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Why is anxiety’s positive potential so rarely realised? Creativity and change in international politics


Bahar Rumelili’s article in this forum raises several important issues related to the study of anxiety in International Relations (IR). One of these is that anxiety can facilitate a redefinition of identities and break with long-held feelings of animosity in favour of new, emancipatory and more conciliatory ways of being. However, empirically it seems that attempts to deal with anxiety through securitisation and populist and nationalist frameworks that offer ideological and moral certainty tend to be more successful. Why is the kind of novel change in international politics that existentialists suggest anxiety has the potential to bring about relatively rare? This article reflects on this question and explores the links between anxiety and creativity by consulting the work of the existentialist anxiety theorists Rollo May and Paul Tillich. It outlines how anxiety is related to creativity and suggests that part of the answer to the question addressed in this article is that creative and novel ideas are often seen as threatening, while familiar ideas appear easier to embrace. The article also argues that IR, and the practice of international politics that it informs, has long been dominated by ideas that impede initiatives seeking to face anxiety.

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Correspondence to Karl Gustafsson.

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Gustafsson, K. Why is anxiety’s positive potential so rarely realised? Creativity and change in international politics. J Int Relat Dev 24, 1044–1049 (2021).

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