Of Parts and Wholes: International Relations beyond the Human




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While some theorists in International Relations have engaged with thinking about complexity, we would argue that few have thought it through to its logical conclusion – the interconnectedness of systems, and the implications for agency and structure. This article examines the structure–agency question using the framework of ‘posthuman international relations’, which draws on recent thinking in complexity and argues for an approach to the study of global politics that is post-Newtonian and non-anthropocentric. Key elements of a complexity-based approach are examined, and it is argued that these provide a novel way of considering issues of agency and structure. They also raise issues for the analysis of agency and the link between actions and outcomes. Complex systems can present problems of analysis related to unpredictability, causality and non-linearity. Having laid out a framework for thinking about action and context in international politics, the article turns to questions of agency and practice within complex systems. Perhaps the most significant claim here is that it is possible to conceive of agency beyond the human. Drawing upon Margaret Archer’s discussions of primary and corporate agency, a threefold approach to thinking about structure and agency is developed, which allows us to think about agency beyond the human. Finally, an explanation is given as to why a complex approach to thinking about international relations ultimately implies a posthuman perspective.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Agency, complex adaptive system, complexity, emergence, posthumanism


Cudworth, E. and Hobden, S. (2013) Of Parts and Wholes: International Relations beyond the Human. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 41 (3), pp. 430-450.


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice