Scientific Cosmology and International Orders

, Bookshelf

Writer and artist Patricia Reed recommends a book by Bentley B. Allan to trace how cosmological narratives define politics.

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2018

Scientific Cosmology and International Orders shows how scientific ideas have influenced international relations since 1550. Allan argues that cosmological concepts arising from the sciences enabled a shift from the sixteenth century order premised upon divine providence, to the present order centered on economic growth. 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, these 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.

Artist, writer, member of Laboria Cuboniks collective, co-author of The Xenofeminist Manifesto, and The New Normal visiting lecturer at Strelka Patricia Reed:

“With the ambition to understand the processes of interstitial transformation from an international relations standpoint, Bentley B. Allan has argued that macro political historical ‘keyframes’ ought to be grasped as the consolidation of ongoing processes, and that changes are ultimately the result of broader cosmological shifts of a given era – not unlike Foucault’s episteme.
It’s crucial to note that a cosmological shift is not just about knowing more, or knowing differently. It’s composed of a set of factors that while emanating from a particular epistemological development, innovation or discovery, holds within it consequences that intersect with a larger tapestry of thought and life, imbued not only with scientific consequence, but with philosophical, social, and political significations as well. Cosmological shifts work to denaturalize the givenness of a certain world picture, our position, and the understanding of our agencies within it. In other words, cosmological shifts chart a gradual process of alienation from the situation in one world to an otherworld, reinscribing the milieu from within which we act with other logical and motivational drivers.”

You can purchase the book here.

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