Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)


International Relations


Susan Peterson

Committee Members

Marcus Holmes

Elizabeth Radcliffe


I draw on the philosophical and political writings of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to present a structural theory of the international system that emphasizes structural change. Structural realism is unable to explain change in the international system; and although structural constructivists have been able to account for the importance of ideational shifts in changing the structure of the international system, these changes retain an element of seemingly unaccountable contingency. The Hegelian notion of Objective Mind [der objective Geist] suggests that human social groups and institutions are themselves conscious agents. Accordingly, I posit that the international system is conscious, and that the structure of the system is the system’s idea of itself as such. It follows that when the international system’s conception of itself changes, so too does the structure of the international system. Moreover, the international system’s idea of itself does not change as a result of contingent shifts in its identity; rather, its self-concept develops in a comprehensible manner. Specifically, the structure of the international system changes dialectically.

On-Campus Access Only