At the limit: on realism, materialism and international theory

Davenport, Andrew (2012) At the limit: on realism, materialism and international theory. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Central to Realism’s framing of the international are its conception of the inside/outside
structure of political form and the idea of a state of nature. This thesis provides a
materialist critique of these conceptions. Its starting point is that the Marxist criticism of
Realism has fallen short because Marxism in IR has constructed no theory of the political
and as a result it has been unable to answer Realism’s perception of the ‘tragic’ and
unchanging nature of international political existence. To remedy this deficiency, the
thesis both establishes an alternative understanding of Marx for IR and draws upon
Adorno’s extension and deepening of Marxian critical theory. The argument next
elaborates a reading of Marx’s theory of capital that reveals a considerable degree of
hitherto unappreciated thematic congruence with Realism’s understanding of the
international as a timeless scene of entrapment. It then mobilises Adorno’s philosophical
anthropology to explain this similarity, focusing on the critical accounts of abstraction in
both Marx and Adorno. Finally, it uses these theoretical elements to address the question
of political form directly, taking up specific aspects of Carl Schmitt’s, Giorgio
Agamben’s and Walter Benjamin’s thinking concerning sovereignty and the exception
and reading them through the frame of Adorno’s critique of the concept. The result is a
critical theory of political form that: (i) can explain, without conceding to, the Realist
conceptions both of the necessary inside/outside structure of the political and of the
international as a timeless state of nature; and (ii) can demonstrate an instrinsic
theoretical connection between the global nature of capital and the bounded and delimited
form of the political in a way that has not been achieved before in IR.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations > JZ1249 Relation to other disciplines and topics
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2012 11:54
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015 14:06

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