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Representing complexity: the material construction of world politics

Srnicek, Nick (2013) Representing complexity: the material construction of world politics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis weaves together the themes of complexity, technology, and power. It does so by examining how actors in world politics gain leverage over complex systems through the use of specialised ‘representational technologies’ that make these systems intelligible and amenable to manipulation. In response to the increasing complexity of regional and global systems, political actors are expanding their use of these representational technologies in order to augment limited individual and institutional means for cognition. A first conclusion from this research is that through these technologies, power is being expanded in novel and unique ways. Building upon an insight from actor-network theory (ANT), power is examined here as something that must be constructed via material technologies. Yet unlike previous research which has focused primarily on infrastructural technology, this thesis examines the unique role of representational technologies in constructing power. Following constructivism, this thesis accords a significant role to knowledge, discourse, and representations in how world politics are presented and acted upon. However, a second conclusion of this thesis is that the standard idealist accounts in constructivism must be expanded by examining the increasingly material means through which such ideational representations are constructed. Thirdly, this thesis aims to illuminate a neglected type of technology within International Relations (IR) scholarship - by moving away from the standard analyses of military and communication technology, and instead showing how representational technology contributes to the practices of world politics. Lastly, in emphasising the materiality of power and knowledge, this thesis also aims to revive a moderate version of technological determinism by arguing that technology is a platform which shapes both possible political behaviours and pathways for technological development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Nick Srnicek
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hutchings, Kimberly

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