Geopolitical anomalies : exceptionalities and regularities of international politics.
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
As international law and legally recognised states have been generally taken as the primary structures and actors of international politics, polities without those legal rights and privileges have been subordinated as rather insignificant in international relations. Over the past few years, however, events in Ukraine, as well as in Iraq and Syria, have reminded us of the persistence of such unrecognised polities claiming a semblance of statehood in international politics. This thesis, therefore, contends that the abundance and tenacity of these unrecognised political entities suggests a reconsideration of purely “legal” notions of international political life. It employs the term “geopolitical anomalies” (McConnell 2009a; 2009b; 2010) – political entities without the recognised rights and privileges of legal states, but with state-like structures and manifestations nonetheless – to call for a more serious consideration of these “actual” political exercises in international relations. This concept of geopolitical anomalies is utilised as a signifier of the physical and spatial manifestations of a wide array of political communities that demonstrate the essential irregularity of the international legal and political system. By specifically focusing on the differences between conceptualisations of juridical (de jure) and material (de facto) of sovereignty, this thesis aims to demonstrate how geopolitical anomalies help us gain a clearer understanding of the differences between legal and normative power, material power relationships, and specific manifestations of de facto sovereign power. Utilising classical realist perspectives on the nature of de facto sovereignty, based in the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and Hans Morgenthau, this thesis argues that geopolitical anomalies are best understood as manifestations of exceptions and crises in international law and international politics. In order to shed light on these theoretical contentions, and draw out different aspects of the existence of geopolitical anomalies in international politics, two examples – Somaliland and Kosovo – are thoroughly examined in three chapters. This thesis concludes, subsequently, that in spite of persistent assumptions about the (trans)formative and regulatory capacity of international norms and legalities, precisely these assumptions are rebuked by geopolitical anomalies. As a consequence, any possible future vision for the dissolution of geopolitical anomalies from international politics will have to come to terms with its own exceptions.