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Additional info for Conceptualizing the West in International Relations: From Spengler to Said

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At the same time, the concept of the West remains relevant to his understanding of the contemporary world order. The bipolar Cold War order is based upon an ‘East–West’ division, with the West comprising democratic states united under American hegemony in the face of the Soviet threat (Mearsheimer, 1990). ’ (Wohlforth, 1994: 96). The sense of the West as a significant community for realist authors was further accentuated by the post-Cold War debate with regard to the future collapse of Western cohesion (Cruise O’Brien, 1992/93; Harries, 1993; Walt, 1994).

Liberalism, individualism and the West During the rapid growth of International Relations as a discipline since the mid twentieth century, realism has been the dominant theoretical paradigm. However, other strands of thought consider a broader range of actors in world politics. The most prominent of these paradigms is often labelled the pluralist or liberal paradigm. 3 Despite this diversity, liberalism can be viewed as ‘an integral outlook’ (Gray, 1995: xiii). These strands of thought share core assumptions including a belief in progress towards greater human freedom through promotion of peace, prosperity and justice; the belief in the realization of human freedom through greater co-operation; and the belief in transformation of human society via modernization.

Despite acknowledging a role for different actors, civilizational identities are not easily accommodated in this paradigm. The conceptual space offered by this perspective for analysis of the West is, once again, limited. The West in liberal theory Despite the fact that civilizational identities such as the West are not easily encompassed by the conceptual framework of most liberal international theorists, ‘the West’ and associated terms appear in the work of these scholars. For instance, Keohane and Nye (1977: 28) refer to the role of force in ‘East–West’ relations in their discussion of complex interdependence, as does Hoffmann in his discussion of liberal international theory (Hoffmann, 1987: 135).

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