10 Jul 2023 15:00 - 17:00 Online | Room S3, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge


We are delighted to welcome Professor Yale H. Ferguson (Rutgers University) who will present a book-in-progress (same title) due for submission to Routledge in October 2023.

This cum panis seminar is a hybrid event that requires registration. For in-person attendance, please email us at artefact@crassh.cam.ac.uk. For remote attendance, please register to receive the Zoom link.

gloknos is initially funded for 5 years by the European Research Council through a Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Inanna Hamati-Ataya for her project ARTEFACT (2017-2022). ARTEFACT is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 724451). For information about gloknos or ARTEFACT please contact the administrator in the first instance.

Book Summary

The book’s central thesis is that, since time immemorial, warfare/organised violence has been the primary driver or principal handmaiden of political evolution. The emergence and development of individual polity types, changes in the nature of inter-polity relations and hierarchies, and major shifts in intra-polity political institutions and processes have almost always been driven by or closely associated with war/organised violence. To be sure, there have been many diverse factors (economic, cultural, technological, demographic, disease, etc.) setting the stage for major political change, but the final cutting edge of the process itself (‘the decider’) has normally been violence. Indeed, many ‘other’ factors—have themselves been substantial reflections of war-making. This book’s contention is that war/organised violence itself is a cultural phenomenon, a sort of ‘template’ that began to form at the dawn of human experience. The glorifiers of war have far outnumbered the promoters of peace. Polities and their economies and technologies have also been strongly shaped by the perennial focus on security and projection of military force.

In extended illustration of its central thesis, the book offers what is essentially a theoretically informed IR/History chronological review of political evolution and its relationship to the evolving technology/strategy/tactics of organised violence. The review begins by asking whether there was ever a time before war and then focuses on a traditional succession of ‘civilizational’ and broader timeframes: the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, Alexander and Hellenism, Rome, and the transition from the ‘Middle Ages’ to the ‘modern’ European state/imperial system. At this point—since it is so much better known–the book fast-forwards through the ‘long’ nineteenth century, post-World War II Cold War, nuclear stand-off, decolonisation, economic globalisation, and the emergence of an increasingly multipolar/multicultural world. The review ends by pondering whether the historical primacy of war/organised violence as an influence upon political evolution still holds? Given war’s horrific destructive and shifting potential (e.g. cyberwar), is it today more of a dampener than an encourager of political change? Or (in addition to climate change) are we facing a genuinely imminent possibility of war and political extinction?


Yale H Ferguson is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Global and International Affairs, Rutgers University. His PhD is from Columbia University (1967), and he joined the Rutgers Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1966. Prof Ferguson was one of the founders of Rutgers-Newark’s multidisciplinary PhD Program in the Division of Global Affairs (1996), served as DGA Co-Director 2002-2008, and earlier for ten years was Chair of the RU-N Department of Political Science. He received the Rutgers University Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Research (1999).

Prof Ferguson has published 60+ articles/book chapters and 13 books, including (with Prof. Richard W. Mansbach, Iowa State University) Globalization: The Return of Borders to a Borderless World?; A World of Polities: Essays in Global Politics; Remapping Global Politics: History’s Revenge and Future Shock; Polities: Authority, Identities, and Change: The Elusive Quest: Theory and International Politics; and The Web of World Politics: Nonstate Actors in the Global System. He and Mansbach have a new book in progress (working title): War/Organized Violence and Political Evolution: From the Ancient Mediterranean to the Modern World (Routledge). In recent years, Prof. Ferguson’s other publications have focused on postinternational theory, the sociology of the state, the decline of the global liberal order, shifting patterns of globalisation, the resurgence of nationalism and geopolitical spheres of influence, Chinese monetary issues and Belt and Road strategy, and the Erdogan phenomenon in Turkish politics.

Prof Ferguson has three times been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he is a Life Member of Clare Hall and greatly enjoys participating informally in the History and IR Working Group in POLIS. He has also been Senior Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Visiting Scholar at University of Padova (Italy), and Fulbright Professor and later Honorary Professor at the University of Salzburg (Austria). In 2017 he and Prof Mansbach jointly received the International Studies Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award (IR and History), and several years earlier the ISA-NE established an annual Yale H. Ferguson Book Award for “the book that most advances the vibrancy of international studies as a pluralist discipline”. In 2013 Prof. Ferguson was elected a Member of the Academia Europaea.

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