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Cover The Globalization of World Politics

12. Poststructuralism  

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the international relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies follow. The first one looking at discourses, images, and the victory of the Taliban regime. The second case studies examines Covid-19, state sovereignty, and vaccines.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

2. Politics and the State  

Robert Garner

This chapter explains why the state and sovereignty are relevant to the study of politics. It first provides an empirical typology of the state, ranging from the minimalist night-watchman state, approximated to by nineteenth-century capitalist regimes at one end of the spectrum, to the totalitarian state of the twentieth century at the other. It then examines the distribution of power in the state by focusing on three major theories of the state: pluralism, elitism, Marxism, as well as New Right theory. The chapter seeks to demonstrate that the theories of the state identified can also be critiqued normatively, so that pluralism, for instance, can be challenged for its divisive character, as exemplified by identity politics. It then goes on to review different views about what the role of the state ought to be, from the minimalist state recommended by adherents of classical liberalism, to the pursuit of distinctive social objectives as recommended, in particular, by proponents of communitarianism. Finally, it discusses empirical and normative challenges to the state and asks whether the state’s days are numbered.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

11. Poststructuralism  

Lene Hansen

This chapter examines the core assumptions of poststructuralism, one of the International Relations (IR) perspectives furthest away from the realist and liberal mainstream. It explores whether language matters for international relations, whether all states have the same identity, and whether the state is the most important actor in world politics today. The chapter also considers poststructuralist views about the social world, state sovereignty, and identity and foreign policy. Finally, it discusses poststructuralism as a political philosophy. Two case studies are presented, one dealing with discourses on the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the other relating to Russian discourse on Crimea. There is also an Opposing Opinions box that asks whether poststructuralism provides a good account of the role that materiality and power play in world politics.