International Origins of Social and Political Theory: Volume 32

Cover of International Origins of Social and Political Theory

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xv
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This article introduces the main themes that animate this special issue: the necessary entanglement of theory and history, the cortical relationship between theory and practice, and the transboundary (i.e., international) relations that help to constitute systems of both thought and practice. We integrate the contributions to the special issue within these overarching themes and identify their main contributions. We make three core arguments: first, all theory is situated knowledge, derived in and through historical context; second, theory-practice is a single field in which theory arises out of and acts upon historical experience; and third, both social and political theory have international origins, arising from transboundary encounters.

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The attempt to recover the international origins of social and political thought is motivated by the unsatisfactory fragmentation of modern knowledge – by its failure to account for the intimate connections between theory and history in general and its international dimension in particular – and seeks to overcome these divides. This article provides an analysis of the theory/history divide and its role for the fragmentation of modern knowledge. Theoretically, it shows, this divide is rooted in, and reproduced by, the epistemic foundations of modern knowledge. Historically, the modern episteme arises from a crisis of imperial politics in the 18th century. This analysis suggests that theory, history, and the international are products rather than origins of modern social and political thought. These historical origins thus do not provide the basis for more integrated forms of knowledge. They do, however, reveal how the fragmentation of knowledge itself simultaneously serves and obscures the imperialist dimension of modern politics.

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This article examines the multiple ways in which Hannah Arendt’s thought arose historically and in international context, but also how we might think about history and theory in new ways with Arendt. It is commonplace to situate Arendt’s political and historical thought as a response to totalitarianism. However, far less attention has been paid to the significance of other specifically and irreducibly international experiences and events. Virtually, all of her singular contributions to political and international thought were influenced by her lived experiences of, and historical reflections on, statelessness and exile, imperialism, transnational totalitarianism, world wars, the nuclear revolution, the founding of Israel, war crimes trials, and the war in Vietnam. Yet, we currently lack a comprehensive reconstruction of the extent to which Arendt’s thought was shaped by the fact of political multiplicity, that there are not one but many polities existing on earth and inhabiting the world. This neglect is surprising in light of the significant “international turn” in the history of thought and intellectual history, the growing interest in Arendt’s thought within international theory and, above all, Arendt’s own unwavering commitment to plurality not simply as a characteristic of individuals but as an essential and intrinsically valuable effect of distinct territorial entities. The article examines the historical and international context of Arendt’s historical method, including her critique of process- and development-oriented histories that remain current in different social science fields, setting out and evaluating her alternative approach to historical writing.

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The labor theory of value (LTV) offers a lucid and forceful example of a “theory” thought to stand outside “history.” Considered as an “objective” form of theorizing, the LTV seeks transhistorical truths about the relationship between humans and nature – whereby, as everyone knows, value in the world is produced by the fundamental force of human labor power. Marx is typically taken to have subscribed to some form of the LTV, and thus to have signed on to this form of theorizing. This article refuses to treat Marx as an analytic, ahistorical theorist who would either affirm or deny the LTV. Rather, I read Marx as a genealogist who excavates the story of labor and value within the specific historical context of an emerging capitalist social formation. This genealogical approach to Marx, and particularly to his less-often-discussed, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, shows plainly that Marx never subscribed to the LTV, but more importantly that he eschewed the form of theory that the LTV presumes. Rather than seeking to make transhistorical theoretical claims about the relation between labor and value, Marx meant to demonstrate to his readers something about the way in which a definite and concrete (historically situated) capitalist social formation establishes value. A capitalist social formation establishes its own specific value relations, by first constituting, and then dissimulating, a link between labor and value.

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This article explores the role of history and historical memory in the formation of early Zionist/Israeli national security doctrine. To that end, it makes three moves. First, it explores a series of public addresses made by Zalman Rubashov (Shazar) in 1942–1943. A key public intellectual in the Jewish community of preindependent Palestine (the Yishuv), Rubashov means to help his listeners make sense of, and respond collectively to, the unfolding destruction of European Jewry. Second, it draws cautious parallels between those public intellectual pronouncements and the postwar work of Friedrich Meinecke, a prominent German historian and public intellectual and a sometime teacher of Rubashov. In both cases, I suggest, history does more than make sense of a moment of political transition: It seeks to reframe the self-understandings of citizens and their collective political relations. Third, drawing on a recent memoir by Noam Chayut, a prominent Israeli antioccupation activist, I explore how those self-understandings can be lost when the historical claims upon which they are predicated lose their sense of immediacy, naturalness, or coherence.

