Thinking about world order, inquiring into others' conceptions of the international
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Theorizing global order: the international, culture and governance
How to think about global order in a world characterized by a multiplicity of inequalities and differences?1 In this paper, I draw upon the insights of critical and postcolonial IR to suggest that thinking about global order in a world of multiple differences entails inquiring others’ conceptions of the international. By ‘others’, I mean those who are ‘perched on the bottom rung’ of world politics2—that is, those who happen not to be located on or near the top of hierarchies in world politics, enjoying unequal influence in shaping various dynamics, including their own portrayal in world politics. While our field is called International Relations, what we recognize as ‘IR knowledge’ has drawn on particular narratives that do not recognize the roles of ‘others’ who have been IR’s ‘constitutive outside’.3 What I mean by IR’s constitutive outside is those who have also shaped world politics, but whose roles do not feature prominently (if at all) in prevalent IR narratives. The study of global order is no exception. This paper suggests that the challenge of thinking about global order in a world characterized by a multiplicity of inequalities and differences calls on us, as students of IR, to re-focus our attention on others’ conceptions of the international. I lay out this challenge in section one. In section two, I sketch out my suggested answer. In a nutshell, I offer ‘hierarchy in anarchical society’ as a concept that captures the hierarchical as well as anarchical and societal aspects of the international as conceived by ‘others’ who are IR’s constitutive outside.