Time in international relations theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Temporal phenomena like power shifts, wars, and confounding events characterize international politics. Yet for decades academic international relations (IR) did not consider time worthy of research or reflection. Recently things have changed, especially in critical IR, where scholars developed numerous arguments about time’s political importance. However, none of that work pursued a synoptic account of time in IR theory. This chapter does so, using an ideal typology of closed and open time to understand realism, liberalism, constructivism, English School, feminism, Marxism, and critical theory. In each, tensions between open and closed time distinguish the theory from its competitors but also animate explanatory and normative debates among its proponents. The historically overlooked issue of time—our assumptions about it, visions of it, and claims about how it impacts politics—drives theoretical development across and within IR theories, which we can understand as attempts to time international political life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Time and Politics
EditorsKlaus H. Goetz
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780190862084
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Apr 2019

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks
PublisherOxford University Press


  • international relations theory
  • open time
  • closed time
  • explanation
  • normative theorizing
  • history
  • timing
  • temporality


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