Lost at Sea: Australia in the Turbulence of World Politics

Author/s (editor/s):

Christian Reus-Smit

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 2002/4 (PDF, 3.07MB)

Christian Reus-Smit, ‘Lost at Sea: Australia in the Turbulence of World Politics’, IR Working Paper 2002/04, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, July 2002.

This paper critically examines the conceptual foundations of the Howard government’s foreign policy, suggests a more accurate picture of the contours of contemporary world politics, and highlights the practical and ethical challenges entailed in the required shift from ‘foreign’ to ‘transnational’ policy making. It begins with an examination of how the government has understood the structure of the contemporary international system, focusing on the curious amalgam of traditional notions of sovereignty and the balance of power with ‘shock of the new’ ideas about the alluring and unstoppable march of economic globalisation. It then elaborates an alternative understanding of the contemporary global political landscape, one that emphasises six key trends: the ‘liberalising’ of sovereignty; the globalisation of free market economics; the systemic breakdown of the global ecosystem; the ‘domestication’ of war; the socialisation of power; and the ‘unbundling of territoriality’. These trends will, for the foreseeable future, constitute the basic systemic context in which Australia and other states must navigate their way in the world.

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