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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2023
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Book description

Inspired by recent work in evolutionary, developmental, and systems biology, Systems, Relations, and the Structures of International Societies sketches a robust conception of systems that grounds a new conception of levels (of organization, not merely analysis). Understanding international systems as multi-level multi-actor complex adaptive systems allows explanations of important features of the world that are inaccessible to dominant causal and rationalist explanatory strategies. It also develops a comprehensive critique of IR's dominant conception of systems and structures (narrow, rigid, and unfruitful); presents a novel conception of the interrelationship of the social production of continuities and the social production of change; and sketches models of spatio-political structure that cast new light on the development of international systems, including a distinctive account of the nature of globalization.


‘In a world marked by cascades of ever more complex interdependence, Jack Donnelly persuasively argues that differentiation, not anarchy, should be central to understanding world order. This book is a masterpiece, melding theoretical innovation with broad historical scope.’

Daniel H. Deudney - Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

‘At last: a book about international societies as a genus, a book that starts with wholes as parts of wholes, a book that makes sense of levels and layers, a book that fearlessly dispatches Waltz‘s structuralism for good. A relentlessly systematic, dauntingly detailed book for the ages.’

Nicholas Onuf - Professor Emeritus, Florida International University

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