Volume 4, Issue 2, Autumn 2018
Aaron C. McKeil
The Modern International Imaginary
Sketching Horizons and Enriching the Picture
This article aims to bridge the literature of modern social imaginaries with the growing study of modernity in International Relations. Employing a Taylorian conceptual framework and account, the case is made for understanding modern international relations as enabled and constrained by a “modern international imaginary”, which forms a significant part of the modern social imaginary more generally. It is argued that a modern social imaginaries approach offers a means to deepen and enlarge the growing studies of the international implications of modernity, by illuminating overlooked cultural preconditions and forms of modern international relations. First, a social imaginaries approach reveals the international to be coeval with the emergence of modern social imaginaries in general, and that it has come to form their “highest” and most consistently and severely problematic realm. Second, its insight into the enabling and constraining effects of social imaginaries offers a basis for studying the horizons of the international towards a “global imaginary”. Third, unpacking the modern international imaginary offers qualitative benefits for international theory as practice.