but the emergence of the contemporary method of reckoning time during the Enlightenment also supported the project of political modernity, and is thus critical to IR. The genealogical motive of the sketch is to understand what have become naturalised, global social conventions as historically contingent, cosmopolitical phenomena that resulted from significant socio-political efforts and conflicts. I locate ‘sites’ where modern sovereignty emerged and explicate contemporaneous processes, factors, and events implicated in the rise of modern time at those sites. In doing so, I outline how particular modes of understanding space and time were bred in Western Europe, spread around the world via colonialism, and embedded during the eras of global war and post-colonialism. I conclude by contrasting current challenges to territorial state sovereignty with Western standard time's untrammelled global hegemony.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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