Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Progress in International Politics
by Imerman, Dane K., Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2012, 294; 10631015
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation addresses the question of progress in international politics. International relations scholarship has been relatively silent on the issue since World War II and conventional wisdom in both academia and the broader population tends to be fairly pessimistic. However, an analysis of the norms, behaviors, and institutions of international politics actually demonstrates a tremendous amount of what most would consider progress over the last two centuries. An incremental evolution of the international system has taken place, evolving from 18th century practices in which territorial expansion, slavery, and colonization were both legitimate and commonplace to a 21st century international community defined by interstate equality, deliberative conflict resolution, and international law that limits the unilateral use of power. Intuitively these appear to be very positive developments for international politics, but they deserve more rigorous treatment to identify how exactly international politics have changed, and why this should be deemed progressive.

Building on Eliot Sober's definition of “Progress = Directional Change + Values,” I adopt a three-pronged approach that (1) proposes a normative definition of international political progress (i.e. values), (2) empirically demonstrates its accomplishment over the last two centuries (i.e. directional change), and (3) offers an explanatory theory for how progressive change can be advanced in the future.

I present global collective identity as a normative benchmark for political progress. By looking beyond substantive outcomes to the ways in which patterns of political interaction have changed—shifts in identifications, norms, and rules in the international system—we can begin to gauge the significance and durability of international political change. Specifically, as networks of identification become more inclusive, first at the interstate level and eventually at the global level, the most basic but seemingly interminable problems of international cooperation are ameliorated. Progress, then, can be measured by the salience of international (and eventually global) collective identifications in the system.

The empirical chapters present a historical narrative demonstrating greater international collective identifications over time and the budding potential for global identifications in the future. Starting from the French Revolution, I elucidate the evolution and growing salience of identifications through the Concert of Europe Era (1815-1878), League of Nations Era (1880s-1939), and United Nations Era (1945-Present). Additionally, these chapters reveal a strong correlation between collective identifications and the gradual emergence of procedurally liberal international institutions over the same periods, drawing initial inferences of a mutually reinforcing relationship that are useful in accounting for collective identity formation over time.

Finally, I present an inductively generated theory to explain, in part, how progress has been achieved in the past and how its progression can be continued. Specifically, I propose a procedurally liberal institutional theory of collective identify formation, elucidating how procedural liberalism's principles of equality and universality operate to promote collective identifications among institutional participants while simultaneously introducing pressures to expand participation. In sum, I offer an institutional alternative to violent conflict as a catalyst of collective identity formation, thus providing an opportunity for progress to develop more consensually, deliberatively, and peacefully than in prior eras.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wendt, Alexander
Commitee: Hopf, Ted, Mitzen, Jennifer, Wendt, Alexander
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: International Relations, Political science
Keywords: Collective identity formation, Institutional evolution, Procedural liberalism, Progress
Publication Number: 10631015
ISBN: 978-0-355-01321-4
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