Capillaries of force: constituent power, porous sovereignty, and the ethics of anarchism

Pfenninger, C. 2017. Capillaries of force: constituent power, porous sovereignty, and the ethics of anarchism. PhD thesis University of Westminster Politics and International Relations

TitleCapillaries of force: constituent power, porous sovereignty, and the ethics of anarchism
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsPfenninger, C.

Despite the omnipresence of anarchy in IR, anarchist political thought is only partly mobilized by the discipline. IR has been paying a great deal of attention to anarchy, but it failed so far to consistently incorporate anarchism into its conceptual repertoire. Conversely, anarchist theorists have demonstrated only a limited interest in joining debates about international politics. This researchproject addresses the incomplete and partial mobilization of anarchist political philosophy in IR, and offers a more holistic approach to the discipline’s grand themes.

Towards this particular end the thesis deploys a series of key-concepts central to classical anarchist thought, and inserts them into the context of contemporary IR-theory. The research departs from the hypothesis that an engagement of anarchism with IR must run through a mobilization of constituent power. Anarchist political theory is somewhat neglected by the discipline of IR. Yet, apart from the evident lack of anarchism in IR there exists another gap in the literature, namely the inconsistent application of constituent power to the study of global politics. While the thesis focuses chiefly on the anarchist contribution to IR-theory, it also argues that this double-lacuna must be addressed jointly.

The project hence offers a critical narration of IR key-concepts along the lines of philosophical anarchism - a reading which is supported by the deployment of constituent power. Within this context the centrality of power to the study of IR is discussed, and the discipline’s underlying methodological assumptions are systematically evaluated. The project furthermore assesses anarchist philosophy against the backdrop of constituent force, and establishes a firm connection between the two traditions of political thought. The conceptual implications of an amalgamation of constituent power and anarchist political theory are eventually explored by means of an engagement with a series of IR’s grand themes, most notably ontology, sovereignty, agency, spatiality, and global ethics.


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