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Before the StateSystemic Political Change in the West from the Greeks to the French Revolution$
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Andreas Osiander

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294511

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198294511.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Basics
Before the State

Andreas Osiander

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter criticizes the amateurish way in which history is used to corroborate International Relations theory, in particular Realism. Conversely, it criticizes conventional historiography for its neglect of political theory. A case in point is the constructivist insight that political structures are created through political discourse. The political discourse underlying present-day political structures is so ubiquitous as to render those structures largely immune to manipulation. But since to most people the everyday political discourse of past eras is now unfamiliar, historians feel free, indeed obliged, to describe past political structures using the political concepts and assumptions of our own day. What they fail to realize is that unlike present-day political structures the political structures of past ages do change when anachronistic terminology is used to describe them: they come to look more like our own than they were.

Keywords:   International Relations theory, Realism, constructivism, historiography, political theory, political structures, political discourse

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