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Is world politics returning to the Middle Ages?: the new medievalism and the problems of authority and change in international relations theory

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Title: Is world politics returning to the Middle Ages?: the new medievalism and the problems of authority and change in international relations theory
Author: Fabry, Mikulas
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Political Science
Copyright Date: 1998
Abstract: The topic of international change is one of the most elusive areas of inquiry in the field of IR. While it would be hard to find in academic texts a more frequently used term than "change," the fact is that our grasp of the subject remains weak. There is no consensus among IR scholars either on the most appropriate approach to study international change or on the best way to differentiate between its various types. This thesis seeks to contribute to our understanding of international change by exploring theoretically the problem of the most basic possible change - the process of replacement of a multi-unit system by a different kind of multi-unit system. Specifically, it examines the claims that the contemporary international system is in the midst of transformation, the results of which are in many crucial respects reminiscent of the way politics was conducted or structured in the Middle Ages. Political authority is said to be shifting from the state to other international actors and the emerging order can be likened to the medieval system of overlapping authority. The following study shows that upon close inspection the idea of new medievalism cannot stand. Its central claim is that system transformations are legal revolutions in which one fundamental constitutive principle is being replaced by another. This principle specifies the manner in which political authority is distributed across the system. Political authority is above all a legal notion and the proper approach for investigating its fundamental change is jurisprudential. Analyzing the international society of states as a legal order requires us to look at the viability of its fundamental constitutive principle, sovereignty. There are at present no signs that would indicate it is being replaced. The neo-medievalists mistake political authority with power of performance and this leads them to faulty conclusions.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/8078
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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