Agency at the crossroads of the 16th century: governance and the state in humanist and contemporary political thought




Paul, Joanne

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This thesis seeks to investigate the relationship between the concepts of the State and Governance in political and international relations theory with the hope of recovering a place for agency. Following from the work of Michel Foucault, and drawing on the historical methodology of Quentin Skinner, I locate in the 16th century a „crossroads‟ in the development of the State and Governance, particularly in the work of the Henrician humanists – political writers of the Early Tudor period (1513-1533). I argue that their articulation of a politicized conception of Governance held a central place for the human agent living the vita activa as an ambassador between the rationality of the divine sphere and that of the terrestrial. Reading these findings through the later work of Foucault, I locate in this dynamic a central role for agency as tied to these theories of Governance that have become veiled by the State. Finally, I make two suggestions in regards to the application of these findings. First, that political/international relations theory take seriously the role of the diplomat as agent, and second, that the disciplinary intersection between history and politics be further emphasized and explored.



political thought, intellectual history, international relations, humanism