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‘Obligations written in the heart’: The primacy of association and the renewal of political theology

Pabst, Adrian (2019) ‘Obligations written in the heart’: The primacy of association and the renewal of political theology. Journal of International Relations and Development, 22 (2). pp. 300-326. ISSN 1408-6980. (doi:10.1057/s41268-018-0131-7) (KAR id:63267)

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Notions of anarchy and an artificial state-centric system underpin much of modern political and IR theory. However, the primacy of cultural association over anarchy and artifice has once again come to the fore, notably in constructivist and ‘culturalist’ approaches. The paper argues that these approaches make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the international but rest on a secular ontology that brackets religion and transcendent notions of morality and justice out of the equation. By contrast, the work of Edmund Burke offers an alternative conception of the international. Contrary to constructivism, Burke considers association not as socially constructed but as reflecting a natural order governed by customs and traditions. Such an order gives rise to ‘commonwealths of culture’ governed by a transcendent morality that for Burke is God-given. Contrary to ‘culturalist’ approaches, Burke conceptualises identity not in essentialist terms but rather as an organically evolving reality that is shaped by both ideas and material forces – notions of common humanity and universal standards of justice, which are mediated through history and embodied in particular practices. For Burke, the international requires ‘obligations written in the heart’, which are more fundamental than the formal standards of ‘papers and seals’.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1057/s41268-018-0131-7
Uncontrolled keywords: association, culture, ontology, obligations, Burke, constructivism
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2017 11:54 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 19:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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