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.
Recently, more and more International Relations (IR)
This paper excavates another conceptual thread running through much of what has been termed “reflexive realism”—the importance of open temporality. We argue that the ethical and political cores of reflexive realism owe much to a theoretical confrontation with the ultimate reality of open‐ended, indeterminate time. Where the legacy of classical realism embedded significant ambiguities in these tensions, reflexive realism can provide a more developed ethical framework for political action through an engagement, via open time, with research often viewed as outside the purview of political realism. We then uncover an aesthetic understanding of action and theory to show how classical realism’s indeterminate view of time, instead of limiting and even debasing any and all human efforts, can be mobilized as a resource for ethical evaluation and action. The paper’s concluding discussion demonstrates this by examining the contributions that open time can make to the perennial dilemma of humanitarian intervention.
What is time? And why does it matter to international politics? Despite evidence that time is central to political life, international-relations theories often taken it for granted. Important efforts to address such oversights critique influential disciplinary assumptions and expand our perspective on temporal experience. But they do not substantially deepen our understanding of time, let alone its relationship to politics. International-relations theory retains entrenched habits of thinking and speaking about time that isolate inquiry, constrain dialogue, and reify time as a stand-alone object detached from social relations and processes. This theory note therefore reconstructs international relations' temporal imagination. Instead of relying on pre-existing, static concepts of time, it develops a framework from the basic activity of timing: practical efforts to establish relationships between various changes according to a standard that enables orientation, direction, and control. Timing theory explains the political origins of time and the power of our most familiar ideas about it. It also resolves key problems attending other temporal research. Finally, it offers scholars more dynamic ways to analyze the temporal politics of important phenomena like war and identity. It thus highlights how, in both practice and theory, international politics is very much a matter of timing.
Various reflections on the 'Arab Spring' evince a common view of the relationship between change and time that imbues events with a sense of intrinsic peril. Based on a framework developed from Norbert Elias's concept of timing, this article elaborates the relationship between time and the 'Arab Spring' by unpacking and explaining three rhetorical tropes prevalent in academic responses to the revolts. The first two construct a problem to which the third proffers a solution. First, analysts treat time itself as a problematic force confounding stability and progress. Second, they deploy fluvial metaphors to present dynamic events as inherently insecure. Third, they use temporal Othering to retrofit the 'Arab Spring' to the familiar arc of liberal democracy, which renders the revolts intelligible and amenable to external intervention. These moves prioritize certainty and order over other considerations and constrain open-ended transformations within a familiar rubric of political progress. They also constitute an active timing effort based on a conservative standard, with important implications for our understanding of security and for scholarly reflexivity. The article concludes with three temporal alternatives for engaging novel changes like the 'Arab Spring'.
What is time and how does it influence our knowledge of international politics? For decades International Relations (IR) paid little explicit attention to time. Recently this began to change as a range of scholars took an interest in the temporal dimensions of politics. Yet IR still has not fully addressed the issue of why time matters, nor has it reflected on its own use of time—how temporal assumptions and ideas affect the way we understand political phenomena. Moreover, IR remains beholden to two seemingly contradictory visions of time: the time of the clock and a long-standing tradition of treating time as a problem to be solved. International Relations and the Problem of Time develops a unique response to these interconnected puzzles. It reconstructs IR’s temporal imagination by developing an argument that all times—from the rhythms of the universe to individual temporal experience—spring from social and practical timing activities, or efforts to establish meaningful and useful relationships in complex and dynamic settings. In IR’s case, across a wide range of approaches scholars employ narrative timing techniques to make sense of political processes and events. This innovative account of time provides a more systematic and rigorous explanation for all manner of temporal phenomena in international politics. It also develops provocative insights about IR’s own history, its key methodological commitments, supposedly “timeless” statistical methods, historical institutions, and the critical vanguard of time studies. This book invites us to reimagine time in theory and practice, and in so doing to significantly rethink the way we approach the study of international politics.
In this article, we begin to extend ontological security to third-image theorizing. We argue that the autobiographical conceptions of international agents, along with other stories told about international politics, constitute ‘the international’ as a system, society, community, or inhabitable realm beyond and between first- and second-image relations. To develop this point, we focus on the relationship between narrative, anxiety, and time. We contend that ontological security issues resound in the third image once we shift from treating the international realm as social agents' external environment to treating it as a collective project in its own right. Doing so highlights the promise of ontological security studies for further differentiating international fear and anxiety, for enabling novel explanations of international phenomena, and for elaborating third-image identity formation as a wide-ranging timing effort to surmount a dynamic, processual environment full of interconnected coordination challenges.
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