Despite sustained theoretical and empirical criticism of ‘statism’, a recognisable model of political structure other of hierarchy and anarchy (the models that underpin the state system-model) has long been lacking. Even many proponents of radical transformation of the international system often remain ‘post-international’, describing world politics essentially in terms of complications to the international system. This article agrees that a new point of departure is needed but offers a different model of political structure by redefining the term ‘polity’ – a term which is increasingly used to capture non-territorial political entities neither constituted by hierarchy nor by the lack of it. With the new definition building on Waltz's theory of theory as a ‘picture, mentally formed’ in order to simplify a domain, a polity is deemed to exist when a set of subjects are oriented towards a common ‘governance-object’. The new polity model is applied illustratively to the idea of a global polity and a new polity research agenda of international relations is suggested.
(Accepted September 13 2010)
(Online publication September 13 2010)
Olaf Corry is an Affiliated Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge where he teaches International Relations theory. He is also currently a research associate at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. He is the author of articles on the third sector in global politics and is working on a book on theories of global politics and global social movements.
* Thanks to Jens Bartelson, Vibeke Tjalve, Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Barry Buzan, Martin Albrow, Lasse Thomassen, Ole Jakob Sending, Kimberley Hutchings, Trine Villumsen and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this or earlier versions of the argument. The usual caveats apply of responsibility resting with the author.