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Duncan Bell’s project to restore late-Victorian and Edwardian debates on federative empire or a Greater Britain to international theory emphasizes the “political language” of civilization, race, and character available to fin-de-siècle thinkers on empire. In the process, Bell leaves out the contribution to these debates made by a key figure in the newly emerging discipline of economics: Alfred Marshall. Most recent writings on 19th-century empire similarly ignore the work of late-Victorian economists, as do recent efforts to map the terrain of international theory more broadly. Marshall’s writings on federative empire are not referenced by the advocates of Greater Britain that Bell carefully documents, but it is clear that Marshall followed those debates closely. And though he imagined his contribution as distinctly economic, his work unfolded in a similar language of civilization, race, and character, informed particularly by social evolutionary thought. In conclusion, I stress the dangerous temptation to sort the relevance of thinkers according to contemporary disciplinary boundaries so that more recent economists and the components of earlier political economic work that might be classed as economics are sifted out of our narratives of political thought. Instead, I see the debates on empire that Bell explores as unfolding in a language that, since the 17th and 18th centuries, has engaged issues of commerce and trade, social change, moral virtue, and the nature of political rule: political economy.

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Examining the work of Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall, this article argues that their biographic practices and experiences as colonial subjects allowed them to break with imperial representations and to provide new, anticolonial imaginaries. It demonstrates how the experience of the racialized and diasporic subject, respectively, creates a kind of subjectivity that makes visible the work of colonial cultural narratives on the formation of the self. The article first traces Fanon’s and Hall’s transboundary encounters with metropolitan Europe and then shows how these biographic experiences translate into their theories of practice and history. Living through distinct historical moments and colonial ideologies, Fanon and Hall produced theories of historical change, which rest on epistemic ruptures and conjunctural changes in meaning formations. Drawing on their biographic subjectivities, both intellectuals theorize cultural and colonial forms of oppression and seek to produce new knowledge that is based on practice and experience.

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When the 13 colonies in North America, the slave colony of Saint-Domingue, and the colonial territories of the Portuguese and Spanish Americas all rose against their imperial rulers, a new postcolonial order seemingly emerged in the Western Hemisphere. The reality of this situation forced political theorists and practitioners of the early 19th century to rethink the way in which they envisioned the nature and dynamics of international order. But a careful analysis of this shift reveals that it was not the radical break with prior notions of sovereignty and territoriality, often described in the literature. This was not the emergence of a new postimperial system of independent, nationally anchored states. Rather, it reflected a creative rethinking of existing notions of divided sovereignty and composite polities, rife with political experiments – from the formation of a new multi-centered empire in North America to the quasi-states and federations of Latin America. This moment of political experimentation and postcolonial order-making presented a distinctly new world repertoire of empire and state-building, parts of which were at least as violent and authoritarian as those of the old world empires it had replaced. The most radical ideas of freedom and liberty, championed by the black republic of Haiti, remained marginalized and sidelined by more conservative powers on both sides of the Atlantic.

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During the four years of preliminary meetings that led to the 1977 Protocols Additional I and II governing internal armed conflict, the prohibitions against superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering – two concepts that gird the regulation and moderation of war and limit the use of certain means and methods of warfare – were invoked as a means of calling into account the actions of imperial states. These meetings took place in the context of the conflicts in Southeast Asia, following the wars of decolonization and national liberation in the 1950s and 1960s. The participants in these meetings were freedom fighters and liberation movements who used this forum, which was open to them for the first time, to push for a wider understanding of the concepts of superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. Their intention was to hold imperialism and imperial states accountable for suffering and injury beyond that of physical death or wounding and to recognize the violence of colonization and the social and cultural devastation it brought. These interventions were a critical attempt to broaden and deepen the meaning of the laws of war, to make them responsive to more than established sovereign state violence, and to ensure that they reflected the experience of colonization/decolonization. This episode matters because the prohibitions against unnecessary suffering and superfluous injury are two elements that detail the general prohibition first codified in 1907 Hague Convention IV, Article 22, namely that the “the right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited.” However, the history and formulation of these two concepts has yet to be fully explored, the meaning of each is debated, and taken together the two are among “the most unclear and controversial rules of warfare.”

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If moments of historical rupture create spaces for social change, what emerges to fill those gaps? This article approaches this question by exploring the creation of the “domestic” in 17th century Europe and Asia following the decline of the Spanish Habsburgs in the West and the Ming Dynasty in the East. Two events will serve as lenses through which that process will be explored. The first case centers on arguments for the legitimacy of the 1603 Dutch seizure of a Portuguese carrack in what would serve as the basis for Hugo Grotius’s defense of the free seas. The second debate focuses on the appropriate mourning ritual following the 1659 death of King Hyojong, the 17th ruler in Korea’s Choson dynasty. I argue that, in the process of responding to the crises they faced in their environments, social elites in both cases defined and articulated a conception of themselves as sovereign societies, creating a political space and corporate identity distinct from the extant institutional apparatus of the state and cultural framework of the nation.

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About the Editors

Pages 253-253
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Index

Pages 255-264
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Cover of International Origins of Social and Political Theory
DOI
10.1108/S0198-8719201732
Publication date
2017-04-04
Book series
Political Power and Social Theory
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78714-267-1
eISBN
978-1-78714-266-4
Book series ISSN
0198-8719