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Title: The contribution of Hegel's immanent critique to the theory of international relations and the conceptualization of citizenship
Author: Gkoutzioulis, Athanasios
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 1482
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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The objective of this dissertation is to reinstate the significance of Hegel’s thought to the theory of International Relations (IR). It seeks to demonstrate that Hegelian thought can offer an alternative conceptualisation of agency, freedom and ethics which enriches our understanding of inter-state relations, citizenship, security and international development. Although Hegel’s insights have inspired certain IR scholars before, yet their approaches are limited, mainly because they underplay his notion of Spirit (Geist) and the contribution of Hegel’s method of immanent critique and since they fail to take into consideration - coherently - the content of Hegel’s work. These IR scholars focus primarily on specific excerpts of the Philosophy of Right or the Phenomenology of Spirit and treat Hegel as a proto-realist thinker, ignoring Hegel’s notion of immanent critique and his philosophical system of Spirit (Geist). In that respect, these IR approaches are unable to follow Hegel’s thought consistently and fail to unveil not only Hegel’s intellectual wealth but also the contribution of his insights to the field of International Relations. In short, this dissertation after following Hegel’s thought consistently and taking into consideration Hegel’s philosophical system of Spirit (Geist), seizes novelty as it: a) rectifies and enriches Hegelian thought in the field of IR; and b) forms an additional philosophical point of reference which was previously ignored by IR theorists. This Hegelian perspective is strong enough to counterbalance the highly influential Kantian and Foucaultian philosophical IR approaches after exposing their theoretical shortcomings while providing a more complete, if not superior, philosophical alterative. Moreover, the consideration of Hegel’s notion of Spirit (Geist), reveals the distinctive contribution of immanent critique, which overcomes the separation between: 1) the subject from the object of knowledge; 2) the universal from the particular dimension (providing a content to empty supranational norms); 3) empiricism and idealism after re-approaching the conjunction of reality and reason. The value of these points which provide a deeper understanding of knowledge, subjectivity, freedom, reality and reason become evident throughout the five chapters of this dissertation which enrich our conceptualization of agency, security, ethics and citizenship. Specifically: The first chapter, with the title - Revisiting Hegel’s Contribution On Interstate Relations, War and Security - traces the limits of IR thought with regard to subjectivity and the method of knowledge. Specifically, after focusing on the evolution of the consciousness forms as found in the Phenomenology of Spirit, it is stressed, how a flawed understanding of subjectivity is responsible for a flawed method of acquiring knowledge regarding interstate relations and the issue area of security. An immanent critique of the (neo)realist, the Copenhagen and the critical school of security unveils these flaws and demonstrates the shortcomings of separating the subject from the object of knowledge (point 1). Separating the subject from the object of knowledge conveys a problematic account of subjectivity which accommodates only a descriptive or a prescriptive approach to knowledge. Thus, Hegelian thought helps us see how IR thought and security studies are committed to a divide between prescriptive and descriptive theorizing, which is limiting and misleading. The second chapter, titled - The Shortcomings of Foucaultian Application In The Theory of International Relations From A Hegelian Perspective, departs from the point the previous chapter ended. Namely, how the problematic account of subjectivity and knowledge is echoed in Foucaultian thought. Specifically, it is argued that Foucault unsuccessfully attempted to reconsider reality without transcendental means via the notion of power. It is demonstrated that Foucault failed where Hegel’s immanent critique and his philosophical system of Spirit (Geist) succeeded as the Foucaultian notion of power is based on transcendental premises and forms a misleading account of subjectivity which separates empiricism from idealism (point 3) rendering knowledge and subjectivity relativistic. Such a relativistic treatment of subjectivity promotes a self-alienated agent who is controlled by the administrative mechanisms of power and lacks consciousness. Thus, any attempt of the subject to emancipate itself is selfdefeating, since an infinite succession of Foucault’s power regimes, renders the subject eternally contingent and relativist. This chapter will in turn clarify the implications of Foucaultian approaches on IR thought. Specifically it is shown that IR scholars tend to take uncritically for granted Foucault’s concepts of power, subjectivity and freedom. Here, it is argued that an elaborate examination of these concepts, from a Hegelian perspective, reveals the intellectual flaws these concepts entail which IR scholarly debates leave unexamined. Foucaultian inspired IR scholars promote too a flawed understanding of subjectivity in the form of a relativistic and self-alienated individual that lacks self-consciousness and free will. Foucault’s notion of power is guilty of promoting a problematic account of subjectivity and freedom since it fails to promote the selfconsciousness of the subject. The third chapter titled - Hegel’s Contribution Towards Unveiling the Limits of Conceptualizing Freedom in Foucaultian, Kantian and IR Thought - elaborates further on Hegel’s understanding of freedom. Hegel’s notion of immanent critique unveils that Foucaultian, Kantian and IR thought accommodate a misleading account of freedom. In particular an immanent critique of Foucault’s and Kant’s perspective reveals that their conceptualisation of freedom rests on transcendental and contingent premises which promote a misleading conceptualisation of subjectivity and ethics. Highlighting Hegel’s enriched account of subjectivity and consciousness (point 1) as well as the interplay between the universal and the particular dimension (point 2) demonstrates not only the limits of Kantian and Foucaultian thought, but also how a problematic understanding of subjectivity and freedom is promoted in IR thought too by the scholars who are inspired by Foucault and Kant. The transcendental premises of their thought which immanent critique reveals, separate the universal from the particular dimension and promote a misleading understanding of freedom with excluding and non-emancipating effects. Similarly the IR scholars who separated the universal from the particular dimension and promoted a misleading understanding of consciousness such as Mervyn Frost and David Chandler promote too a self-defeating understanding of freedom. Their understanding of freedom too is responsible for nourishing liberal ideals with socially excluding effects which promote coercion and undermine the agents’ free will. The fourth chapter titled - Hegel’s Contribution Towards a Richer Understanding of Citizenship - stresses how an immanent critique of certain universalist or cosmopolitan perspectives on citizenship unveils their transcendental theoretical premises. Specifically, Hegel’s immanent critique and his philosophical system of Spirit (Geist), allows us to see how the distinction between the universal and the particular dimension of citizenship is misleading, demonstrating the significance of (point 2). The universal approaches of citizenship which celebrate only one the two dimensions are based on the promotion of the cosmopolitan character of (liberal) rights.
Supervisor: Callinicos, Alexander Theodore; Kouvelakis, Stathis; Ryner, Johan Magnus Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available