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.
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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.
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