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Transformation at the margins: Imperial expansion and systemic change in world politics

Mulich, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-7919-1836 (2018). Transformation at the margins: Imperial expansion and systemic change in world politics. Review of International Studies, 44(4), pp. 694-716. doi: 10.1017/s0260210518000074


Taking the phenomenon of empire as its starting point, this article seeks to provide a framework for addressing the question of how and why international systems change over time. Synthesising elements from network-relational analysis and practice theory, I argue that international systems are best thought of as being composed of multiple partially overlapping and interrelated hierarchical networks. These networks are made up of social ties – as in classic network analysis – but also of specific repertoires of practice. Systemic transformations happen through the reconfiguration of networks, both through shifts in social ties and through changes in their practices. Empire provides a particularly illuminating window into the topic of systemic change, in part because a major driver of historical transformations has been the expansion of empires and their encounters with other heterogeneous polities across the globe, and in part because a focus on imperial interactions highlights the limitations of existing unit-centric perspectives. Drawing on examples from the nineteenth century, I illustrate the usefulness of the framework by showing how different regionally anchored systems came into contact with the expanding spheres of Western empires and how such points of interaction contributed to the development of an increasingly global international system.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in a revised form in Review of International Studies This version is published under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND. No commercial re-distribution or re-use allowed. Derivative works cannot be distributed. © British International Studies Association 2018.
Publisher Keywords: Colonialism, empire, historical change, international systems, practice theory, relationalism
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JX International law
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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