Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

From Borders to Margins: A Deleuzian Ontology for Identities in the Postinternational Environment

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

From Borders to Margins: A Deleuzian Ontology for Identities in the Postinternational Environment

Article excerpt

While concepts of a postinternational politics properly highlight the constant variance of entities in play in international relations, the approach lacks an ontology that shows how such an unstable variety of types of players can coexist in a common field in the first place. This article draws upon Deleuze's philosophy to set out an ontology in which the continual reformulation of entities in play in "postinternational" society can be grasped. This entails a strategic shift from speaking about the "borders" between sovereign states to referring instead to the "margins" between a plethora of entities that are ever open to modifications of identity. The concept of the margin possesses a much wider reach than borders, and focuses continual attention on the meetings and interactions between a range of indeterminate entities whose interactions may determine both themselves and the types of entity that are in play. KEYWORDS: identity, postinternational politics, Deleuze, ontology, borders, margins

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"International" politics has long been a sobriquet for politics between fully paid-up sovereign states. The pregnant expression "postinternational"--in circulation since the 1990s--has been an irritant to this formulation because it has highlighted something that was far from historically new, but was, and is, on the increase: the presence in "international" politics of a rapidly evolving population of groupings, institutions, and actors who could by no stretch of the imagination be called either "nations" or "states." Their shifting presence, alien to the cut-and-dried order of formally sovereign entities, prompted James Rosenau, the inventor of the expression "postinternational," to coin another, "fragmegration," expressing his hope that order could emerge out of this newly prominent "turbulence." (1) In similar mood, Ferguson and Mansbach developed a "polities" model, (2) showing how members of the international arena could constitute themselves by gathering political resources such as authority, identity, and loyalty, from which Ferguson and Mansbach believe that a loose global ordering of things is possible. (3)

But postinternationalism is one of those concepts prefixed with "post" (postmodern, postnational, etc.), with which we point to some thing different from, and following on from the condition referred to in the substantive term they precede. We remain hampered in saying what these alternative, impending conditions are. Postinternationalism, that is to say, still needs much filling out. One absence is an ontology for the situation where entities appear, fuse, dissolve, or re-appear the same but different. It is that shortcoming which this article aspires to resolve by drawing on two strands in Gille Deleuze's work: his analysis of what is entailed in difference between entities and his account of how entities become differentiated in the context of each other. These two strands, I propose, can be gathered under a single roof in the notion of continual articulation taking place on the margin between entities, so as to provide an ontology that fits the postinternational environment (4) where entities perpetually arise and change in relation to the context of other entities.

To begin at the beginning, the polities, authorities, institutions, nations, movements, associations, even sovereign states that make their appearance in the postinternational environment may vary from each other, and from themselves, but we can at least begin by referring to them as "entities." If we are to track, examine and/or account for these entities' doings, any given entity has to be "the same" entity on more than one occasion when we refer to it. While identity is usually taken to mean much more than this, let us say that the prefix "id" signifies minimally that an "identity" is an entity with some degree of that sameness. But in the postinternational environment, the earlier markers of the identities of states--their sovereign independence within their territorial borders--is hopelessly inadequate. …

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