The Study of International Society after Watson

International Politics, published online 17.07.2023, 20 p. DOI: 10.1057/s41311-023-00494-0

The paper begins with praise of Watson’s historical work and goes on to criticize it for downplaying the agency of agents other than European great powers and the USA. The key point here is that entrants from Europe’s periphery and beyond were not only ‘expanded upon’ by a growing international system but came to it with their own experiences of having been part of other systems. The historic memories of life before entry were kept alive by mnemonic techniques that also changed as a result of interaction with other members of the system. What ensued was not an effortless expansion of the international system, but a meeting of cultures that may be conceptualized as the intertwining of different narrative sociabilities emanating from different memories. This matters today, for entrants like China and Russia preserve memories of previous experiences, and these memories inform how these states read ongoing political developments.



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