In the early chapters of this book, the working assumption was that international relations meant relations between states and that, accordingly, the academic discipline of International Relations was, necessarily, state-centric. Individuals feature in the story told in these chapters, but only as office holders who represent and direct the state; agency rests with the state even if it is actually exercised by flesh and blood human beings, and often the language of state-centric IR employs metonyms that eliminate the human. Thus, we often speak of, say, ‘Washington’ responding to an initiative from ‘Moscow’ as a kind of shorthand reflecting the fact that the actual individuals who make up the government in Washington are, in principle at least, giving substance to the national interest of the USA; it is the latter that matters and so the government officials concerned can be written out of the story. In later chapters, state-centricity was modified somewhat; from the perspective of global political economy and globalization, collectivities other than the state come to the fore, and the groups that are relevant to identity politics obviously need not be national; still, even when addressing these topics, the working assumption is that IR is about the interaction of groups, and the individuals who make up these groups are of limited interest. This assumption has implications for the study of IR that are not often recognized; in effect, even though interstate relations gives way to intersocietal, interethnic or interreligious relations, the working assumption that the fate of individuals is determined by their membership of collectivities remains in place, even if the nature of the relevant collectivity is now in question.
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