Timing is everything: Toward a better understanding of time and international politics

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What is time and why does it matter to international politics? Despite evidence that time is central to political life, international-relations theories have long neglected it. Critical efforts to address this oversight critiqued influential disciplinary assumptions and catalogued a multiplicity of operative times beyond the clock and calendar. But despite expanding our perspective, research on time has not substantially deepened our understanding of time or its relationship to politics. International-relations theory retains entrenched habits of thinking and speaking that inhibit temporal inquiry and separate time from social life. This theory note therefore reconstructs international relations’ temporal imagination. Instead of relying on pre-existing, static concepts of time, it forges a novel theoretical framework based on the practical activity of timing – of establishing dynamic relationships amongst various changes. Timing theory explains the origins and prevalence of familiar notions about time and offers international-relations scholars more powerful ways to analyze the politics of temporal phenomena. Furthermore, it highlights the broader relevance of timing by demonstrating its explanatory and critical value to discussions about the state, identity, and war. These discussions overturn core ideas about time and make the case that, in both practice and theory, international politics is thoroughly a matter of timing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • timing
  • international relations theory
  • international politics
  • time
  • temporality
  • social science
  • identity
  • war
  • victory

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