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The Conceptual Challenge: Europe and the New World

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The Palgrave Handbook of International Political Theory

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Abstract

This chapter demonstrates how the knowledge of conceptual challenges that characterised European interactions with the ‘unknown’ became a requisite for the renewal, recasting, and the remake of political theory. The manifestation of ‘order’ and the avenues adopted to legitimise this ‘order’, by the European conquerors evidences the acute obsession that political theorists like Plato and Hobbes have had in enabling those in power to ‘justify’ their method of accomplishment. The value that lies in justification, has the potential of shaping international contemporary world order. Recognizing this value, history has long been a testament to attempts made at constructing a series of ‘justifications’ that ensure the sustained survival of the newly-created world order. This chapter covers aspects of this history, from the end of the Christian Crusades in 1492, to the evolution of Grotian and Lockean theories of natural law in the seventeenth century. As such, this chapter maps the dialogue about the possibilities and limitations of natural law in formulating arguments for interventionism and a shift from the Christian world order. This is done through three important vectors of ‘infidel rights,’ the ‘right to missionary wars’ and the ‘right to colonise,’ to explain how ex-post-facto rationalisations have attempted to make sense of human imagination and the moral paradigms under which this imagination functioned. This exploration primarily has two motivations: the first is to grapple with the political, social, and legal underpinnings of these conceptual challenges, and secondly highlight the ‘fluidity’ of these imaginations due to the continuing reaffirmation of our moral compass as outlined in the Sépulvidan-Las Casas discourse. Furthermore, the semantical connotation attached to the term “by what right” is emblematic of the power of our imagination and the incessant drive to expand and constrain it. Keeping this crucial caveat in mind, the chapter conclusively ties the notion of imagination back to the ideological crux of its core argument: why a drive for the investigation of ‘Europeanisation’ is quintessential for the ideological flourishment of international political theory as a critical mode of inquiry.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    I am indebted to both David Boucher and Hari Nair for this reference.

  2. 2.

    There are exceptions of course, see Fernández-Santamaria (1975). See also Pagden (1982, Chapter 5). Most recently, Lantigua (2020).

  3. 3.

    I am indebted to David Lantigua for further clarifying this point.

  4. 4.

    There is some scholarly debate about this point. See Fernández-Santamaria (1975).

  5. 5.

    Mills ultimately claims ‘that a nonideal approach is also superior to an ideal approach in being better able to realise the ideals, by virtue of realistically recognising the obstacles to their acceptance and implementation’ (2005, 181).

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Correspondence to Camilla Boisen .

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Boisen, C. (2023). The Conceptual Challenge: Europe and the New World. In: Williams, H., Boucher, D., Sutch, P., Reidy, D., Koutsoukis, A. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of International Political Theory. International Political Theory. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-36111-1_8

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