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Scientific Cosmology and International Orders


Part of Cambridge Studies in International Relations

  • Date Published: August 2018
  • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108404006

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About the Authors
  • Scientific Cosmology and International Orders shows how scientific ideas have transformed international politics since 1550. Allan argues that cosmological concepts arising from Western science made possible the shift from a sixteenth century order premised upon divine providence to the present order centred on economic growth. As states and other international associations used scientific ideas to solve problems, they slowly reconfigured ideas about how the world works, humanity's place in the universe, and the meaning of progress. The book demonstrates the rise of scientific ideas across three cases: natural philosophy in balance of power politics, 1550–1815; geology and Darwinism in British colonial policy and international colonial orders, 1860–1950; and cybernetic-systems thinking and economics in the World Bank and American liberal order, 1945–2015. Together, the cases trace the emergence of economic growth as a central end of states from its origins in colonial doctrines of development and balance of power thinking about improvement.

    • Outlines how scientific ideas have shaped international politics
    • Reveals the far-reaching power and influence of the natural and social sciences on international politics
    • Presents a new macrohistorical narrative of the development of the international system
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Bentley B. Allan's Scientific Cosmology and International Orders demonstrates that it remains possible for scholars of international relations to write bold, original, and ambitious books. There have been other books written about world order, but nothing like this one. By developing and deploying the concept of cosmology, he considers how fundamental ways of understanding knowledge, origins, and the relationship between the self and the universe have worked their way through states to transform the fundamental workings of international order. Allan broadens our understanding of the relationship between science and global society, and in doing so tackles the question of international change in a highly provocative way. This is 'grand theory' at its very best.' Michael N. Barnett, George Washington University

    'This ambitious and eye-opening book takes two bold steps. In taking a step back, it traces how the rise of European science since the sixteenth century transformed the image of the universe, the role of humanity in the cosmos and thus the purposes of the state. In taking a step forward, it identifies the mechanisms that have made these changes possible. Beyond this creative combination of history and social science, Scientific Cosmology and International Orders reminds us again that creative thought about the past alerts us to the existence of unimaginable futures. Every tomorrow has its own history.' Peter J. Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr, Professor of International Studies, Cornell University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108404006
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
    • contains: 12 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: science and the transformation of international politics
    2. Cosmology and change in international orders
    3. Natural philosophy in balance of power Europe, 1550–1815
    4. Darwin, social knowledge, and development in the British Colonial Office and the League of Nations, 1850–1945
    5. Neoclassical economics and the growth imperative in the world bank and postwar international order, 1945–2000
    6. Conclusion: the future of cosmological change.

  • Author

    Bentley B. Allan, The Johns Hopkins University
    Bentley B. Allan is Assistant Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University. He has published articles in International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, and European Journal of International Relations. He is the co-editor, with Ted Hopf, of Making Identity Count: Building a National Identity Database (2016).

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