To date, studies of international politics have little space for time. In this article, I argue that time is constitutive of the international system by offering a genealogical historical sketch of the coeval rise of territorial state sovereignty and Western standard time (consisting of seconds, minutes, and hours). Sovereignty is rightly a foundational concept of both the international system and the field of International Relations (IR), but the emergence of the contemporary method of reckoning time during the Enlightenment also supported the project of political modernity, and is thus critical to IR. The genealogical motive of the sketch is to understand what have become naturalised, global social conventions as historically contingent, cosmopolitical phenomena that resulted from significant socio-political efforts and conflicts. I locate ‘sites’ where modern sovereignty emerged and explicate contemporaneous processes, factors, and events implicated in the rise of modern time at those sites. In doing so, I outline how particular modes of understanding space and time were bred in Western Europe, spread around the world via colonialism, and embedded during the eras of global war and post-colonialism. I conclude by contrasting current challenges to territorial state sovereignty with Western standard time's untrammelled global hegemony.
Andy R. Hom is a PhD student at Aberystwyth University. He earned his MA at the University of Kansas in 2008 on the topic of time in IR theory and pursues a similar theme in his current research on the ancient temporal roots of contemporary IR theory. His work has appeared previously in International Studies Review and Military Review.
* I am especially grateful to Brent Steele for his enthusiasm and the incisive critiques he provided on several drafts while I was at the University of Kansas. Additionally, I benefited from discussions with Juliet Kaarbo and Paul D'Anieri during a presentation of this research. I am indebted to Halle O'Neal for her assistance and support throughout the project. Finally, I would like to thank the editorial team of the Review of International Studies as well as the two anonymous referees for their constructive comments. The article is much improved for all of the above contributors, while any remaining errors are my own.