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Against the common belief that we need a wholly new political theory for our global age, Susan McWilliams argues that the best foundation is already behind us and can be found by traveling back. In doing this -- revisiting the history of political thought with a mind to the questions accompanying globalization -- it becomes clear that the greatest tool for understanding our "new world" lies in one of the oldest themes in Western political theory: travel. Since the beginnings of Western political thought -- the ancient Greeks referred to travel as theoria -- political theorists have used images of travel to illuminate the central questions of globalization; where travel stories appear, we find serious reflection about how to live in cross-cultural and interconnected political conditions. Here we find attention to the contingency of political identity, to hybridity, and to the threats of colonialism and imperialism. We even find self-critical questioning about the dangers that face political theorists who want to think globally.
In Traveling Back, McWilliams uncovers the rich travel-story tradition of political theorizing that speaks directly to the problems of our age. She explores why this travel-story tradition has been so long neglected, especially in this time when we need its wisdom, and she calls for its rediscovery. In order to move forward toward a global political theory, as McWilliams eloquently demonstrates, we must first learn to travel back.
Susan McWilliams is Associate Professor of Politics at Pomona College.