Regimes of Difference: Culture and Order in World Politics

About the seminar

The rise of non-Western Great Powers, the spread of transnational religiously-justified insurgencies, and the resurgence of ethno-nationalism raise fundamental questions about the effects of cultural diversity on international order. Yet current debate rests on flawed understandings of culture and inaccurate assumptions about how historically cultural diversity has shaped the evolution of international orders.

In this seminar, Christian Reus-Smit discusses the new perspective detailed in the first two volumes of his unfolding trilogy on cultural diversity and international order. He explores how the major theories of international relations have consistently misunderstood the nature and effects of culture, returning time and again to a conception long abandoned in specialist fields: the idea of cultures as coherent, bounded, and constitutive. Drawing on theoretical insights from anthropology, cultural studies, and sociology, and informed by new histories of diverse historical orders, he presents a new theoretical account of the relationship between cultural diversity and international order, illustrated with historical and contemporary cases.

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cover image: Christian Reus-Smit, "On Cultural Diversity: International Theory in a World of Difference", (CUP 2018)

About the presenter

Christian Reus-Smit holds the Chair in International Relations at the University of Queensland, Australia.  Among his books, he is the author of International Relations: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2020 In Press), On Cultural Diversity (Cambridge 2018); Individual Rights and the Making of the International System (Cambridge 2013), American Power and World Order (Polity 2004) and The Moral Purpose of the State (Princeton 1999); co-author of Special Responsibilities in World Politics (Cambridge 2012); editor of The Politics of International Law (Cambridge 2004); and co-editor of Culture and Order in World Politics (Cambridge: 2020 In Press), and The Globalization of International Society (Oxford 2017).

Professor Reus-Smit is an editor of the Cambridge Studies in International Relations books series, a General Editor of a twelve volume series of Oxford Handbooks of International Relations, and was, from 2012 to 2019, an editor of the leading journal International Theory. Prior to joining the University of Queensland, Professor Reus-Smit held Chairs at the European University Institute and the Australian National University (where he was Head of the Department of International Relations from 2001 to 2010). Professor Reus-Smit was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Science in Australia in 2008, and was Vice-President of the International Studies Association for 2013-2014. Professor Reus-Smit is a Professorial Research Associate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies, London.


This seminar is a collaboration between the Institute for International Law and the Humanities and the Discipline of Political Science in the Melbourne School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.