Grounding Ontology of the International in Terms of Radical Constructivism

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-6-36-46
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (MGIMO University), 76, Vernadskogo Prosp., Moscow, 119454, Russian Federation.

Received 28.12.2022. Revised 04.02.2023. Accepted 15.03.2023.

Acknowledgements. The research is supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant no. 22-18-00723.

Abstract. The “International Relations” (“IR”) discipline is going through a double-disciplinary crisis. Once again, there is a general feeling of increasingly fragmenting common ground within the discipline (the first crisis) and the acknowledgment that the “IR” only imports concepts and methods from other disciplines but does not export any (the second crisis). Both crises share the same origin. The subject matter – “international” – has not been rooted in any social ontology. The discipline is now searching for the social ontology of “international.” The most discussed candidate for such a role is “societal multiplicity”, a product of “uneven and combined development”. The article offers an alternative variant of the social ontology for “international,” which is based on Niklas Luhmann’s system theory and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s social theory. It argues that “international” is rooted in the segmentary systemic differentiation between inside and outside and in the struggle for recognition of these segments. The semantic marker for this ontology is “sovereignty.” In this way, “sovereignty” turns into a systemic program (in Luhmann’s terms) of international politics (as a subsystem of the world society political system), designating the common ground for the discipline and marking social processes and phenomena, which can be studied within the “IR”. This will allow the “International Relations” to export some of its concepts and methods to other social science disciplines. The article critically engages with the Theory of World Politics by Mathias Albert, reconstructing it to meet the challenge of the double-disciplinary crisis. The “balance of power” is criticized with the help of Michel Foucault, who showed: that among European powers in 19th-century Europe, the balance of power, responsible for producing international order, was linked with the police inside states, responsible for producing domestic order. Nevertheless, to keep the balance of power and to secure the domestic order, states and police used the same technique of observation – statistics, making the “balance of power” a non-autopoietic system program incapable of producing an autopoietic system of international relations. “Sovereignty” also spans both realms of the inside/outside divide but is observed mainly through external recognition and is rooted in the social ontology of “international.” The article argues that “sovereignty” is better suited for the system program of international politics than the “balance of power”.

Keywords: M. Albert, multiplicity, uneven and combined development, sovereignty


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For citation:
Kharkevich M. Grounding Ontology of the International in Terms of Radical Constructivism. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2023, vol. 67, no. 6, pp. 36-46 . EDN: HQPFYL

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