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date: 29 October 2020

Postinternational Theorylocked

  • Yale H. FergusonYale H. FergusonDivision of Global Affairs, Rutgers University-Newark
  •  and Richard W. MansbachRichard W. MansbachDepartment of Political Science, Iowa State University


In recent years, the dominance of sovereign states has eroded, giving rise to a global crisis of authority. This erosion of state authority and capacity, along with their location in polities both more and less inclusive than states, is a central tenet of postinternational theory. Postinternational theory makes ontological and epistemological claims that reject realist thinking regarding state-centricity, anarchy, and continuity while accepting some of the premises of liberalism and constructivism. The main landmark in the development of postinternational theory was James Rosenau’s trilogy that began in 1990 with Turbulence in World Politics. Some of the other key assumptions of postinternational thinking are that functional systems such as economic markets and ethno-national communities are increasingly incongruent and incompatible with state frontiers; governments everywhere are confronting an authority crisis; individuals have multiple identities and loyalties, which typically coexist until situations arise that force them to choose which they will serve; despite often strong local attachments, the significance of territoriality is declining; as territoriality becomes less important, psychological distance/proximity and cultural factors become more central to understanding political space. Aside from Rosenau, many other theorists have contributed directly or indirectly to the emergence of postinternational theory, from Arnold Wolfers and Ernst Haas to J. W. Burton, John Herz, and J. G. Ruggie. An important question to ponder in future research on postinternational theory is which polities have effective influence and sometimes control over which issue outcomes—and why.


  • Political Institutions

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