Approaching the unsynthesizable in international politics: Giving substance to security discourses through basso ostinato?

Felix Rösch, A. Watanabe

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2 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


This article addresses the question of how spatial difference manifests itself in International Relations discourses in an effort to theorize difference in international politics. In doing so, we focus on the concept of security in particular and demonstrate a paradox in its conceptualization. Despite the aspiration to capture global diversity, contemporary security discourses largely leave out the moment of subjectification in knowledge-construction. Rather, a form of subjectivity construction is promoted in these discourses, which is reliant on the other. In contrast, this article considers the unsynthesizable cognitive void between the self and the other through the work of the Japanese political scientist Maruyama Masao and his basso ostinato concept. By drafting it as a heuristic device to avoid the potential of determinism for which basso ostinato was criticized, we apply it to the concept of comprehensive security with the intention to demonstrate that ostensibly similar concepts can have different meanings in different times and spaces. In doing so, we aim to transcend the resulting misunderstandings that obstruct International Relations scholarship from contributing to what Amitav Acharya calls ‘Global IR’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-629
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017



  • Basso Ostinato
  • International Relations Theory
  • Japanese Political Thought
  • Maruyama Masao
  • Security
  • Unsynthesizable

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