Religion Confronts Westphalian International Relations Theory

  • Ludwig Gelot

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Economic and Social Studies


The global resurgence of religion confronts Westphalian International Relations (IR) with a fundamental challenge. Effectively, the rise of religious fundamentalism resurrects the important debate over the role religion should play in world politics, a debate long forgotten since the Treaty of Westphalia. Consequently, the epistemological and ontological controversies of the Protestant Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment are revived, leading to a thorough questioning of the secular, materialist and positivist assumptions at the heart of the field of IR (Part 1). Besides, fundamentalism represents a theoretical challenge. Effectively, its transnational and religious dimensions being hardly reconcilable with any one paradigm of the field of IR, it is essential to develop new interpretive categories and analytical frameworks for the incorporation of the phenomenon into the field. As such, an attempt is made at developing such a framework through a critique of Samuel Huntington's the Clash of Civilizations (Part 2). Finally, the difficulties of mainstream IR in dealing with the revival of religious fundamentalism are further illustrated through a study of the impact of its Westphalian, secular, materialist, and positivist assumptions on our understanding of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism (Part 3). While the transnational and theological dimensions of fundamentalist terrorism can be accounted for by the framework developed in Part 2, the essentially intuitive nature of its religious dimension poses greater difficulties since reliant on an alternative source of knowledge and authority.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorHidemi Suganami (Supervisor)

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