Accounting for Change in IR

The Application of Ontological Security Considerations to IR Theory


  • Esther Ng K.H. National University of Singapore



Change, Constructivism, International Relations Theory, Ontological Security, Practice, Social Theory


Most theories of International Relations (IR) are cautious, if not pessimistic, about the potential for change in IR. In this regard, the concept of ontological security holds promising yet oft-overlooked prospects. This article argues that applications of ontological security to IR theory thus far have been limited due to the narrow conceptualisations of practices and how they contribute to one’s attempts to preserve their ontological security. As such, this paper seeks to expand the theoretical framework through which ontological security is applied to IR, which involves a more comprehensive conceptualisation of practice that considers reflexivity as key. Accordingly, the theory demonstrates that a state, faced with threats to their sense of Self, can respond either by rigidising or changing their practices rather than being limited to the former. This allows one to account for change—especially big change—in world politics such as the increasingly inward-looking turn of the West.

Author Biography

Esther Ng K.H., National University of Singapore

Esther Ng graduated from the National University of Singapore with her Bachelor’s Degree in political science and philosophy in 2021. She will be pursuing her graduate studies at the University of Chicago come fall. Esther’s ongoing research projects revolve around the role of wisdom in politics as well as the relationship between truth and democracy. Her research interests include political epistemology, wisdom, and contemporary political theory.


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How to Cite

Ng K.H., Esther. 2021. “Accounting for Change in IR: The Application of Ontological Security Considerations to IR Theory”. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science 49 (June). Online:33-52.



Research articles