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On the concept of international disorder

McKeil, Aaron ORCID: 0000-0003-1649-0019 (2020) On the concept of international disorder. International Relations. ISSN 0047-1178

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0047117820922289


International relations today are widely considered to be experiencing deepening disorder and the topic of international disorder is gaining increased attention. Yet, despite this recent interest in international disorder, in and beyond the academy, and despite the decades-long interest in international order, there is still little agreement on the concept of international disorder, which is often used imprecisely and with an alarmist rather than analytical usage. This is a problem if international disorder is to be understood in theory, towards addressing its concomitant problems and effects in practice. As such, this article identifies and explores two ways international order studies can benefit from a clearer and more precise conception of international disorder. First, it enables a more complete picture of how orderly international orders have been. Second, a greater understanding of the problem of international order is illuminated by a clearer grasp of the relation between order and disorder in world politics. The article advances these arguments in three steps. First, an analytical concept of international disorder is developed and proposed. Second, applying it to the modern history of international order, the extent to which there is a generative relationship between order and disorder in international systems is explored. Third, it specifies the deepening international disorder in international affairs today. It concludes by indicating a research agenda for International Relations and international order studies that takes the role of international disorder more seriously.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 SAGE Publications
Divisions: IGA: LSE IDEAS
International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2020 08:33
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:31

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