The Open UniversitySkip to content

Pictorial theories of global politics: why anarchy has retained its paradigmatic position

Corry, Olaf (2010). Pictorial theories of global politics: why anarchy has retained its paradigmatic position. In: ECPR Standing Group on International Relations, 9-11 September, 2010, Stockholm, Sweden.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (369Kb)
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


It has recently been pointed out that Kenneth Waltz based his seminal theorization of anarchy on a pictorial view of theories as essentially ‘pictures, mentally formed’ and that this provides his main buttress against theoretical criticism. This paper asks what other pictorial theories are in operation in the discipline and finds surprisingly few. Copious criticism of ‘anarchy’ as a theory has not resulted in a host of rival pictorial theories of world politics being developed and the lack of rival ‘theories’ leaving critics dependent upon anarchy. The paper begins with a note on the pictorial understanding of what a theory is before it investigates alternatives including hierarchy, anarchy, empire and network. It concludes that anarchy and hierarchy remain the only two pictorial theories of political structure in town and that this is a constraining factor in the development of fresh theoretical perspectives on world politics. The example of the Global Polity Approach which aimed to start from a new unit of analysis but lacked precisely its own pictorial theory of political structure is offered as a demonstration of the power of the unchallenged model of anarchy.

Item Type: Conference Item
Copyright Holders: 2010 The Author
Keywords: pictorial theory; anarchy; hierarchy; empire; network; polity
Academic Unit/Department: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Politics, Philosophy, Economics, Development, Geography
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 31088
Depositing User: Olaf Corry
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2012 10:34
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2016 12:11
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

▼ Automated document suggestions from open access sources

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   + 44 (0)870 333 4340