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Constructing Historical Realism: International Relations as Comparative History

  • Martin Hall
Publiceringsår: 1999
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Lund political studies
Volym: 110
Dokumenttyp: Doktorsavhandling
Förlag: Department of Political Science, Lund University

Abstract english

In this study the author seeks to develop Historical Realism as a new approach to International Relations. Drawing on recent theoretical developments in International Relations and Historical Sociology it is argued, first, that a distinction between constitutive and causal theory is necessary and, second, that this distinction makes comparisons at a high level of abstraction across time and space possible. The explanatory focus of Historical Realism is the political reproduction of states. States are seen as constantly facing a double security dilemma: it is being threatened, or potentially threatened, by two sets of rivals for revenue. At the level of abstraction of Historical Realism, states have two possible responses, short of collapse, to this double security dilemma. They can either pursue a fortifying mode of political reproduction, whereby the essence of their strategy is to prevent rivals from gaining strength. Alternatively, they can pursue an alliance-building mode of political reproduction, whereby they cooperate with or co-opt rivals, turning them into allies instead. Which response states’ choose depend on the constitutive context they exist in, and how this is changing. The constitutive context is conceptualised with four dichotomous dimensions. International systems, it is argued, can either be functionally differentiated or not, and political relations in these systems can either be embedded in economic relations or not. The societies from which states’ extract revenue can, further, either be competitive or not, and either logistically closed or open.

The second part of the study develops this conceptual framework in the contexts of Japanese political reproduction towards the end of the nineteenth century, the political reproduction, and failure, of the Roman Republic, and political reproduction in early medieval western Europe.


Department of Political Science, room 119
  • Barry Buzan (Professor)


  • Political Science
  • theory
  • historical sociology
  • feudalism
  • Late Antiquity
  • Japan
  • Republican Rome
  • Political and administrative sciences
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 91-628-3746-X
Martin Hall
E-post: martin [dot] hall [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se


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