Reclaiming the utopian imaginary in IR theory

Brincat, Shannon (2009) Reclaiming the utopian imaginary in IR theory. Review of International Studies, 35 3: 581-609. doi:10.1017/S0260210509008663

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Author Brincat, Shannon
Title Reclaiming the utopian imaginary in IR theory
Journal name Review of International Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0260-2105
Publication date 2009-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/S0260210509008663
Volume 35
Issue 3
Start page 581
End page 609
Total pages 29
Editor Nick Rengger
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Collection year 2010
Language eng
Subject 360104 Political Theory and Political Philosophy
750701 Understanding international relations
940399 International Relations not elsewhere classified
360105 International Relations
160607 International Relations
Abstract This article aims to reinvigorate the utopian imagination as a vital and necessary component in IR theory. Since the First Great Debate between the Realists and the Utopianists (or more accurately, the Liberal-Internationalists) the utopian tradition has been viewed as being both subjective and arbitrary, leading to its dismissal as vain idealism in world politics. This article re-interrogates the arguments of Carr and Morgenthau and finds that they have relevance today only as against closed systems of utopia and have little bearing against the open-dialectical utopianism which is advocated here as a viable alternative to the sterility of realism. The article also examines the historical nexus between realism’s dismissal of utopianism and the wider movements in political philosophy via a critical engagement with the works of Popper, Berlin and Arendt. Finally, after exploring the limitations of Booth’s idea of ‘Utopian Realism’, the article argues that utopianism should no longer be assumed to be a blueprint for a future, perfect society, a tradition fraught with the danger of proto-totalisation, but as a critical imaginary that acts as a heuristic device to reveal the fissures in existing reality and as an ideational motivating force for progressive change in world politics. ‘For although experience can teach us that something is constituted in such and such a way, it can never prove that it could not possibly be otherwise. . .’ - Immanuel Kant
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Paper presented at the 3rd Oceanic Conference on International Studies (OCIS) Location: University Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Date: 2-4 July 2008

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2010 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Political Science and International Studies Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 4 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 7 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 14 Sep 2009, 12:18:52 EST by Elmari Louise Whyte on behalf of School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies