The field of international relations (commonly abbreviated IR) focuses on a variety of subjects. It is usually considered to be one of the major subfields (or subdisciplines) of political science. The many connotations that are usually associated with the term relations (one of the most underspecified terms in the field itself) and the aesthetic quality that accompanies relating the name of the field (IR) to a broad set of subjects subsumed under the same term in lowercase letters, “international relations,” help explain why both IR and international relations are still widely accepted. Of course, this is not to say that there is consensus. Both the name of the field and the description of its subject matter(s) have always been contested. Different observers have argued that international ought to be replaced by interstate, transnational, or global—to name just a few. Others would like to see relations replaced by studies or politics. A brief look at some of these alternative combinations—for example, “interstate relations,” “transnational politics,” or “global studies”—would give any reader a quick idea as far as different emphases are concerned, even if he or she is not familiar with the normative and theoretical underpinnings that inform these alternative descriptions of the field of study and its subject matter(s). For this reason, conceptual contestation is unsurprising; it is already an expression of the inevitable and recurring ascertainment of the borders of a field of study by the community of scholars belonging to it and claiming it as their own.
- The Structure of Global International Relations
- Size and Power
- International Relations as a Three-Tiered Discipline
- The Dominance of U.S.–American IR
- The Second Tier of Semivisible IR Communities
- The Third Tier: Sizable and (Self-)Marginalized
- The Social Structure of the Discipline
- The Intellectual Structure of the Discipline
- Paradigmatism and Great Debates
- The Expansion of International Relations
- The Expansion of the IR Research Agenda
- Theoretical and Methodological Expansion
In the case of International Relations, contestation extends well beyond the question of how a rather loosely defined field of study—or “fragmented ‘nonfield’” (James Rosenau, 1993)—is to be properly named. Especially in the English-speaking world, IR is sometimes defined in terms of an academic discipline of its own, separate from political science, or as a multidisciplinary field of study. On a global scale, however, this is not normally the case. Here, it is usually considered to be one of the major subfields (or subdisciplines) of political science. Even if the term discipline may sometimes be used interchangeably with field of study, it is meant in the sense of a more loosely defined field that keeps the outer borderlines both fairly fluid and permeable while, at the same time, emphasizing that its core is more clearly demarcated and in some ways also more stable. Of course, any such characterization of the field is in itself contestable. More specifically, two caveats need to be kept in mind with regard to any exercise in “mapping” a field of study. First, as Hilary Putnam put it, any such overview necessarily involves a particular “view from somewhere” that is shaped by specific individual and cultural formative experiences. Even if this view of IR is shaped by an environment that allows for pluralism with regard to normative commitments, theoretical orientations, and methodological preferences, it is inevitably limited by what IR scholarship is actually accessible via particular languages and academic infrastructures. The academic infrastructure of IR is lacking in crucial respects when measured against the ideal of a global discipline that is living up to the spread, reach, and interconnections of its subject matter. Second, there is also an inevitable temporal dimension of contestation. Any overview of IR as a field of study necessarily resembles a snapshot of the field at a particular point in time and will, almost inevitably, be the view of how the discipline used to operate in the past. This notion of IR as an evolving and historically situated field becomes strikingly clear when one compares similar overviews of the field in approximately 10-year intervals from the early 1920s onward. Not only do descriptions of the subject matter change. Rather, change is ubiquitous with regard to the borderlines drawn to other (sub)fields and the names used to denote and demarcate the field’s most prominent theories. Therefore, this overview ought to be seen as a “disciplining” exercise in the dual sense of the word. It is supposed to provide a perspective on the structure of the discipline and familiarize the reader with some of the prominent conventions, theories, and practices of the field of IR as they are currently viewed in the field in terms of a history of the present. At the same time, it ought to be kept in mind that the very concept of scholarship points at moving beyond these conventions, theories, and practices. By de-emphasizing disciplinary stability in favor of an evolutionary perspective, this way of proceeding does not deny that a structural view of the discipline may be useful. As a matter of fact, it is—and such a structural perspective will be applied in the first section of this overview. However, looking at the discipline with a bird’s-eye perspective necessarily emphasizes the big picture and will thus almost inevitably appear fairly static. The second, shorter section of this entry therefore applies a more historical and dynamic perspective depicting the field as an expanding one along many frontiers simultaneously.
The Structure of Global International Relations
What a field is made up of in terms of intellectual substance—that is, its conceptualization of the subject matter, its theories, and its understandings of appropriate procedures in producing knowledge—is not dictated by the subject matter itself. Rather, it results from the interplay of specific social structures (such as institutional arrangements along disciplinary lines within universities or structures of communication in the form of journals, etc.) and intellectual structures (i.e., what counts as knowledge and how different bodies of knowledge connect to make up a discipline). Both are closely interconnected. As far as the social structure of IR is concerned, Ole Wæver (2007) has argued that it is best viewed as “a mix of a U.S./global system and national/regional ones with varying degrees of independence” (p. 296). Thus, two elements are characteristic of IR in terms of its global structure. First, IR in the United States is predominantly North American IR and global IR. Second, other IR communities show a great variety in terms of size and intellectual traditions. However, what is most noticeable from a global perspective is the extent to which they relate to IR in the United States. This is another way of saying that Stanley Hoffmann’s (1977) famous line about IR being “an American social science” reverberates until today. Yet although the dominance of American IR remains clearly visible, a broad-brush global perspective on disciplinary developments would stress the distinction between the West and the non-West rather than the United States versus the rest. One of the distinguishing marks of the current developmental stage of IR from a global and evolutionary perspective may well be its post-Western and its post-Westphalian character. However, from a bird’s-eye view of the structures of the discipline, the West seems very well entrenched.
Size and Power
Admittedly, the IR community in the United States still plays in a league of its own. Just in terms of sheer size, it easily outdistances that of any other country by multiples. A 2009 survey by Richard Jordan, Daniel Maliniak, Amy Oakes, Susan Peterson, and Michael Tierney counted more than 4,100 IR scholars in the United States with an active affiliation with a university, college, or professional school. (As of early 2009, the American Political Science Association listed close to 4,700 members who had identified IR as their “general field.”) Although similarly detailed figures are not available for many countries, a very rough estimate based on a variety of sources would probably put the U.S. share of IR scholars around the world at approximately 25% to 30%. Another 15% to 25% could probably be added for Canada, Europe, Israel, and Australasia, putting the Western share of global IR production capacity at 40% to 55% overall.
Although the size of academic communities is an important structural feature, in and of itself it says little about the global structure of IR in terms of institutional, structural, and productive power. Yet even if one adds such a perspective, it is fairly clear that the United States occupies the most influential position at the center, with European IR communities plus Israel and Australasia forming an appendix to the core that tries to establish a somewhat more independent profile (and has partly succeeded in doing so). Three observations are noteworthy in this context. First, the institutional and structural power of U.S. IR is reflected in how IR scholars in other parts relate to it. For IR scholars in Western Europe, Israel, and South Asia, and to a lesser degree in East-Central Europe and some parts of Latin America, gaining recognition in the United States (i.e., in U.S.–based IR journals in particular) continues to be a crucial element for professional advancement compared with IR scholars elsewhere. Since the editors of key journals are drawn largely from the IR community in the United States, scholars aiming at being published in these journals have to address the concerns of this community. Yet as many studies have shown, the theoretical debates in the United States are largely driven by American foreign policy concerns, not broader global concerns. A 2009 survey by Tom Biersteker of the assigned or required readings for PhD candidates specializing in IR in the 10 leading U.S. departments of political science showed that, on average, 94% of the assigned readings were written by scholars who have spent most or all of their careers in the United States. As a result, the segment of global IR scholarship that aims at the most prestigious journals in the field will inevitably face editors whose academic careers have been largely shaped by U.S. concerns. Non-American Western IR scholars are more likely to be able to meet the expectations of these editors, and to the extent that their work is actually being published, it is therefore also more likely to speak to an agenda shared by Western societies and states. The same applies vice versa for the increasing number of U.S. scholars being published in European peer-reviewed journals such as European Journal of International Relations and Journal of International Relations and Development. Although the differences between the United States, on the one hand, and Europe and Australasia, on the other, are noteworthy and have often been described, these differences fade away against the many similarities if one contrasts IR research practices and priorities in the West as a whole with those in the non-West.
The second observation extends the emphasis on disciplinary autonomy within largely national borders from the United States to the global level. Although the orientation toward the United States and its standards of IR scholarship in a fairly small (though influential) set of countries reinforces American dominance, it is by far not a universal phenomenon. A global structure dominated by Western standards of science and thematic agendas coexists with significant degrees of local autonomy in IR communities around the world, according to Arlene Tickner and Ole Wæver. For a field focusing on phenomena that by their very nature transcend national boundaries, it is noteworthy how parochial (or detached from a truly global discourse) all IR communities are around the world. This is amply visible in an almost universal preoccupation with the foreign policy agendas of the respective countries. In the context of the United States and intellectually linked IR communities such as Europe, this concern is embedded in or dominated by an explicit theoretical framing of specific problems. In many other countries where the intellectual structure of the discipline is less dominated by the imperatives of theory production, these foreign policy agendas often translate quite directly into research agendas. Therefore, a certain parochialism seems to be an almost inevitable and universal characteristic of IR globally. In part, this is also due to the fact that the social structures of the academy have their own life and in many ways follow national patterns. Sometimes national IR communities may be clustered into regional groups with distinct characteristics, such as an “Anglo-American” way of doing IR or a “Continental” one. However, national profiles often remain clearly visible. For instance, even a quick look at the social and intellectual structure of IR in Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands immediately reveals remarkable differences as well as similarities in the relatively narrow space of the European continent. In a longer historical perspective, however, the patterns of academic institutionalization and professionalization of IR during the 20th century have also converged, often following the American model of treating IR as a more or less integral part or subdiscipline of political science.
Third, it certainly matters whether one pursues (more or less parochial) IR concerns in the United States, Britain, Denmark, China, Thailand, Nigeria, or Brazil, to name just a few sites. Although this entry is not the place for a detailed analysis of the global social structure of IR (on this, see Tickner & Wæver, 2009), three layers of IR communities can be distinguished in terms of power, international connectedness, and international visibility.
International Relations as a Three-Tiered Discipline
The Dominance of U.S.–American IR
As mentioned before, first, the IR community in the United States stands out in terms of size and power. In the United States, whether or not an IR scholar engages with or is knowledgeable about IR elsewhere has little influence with regard to professional advancement, and thus, U.S. scholars may neglect the rest of the IR world. Second, to the extent that other IR communities relate to U.S. discourses, many largely emulate or implicitly follow the U.S. model and the theories propagated there. This can be taken by some IR scholars as evidence of the institutional and productive power exercised by American IR or even as evidence that the American way of doing IR is the “right” way. Third, to the extent that IR communities in other countries are essentially decoupled from U.S. (and thus globally dominant) discourses, this is mostly due to the fact that local political concerns dominate research agendas and that theory (as defined in the U.S.-dominated discourse) is largely irrelevant. Therefore, IR scholars from the United States may find little incentive to investigate IR in such states. Against this background, it is worth emphasizing that the International Studies Association (ISA)—the most important professional organization of IR/international studies around the globe that originated in the United States and still largely comprises U.S. scholars as members—has been quite supportive of efforts to build up professional structures of academic communication beyond it. Yet despite these efforts, ISA conventions—one of the premier sites of intellectual exchange about IR on the global stage—have largely remained intra-Western scholarly exchanges. Whereas a systematic analysis of attendance patterns at the ISA conventions in Toronto (1997), Portland (2003), and New York (2009), based on the institutional origin of the respective scholars attending, shows a noteworthy increase of European Union–European scholars (16% in 1997, 15% in 2003, and 25% in 2009) relative to North American scholars (United States plus Canada: 76% in 1997, 74% in 2003, and 62% in 2009), there was essentially no change if one compared attendance along a Western versus non-Western distinction (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Origin of Scholars Attending International Studies Association (ISA) Conferences
The Second Tier of Semivisible IR Communities
Compared with U.S. insularity, the situation is quite different if one looks at IR from a global perspective with regard to a second category of IR communities, such as Britain, China, Denmark, or Canada. As different as these IR communities are in terms of university systems, professional incentive structures, and national traditions and as much as the American dominance may be resented in some quarters there, many of the influential IR scholars in these countries do (have to) relate to American IR in one way or another, if only by distancing themselves as to the way IR is done in the United States. Therefore, what distinguishes these communities from the U.S. IR community, on the one hand, and a third category of peripheral IR communities, on the other, is a medium level of international visibility. International visibility (defined in terms of a certain amount of recognition by other scholars around the world) may result from very different sources, such as the natural advantage of communicating in the lingua franca (as in the case of British IR) and/or the recognition by significant others that the work published in these communities matters, be it for purely academic reasons or due to other considerations.
- Among the latter, one can single out the phenomenon of national “schools” of IR, which provide for a specific variant of this second type of IR communities with a medium level of international visibility. The so-called English School, for instance, represents a conscious effort on the part of scholars in the United Kingdom (UK) to establish the idea of an international “society of states” as a distinct theoretical concept synthesizing elements that have been assigned in American IR to competing (realist and liberal) schools of thought. In contrast to American IR, the English School scholarship exhibits a deep-seated skepticism vis-à-vis the “scientific” study of international relations and accordingly pays much more attention to historical processes. These substantive differences notwithstanding, insiders have argued that the English School essentially marks “a delayed response to Britain’s loss of Empire and world status” (Richard Little, 2008, pp. 685–686). In forming such a school, however, Britain’s IR community has not only tried to come to terms with the changed international role of the UK. It has also left a mark of distinction vis-à-vis the quasi-hegemonic U.S. discourse, thereby establishing a widely recognized corporate IR identity globally. IR communities in other countries that are habitually ranked among the “great powers” (e.g., Russia, Japan, and China) are increasingly engaged in debates whether or not to establish national schools similar to the English School (even South Korea is contemplating such a strategic move). China is the most obvious and most noteworthy case, both because of the size of the country and due to the Eastern tradition. Influential Chinese scholars nowadays openly advocate the establishment of a “Chinese School of IR Theory” as an “inevitable” step in the maturation of Chinese IR (Yaquing Qin, 2007). Yet as in the case of the English School, the emphasis on building such a distinct Chinese school on a set of core assumptions about the “material world” and the “speculative world,” distinct from dominant IR theories in the West in general and the United States in particular, only reinforces the picture of the global preeminence of a particular U.S.-led type of theorizing centered on realist theory and its competitors as well as on rationalist and constructivist approaches to doing IR from an epistemological and/or methodological point of view. It is against this background that scholars from non-Western IR communities feel at least uncomfortable if not offended if they are asked why they have not yet come up with some IR theory of their own. A special issue of the journal International Relations of the Asia-Pacific carried the question “Why is there no non-Western IR theory?” quite prominently in the title (Amitav Acharya & Barren Buzan, 2007). To be sure, the whole thrust of the project was based on the intention to stimulate a debate about and the development of non-Western IR theory in Asia. Yet the way the question was framed already carried a specific understanding as to what good IR is all about—that is, that it ought to put a premium on theory, that it is fairly obvious what distinguishes theory from nontheory, and that IR communities in states such as China are not (yet) doing enough good theory. Judging from recent trends, some segments in countries such as China appear willing to take up this challenge. In part, this is due to a spreading realization among IR scholars that IR theories (broadly defined) do not only structure our view of the world in a very basic sense but that they are also tools for governing the world. In this analysis, both the world and IR often appear as if governed by the United States. Empirical analyses by Chinese scholars show that this power of disciplinary socialization via Western, especially U.S., theory discourses works even in a country such as China with a large IR community and a very distinct and old tradition of its own. For instance, with the exception of one book, all of the 86 IR books translated into Chinese by five leading publishers since 1990 were originally written in English, and the overwhelming majority of these books had American IR scholars as authors. Thus, even if a Chinese school of IR drawing heavily on distinctly Chinese traditions emerges eventually, it will have been mediated via theory as practiced in the English-speaking, mostly U.S.-dominated, Western world of IR.
- A similar mixture of orientation toward American IR while tying IR scholarship back to local concerns and intellectual traditions is observable in a second variant of internationally more visible IR communities. Some IR communities in Western and East-Central Europe and in Israel belong to this group. What unites them in terms of institutional, structural, and productive power is that they can only draw in rather limited ways on the advantages that the British or the Chinese IR communities enjoy. While IR scholars in significant numbers in these communities publish in English, this is certainly not the case for all of them (as is the case in the UK). Also, in contrast to China, none of these states are expected to play a crucial role politically in the years to come in order to pay special attention to their possibly unique ways of doing IR research. Moreover, in contrast to the UK or China, most of these IR communities neither have the size nor the ambition to establish distinct national schools of IR. Still, in some countries, substantive research programs, such as the Copenhagen School of security studies, have gained international recognition as distinct approaches well beyond the regional context. In the case of the Copenhagen School’s “securitization” research program, distinction was achieved with a more focused approach (in terms of both the theoretical scope and the substantive ground covered as far as the subject matter was concerned) than what is usually subsumed under the much broader label of a “paradigm” in the U.S. context. Debates in such communities are similar to those in the United States in putting a premium on theoretical work. However, even though theory debates in the United States are at least taken note of in most of these, they are not (or no longer) simply replicated. Rather, an increasing amount of IR in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada is by now often inspired by philosophical and/or social science traditions and research practices distinct from those present in IR debates in the United States. Here, they are increasingly dominated by rational choice and formal modeling. Since these are not easily exportable, dominant U.S. theory preferences entail a “de-Americanization of IR elsewhere” (Wæver, 1998). Another way to put this is to point to an ever-present, often largely ignored and now rediscovered, cultural specificity (e.g., in French IR); an intra–Anglo-Saxon divide between “post-Imperial ‘crimson’ locales,” on the one hand (made up essentially of Britain, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand), and the United States, on the other; and, more generally, the newfound “autonomy” in Europe of a specific “Continental” brand of Western IR or at least a claim of an “intrafamilial emancipation” (e.g., in Germany). To the extent that this type of work gains international recognition, this is seldom due to the size of the respective IR community, the respective country’s global political significance, or other such factors pointed to by science studies. Rather, genuine intellectual appeal and/or resonance appears to be more closely associated with quantitative as well as qualitative output resulting from comparative advantages in terms of sheer resources available and devoted to the task (as in the field of European studies) and the fact that some of the original theory products travel fairly easily to other regions (as in the case of securitization theory). Moreover, in the European context, in particular, the international visibility of European studies and distinct approaches such as the Copenhagen School has been enhanced by the establishment of several new journals (many of which are published in English). Some of these, such as the European Journal of International Relations, have quickly established themselves among the leading journals in the field globally. These successes and differences between the United States and other Western IR communities notwithstanding, it needs to be emphasized that the non-U.S. West offers a broad variety of intellectual profiles, not all of which are as much interested in connecting via English-language publications internationally as are, for instance, IR scholars in the English-speaking world, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, or Germany. As a matter of fact, sizable communities with original theoretical work, such as the French, are quite detached from the rest of the West and have fairly little impact globally. Thus, geographical location is not necessarily a good indicator of whether an IR community may achieve international visibility.
In any case, from a power perspective, few non-Western IR communities can be counted to the semiperiphery of the second tier. Even Japan, with its sizable IR community and conscious institutional efforts at increasing its visibility globally—recently by establishing the peer-reviewed English-language journal International Relations of the Asia-Pacific—neither has much of an impact globally nor has succeeded in establishing a distinct Japanese IR profile, according to Takashi Inoguchi. China currently seems to be the only serious candidate for such a rise to the semiperiphery, or to put it less pejoratively, only China appears able in the medium to long term to engage in competition with the West for productive power in actually “constructing the world” in a language and in theories that are distinctly Chinese. Yet even sympathetic observers remain somewhat skeptical about whether a distinct and globally visible Chinese school of IR might indeed be established.
The Third Tier: Sizable and (Self-)Marginalized
The third group of IR communities is both the largest (in terms of the number of national IR communities belonging to it) and the most isolated and marginalized (in terms of international visibility and power). As a matter of fact, one of the expressions of its marginalization is that much less “is known” about these IR communities compared with the two other groups. In part, this is because scholars from the other two groups, who are usually instrumental in producing such international visibility due to disciplinary power structures, normally pay little attention to the research conducted there. Indeed, one could easily turn the complaint (sometimes heard in the non-U.S. West) that American IR treats research originating in Europe, Canada, or Australasia with indifference against the plaintiffs themselves since the same pattern of ignorance may be observed in their relationship to most IR communities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (many of which have, of course, suffered through European colonization). In part, however, marginalization also results from the self-conscious separation or self-reliance of IR communities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America or from these countries simply refraining from engaging in IR research. Some of the IR communities in this third group (such as the Indian or Brazilian) are fairly sizable, though not necessarily tightly organized professionally, as their counterparts are in the United States or Europe. Many others are tiny, with no professional organization whatsoever. In quite a few third-tier countries, IR as an academic (sub)discipline is not even present at universities or—to the extent that it actually is present—is largely characterized by the dominance of research questions that reflect the respective countries’ foreign policy agenda. As a matter of fact, there is often a very close connection between the foreign policy establishments and official state institutions in these countries, on the one hand, and IR departments, on the other, since the latter often exist primarily because they are expected to supply future diplomats for the respective foreign services. Theory-oriented research as practiced and cherished in the West does not play much of a role here. Theory—conceived of in very general terms as a necessary precondition for reality-constituting observation—is ever present. Yet it transpires largely implicitly in empirical analyses. The prime research objective is seldom theorizing as such. Moreover, against the foil of Western theory discourses, this implicit form of theory application carries more realist than nonrealist themes. A similar observation can be made with regard to the role of methods. Where the role models of Western IR scholarship call for methodological reflection at a minimum (and often excel in offering highly sophisticated methods that are understood and applied by very small communities of scholars), the requirements for methodological rigor and metareflection in third-tier countries are much less stringent. Typically, academic publications display a combination of some form of institutional and/or historical analysis without engaging in a justificatory argument as to why a particular method or form of presentation has been chosen or rejected.
From a structural perspective, there is fairly little intellectual exchange both among third-tier communities and between them and IR communities from the first and second tiers. Moreover, some of the interaction that can be observed is stimulated by foundations located in the West that (often unintentionally) tend to reproduce existing uneven global structures of knowledge production. For instance, as the volume by Tickner and Wæver (2009) has shown, the funding provided by Western foundations (such as Ford) in countries such as India, East-Central Europe, Latin America, or South Africa has often been very influential in developing local IR communities. One key reason was simply that state funding was limited. Yet since the type of research that was funded primarily addressed questions of more immediate local policy relevance, the overall effect was to reinforce the global intellectual division of labor whereby theory is “produced in the center and consumed and applied in and by the periphery” (p. 332). These effects are particularly surprising for countries (e.g., India) that have both a comparatively old and large IR community and a philosophical tradition of their own. As a matter of fact, the Indian political philosopher Chanakya (ca. 350–283 BCE), who is usually know in the West by the name Kautilya and who is sometimes claimed among Western scholars as one of the founders of realism, is apparently not even taught in any principal IR theory course in India itself, according to Navnita Behera (2007). Similar patterns of forgetfulness and/or neglect of homegrown traditions can be observed in Japan and recently also in China. From a postcolonial point of view, this devaluation of homegrown traditions is just one (often unreflected) expression of a “colonized” mind-set that stems from a discipline of IR that is at its very core an “expression of the Western theory of progress” (David Blaney & Naeem Inayatullah, 2008, p. 672). This postcolonial message starts to resonate even among scholars from third-tier countries who have been socialized into Western IR thinking.
The Social Structure of the Discipline
The overall picture that emerges by looking at the social structure of IR from a global perspective is much more one of intellectual segmentation and stratification than one of intellectual integration, which one might think the subject matter itself to be suggesting. This impression of a three-tiered system is reinforced if one examines another dimension of the social structure of the discipline—that is, its publication system in general and its hierarchy of journals in particular. If access limitations (as measured in terms of journal acceptance rates) are accepted as a measure of reputation, clearly the most competitive journals of the discipline are published in the United States and Europe. In the United States and several European countries, getting published in these top journals is of central importance to climb the academic career ladder. Most of the highest ranking journals are still published in the United States and/or controlled by American IR scholars. As a matter of fact, a recent survey in the IR communities of 10 English-speaking countries found that at least four tiers can be distinguished when IR scholars from these countries are called on to list those journals “that publish articles with the greatest influence on the way IR scholars think about international relations” (Jordan et al., 2009, p. 49): (1) International Organization is in a league of its own and is mentioned by 73% of the scholars questioned; (2) the second group is made up of International Security (45%) and International Studies Quarterly (44%); (3) American Political Science Review, World Politics, and Foreign Affairs, mentioned by 28%, form the third group; and (4) European Journal of International Relations and Review of International Studies are the only non-American journals mentioned alongside Journal of Conflict Resolution with a mere 14% (for European Journal of International Relations in particular, the ranking is much better if one follows the Social Science Citation Index). Thus, interdependence structures are still quite asymmetrical within the West, with U.S. journals clearly outdistancing the top European journals.
In other parts of the world (including some parts of the West), publishing in internationally recognized journals is not as central for recruitment practices and academic success. At the same time, the “international” profile of non-Western IR journals is much more pronounced than in the West, as a survey of selected non-Western journals shows, in contrast to a similar survey conducted for Western journals. For instance, more than 80% of the articles published in International Organization or International Studies Quarterly in 2000 and 2005 have been published by authors located in the United States or Canada (see Figure 2).
Figure 2 Authorship in Western International Relations Journals
For the Turkish IR journal Alternatives, the South African Journal of International Relations, and the journal International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, the number of national authors has often been lower than the number of international authors, even decreasing between 2000 and 2005 (see Figure 3). Also, the number of non-Western authors (including national authors) being published in these journals has been increasing in most of these journals recently. This is in stark contrast to Western IR journals, which largely remain outlets for scholarship from Western IR scholars in general and scholars from the United States in particular. In other words, whereas the West remains fairly closed off from the rest of the world, there is much more of a balance between national and international authorship in non-Western IR journals.
Figure 3 Authorship in Non-Western International Relations Journals
The Intellectual Structure of the Discipline
Another characteristic of the publication system of Western IR is the distinct profile of mixing theory and empirical analysis. All of the IR journals ranked among the top 20 of all political science journals in the Social Science Citation Index distinguish themselves as theory-oriented journals in this sense. As Kjell Goldmann (1996) pointed out in a comparison of Western IR journals from the early 1970s and early 1990s, as far as “methodological approaches” are concerned, ever more articles published in the 1990s combined some form of theorizing with empirical observation. If anything, this trend has been reinforced during the past decade. Again, the contrast with non-Western IR journals is noticeable: With the possible exception of the Japanese journal International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, all of these journals primarily publish articles that eschew explicit theoretical discussion (see Figure 4).
Figure 4 Methodological Approaches of Non-Western International Relations Journals
Paradigmatism and Great Debates
One of the oldest features of the intellectual structure of the discipline is paradigmatism. In IR, it has come to be understood as a disciplinary preoccupation with and segregation into separate “metascientific constructs” with distinct ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies (Yosef Lapid, 1989). Although the allusion to Thomas Kuhn’s paradigmatic view of the evolutionary development of scientific disciplines only spread in IR in the 1970s, the phenomenon as such has been a core feature of the discipline’s intellectual structure (at least in its Western segment) since the mid-20th century. Realism, idealism, rationalism, and constructivism are usually mentioned as examples of such paradigms. Surpassed only by questions of epistemology and methodology, such “paradigmatic” differentiation continues to generate the most division among Western IR scholars (Jordan et al., 2009). What is more, IR scholars in 10 English-speaking countries, surveyed by Jordan and colleagues (2009), estimate that almost 90% of all IR literature is devoted to some form of paradigmatist analysis. Yet although one out of four considers his or her own work to be falling outside any paradigmatist frame, more than three quarters of the time is devoted to IR paradigms in IR introductory courses taught by these scholars. In other words, the intellectual structure of discipline continues to be reproduced along paradigmatist lines even though many IR scholars do not believe that such a focus is particularly useful in their own research.
This gap in (Western) IR between the prominence of paradigmatism in teaching and that in individual research reflects on what sociologists call “task uncertainty”—that is, the extent to which scholars in a discipline agree on what rules are to be followed and what work techniques are acceptable in producing knowledge (Wæver, 2007). In IR, the level of task uncertainty is quite high since there is fairly little agreement as to what the overarching disciplinary questions are or how one should go about tackling them. The TRIP survey found that two thirds of IR scholars questioned believe that methods and epistemology generate the most division in the discipline. Yet despite this diversity, there has at least been a widespread (if sometimes only implicit) understanding that paradigms as such are a key instrument for organizing the discipline, especially as far as IR’s recurring great debates are concerned. This not only shows in how the discipline’s history is usually told or how IR is taught but is also evident in textbooks and handbooks—that is, in works that are supposed to introduce novices to the field or that provide summaries and syntheses of what is normally claimed to be disciplinary knowledge. Two recent examples are illustrative. As the subtitle of International Relations Theory: Discipline and Diversity (Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, & Steve Smith, 2007) indicates, the editors are keen to emphasize both the necessity of a certain disciplinary coherence and its diversity. Yet the organization of the book around nine “distinct theories of International relations—realism/structural realism, liberalism/neoliberalism, the English School, constructivism, Marxism and critical theory, feminism, poststructuralism, green theory, postcolonialism” (p. 3) shows that diversity is expressed not in the form of theoretical controversies over core substantive questions of international relations (e.g., what causes war, what causes poverty) or methods but through paradigms. The same understanding is reflected in a 2008 handbook by Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal, where the presentation of a somewhat different set of nine “major theoretical perspectives” takes up almost half the space of the volume (the theories discussed here include (1) realism, (2) Marxism, (3) neoliberal institutionalism, (4) the new liberalism, (5) the English School, (6) constructivism, (7) critical theory, (8) postmodernism, and (9) feminism). In other words, whereas IR scholars may disagree sharply as to the particular value of different paradigms, there at least seems to be widespread agreement that it is useful to conceive of the discipline in terms of paradigmatic differentiation and great debates.
However, from a longer historical perspective, the period during which paradigmatism and great debates were widely acknowledged as dominant features of the discipline’s intellectual structure may come to an end. Recent self-reflective observations of the historiography of the discipline have convincingly shown that even in Western IR, the focus on great debates may have been as much a reflection of the perceived need of a novel academic field to identify a disciplinary core as a reflection of a common tendency in the social sciences to delimit the number of basic rival positions to a low number of macrolevel theories. As a matter of fact, the invocation of great debates as a typical characterization of overarching disciplinary divides did not begin until Hans Morgenthau introduced the term in the early 1950s to depict what soon came to be known as the debate between realism and idealism. Moreover, it reached its pinnacle with the announcement of a second great debate in the 1960s pitting traditionalists against behavioralists (or scientists) in a clash over what methods IR scholars ought to use in studying international phenomena. It was in this context that Kuhn’s concept of a paradigm was first combined with the focus on great debates, most explicitly (if somewhat misleadingly) in an article by Arendt Lijphardt (1974) in which he identified the second great debate as “a dichotomous one between two opposing paradigms” (p. 18). Yet the third debate marked the end of agreement over how to describe what it was supposedly all about. Alternatively, it was framed as a debate between realism and globalism; between realism, pluralism, and structuralism; between positivists and post-positivists; or between “a broad body of interdisciplinary literature commonly (and often indiscriminately) labeled ‘critical theory,’ ‘post positivism,’ ‘discourse analysis,’ or ‘post-structuralism,’” on the one hand, and “the intellectual imperialism of the modern, post-Cartesian ‘scientific’ approach to knowledge and society,” on the other (Jim George, 1989, p. 270). Others suggested that the latter two descriptions marked the fourth debate, which in itself could be subdivided into two subdebates between reflectivists and rationalists, on the one hand, and between neorealists and neoliberal institutionalists, on the other. Thus, not only the intervals between debates have become longer since the first debate was invented, but after the second debate, there has also been ever more contention as to whether a third and/or fourth great debate actually took place and, if so, what it was all about. In any case, no fifth debate currently appears to be forthcoming.
Even if great debates were indeed a thing of the past, paradigmatism appears to be more resilient. In Andrew Abbott’s reading of “generational paradigms,” the emphasis on the economizing strategies of informational overload suggests a certain disciplinary immaturity in coming up with more sophisticated and adequate coping strategies. More critical readings—such as Niklas Luhmann’s related lamentation about “multiple paradigmatasis” in sociology—in contrast highlight the unforced ignorance vis-à-vis large segments of knowledge that necessarily accompanies paradigmatic self-restriction. This latter perspective has recently won more recognition. Two prominent representatives of rationalism and constructivism, for instance, have joined voices in rejecting the implicit offer to conduct another “battle of analytical paradigms,” since any such battle would “at the very least . . . encourage scholars to be method-driven rather than problem-driven in their research” (James Fearon & Alexander Wendt, 2002, p. 52). Rather than looking at the relationship between rationalism and constructivism in terms of a “debate,” they pleaded for looking at it in terms of a “conversation” between two approaches that, “when understood pragmatically, [are] largely either complementary or overlapping” (Fearon & Wendt, 2002, p. 68). Similarly, the recent Oxford Handbook of International Relations prominently positioned the chapter “Eclectic Theorizing in the Study and Practice of International Relations” at the very beginning of the section that presented the nine “major theoretical perspectives” referred to above (Peter Katzenstein & Rudra Sil, 2008). In it, the authors advocate analytic eclecticism, an approach to research in IR that replaces paradigm-driven research with a strategy drawing widely on seemingly divergent research traditions built on distinct concepts, methods, analytics, and empirics.
Thus, although the intellectual structure of the discipline continues to be shaped by distinctions drawn in terms of paradigms (or the equivalent major theoretical perspectives, etc.), paradigmatism as such has been losing some of its grip. To the extent that there is an inherent tension between method-driven approaches or paradigmatism, on the one hand, and a focus on a problem-driven approach, on the other, the shift toward the latter can be seen as a sign of maturation. To be sure, a loss of disciplinary coherence may loom as a downside if IR loses its traditional paradigmatic signposts, according to Wæver (2007). Yet the same development can also be interpreted as an advance toward a more self-confident academic profession that need no longer engage in stylized battles to distinguish itself from adjacent (and presumably more reputable) disciplines such as history, law, economics, or sociology. Moreover, such a move can also be justified epistemologically since the earlier rationalization for paradigmatic separation—the usual reference to the idea of “incommensurability” in Kuhn’s theoretical vocabulary—has hence been problematized in the philosophy of science. For a long time, Kuhn’s term of incommensurability was understood to mean that the theoretical vocabularies of separate paradigms were not intertranslatable. Yet as Richard Rorty (1991), among others, has argued, “untranslatability does not entail unlearnability” and “learnability is all that is required to make discussability possible” (p. 48). Paradigmatic separation, therefore, is a disciplinary convention, not an epistemological necessity. Recently, this approach to “interparadigm” debates has been spreading in IR at least subliminally, if not explicitly, according to Colin Wight. Irrespective of whether one welcomes or criticizes such a development, it is yet another sign of a much broader development in the discipline: its expansion along many dimensions.
The Expansion of International Relations
Thus far, the discipline has been examined largely in terms of its social and intellectual structures. This inevitably entails a rather static view that does not sufficiently acknowledge the tremendous dynamism of IR. Yet the dynamic development of the field is perhaps the most striking feature of the discipline. Ever since the early days of modern IR in the early 20th century, the discipline has been expanding. Although this intellectual expansion may resemble earlier colonial practices of the West in some respects (and may therefore also be described in diverse vocabularies), the phenomenon as such appears to be largely uncontroversial. Four dimensions of intellectual expansion can be distinguished:
- territorial expansion (or spread) from a largely Western core to other countries;
- disciplinary expansion within political science as measured in terms of chairs designated with denominations that are normally considered to be IR;
- substantive expansion as measured in research problems being taken up by scholars identifying themselves as doing IR and in interaction with the latter; and
- theoretical and methodological expansion.
Of course, none of these expanding moves ought to be imagined as linear or unidirectional. When knowledge travels, it always intermingles and, thereby, transforms. John Agnew notes refers to the image of a marketplace where Western IR is “exported” to non-Western regions and countries or where IR “imports” from other disciplines such as philosophy or where economics misconstrues knowledge as a commodity changing hands without being affected by the very transaction. If we take this transformational dimension into account, however, the metaphor of expansion quite cogently describes a phenomenon that is as familiar as a subject matter to the IR scholar as it is ubiquitous if one looks at the dynamic development of the discipline.
Given the limits of space and the earlier discussion of the global structure of IR, the territorial and disciplinary expansion can be kept short. As mentioned earlier, territorial expansion was for a long time characterized (and in many ways still is characterized) by the discipline’s failure to engage with the non-Western world. To the extent that such engagement did take place, it often followed general patterns of colonial interaction. Western IR presented its way of practicing the craft as exemplary, while scholars in non-Western regions would either emulate Western IR practices (thereby, perhaps, gaining some recognition from abroad) or keep to whatever local forms of scholarship were deemed suitable to study things “international” (and remain largely marginalized). In the late 20th century and early 21st century, there has been quite a bit of change with respect to the quantitative enlargement of IR communities outside the West and a much more self-conscious redefinition of what it may mean to conduct IR in places such as China, India, Kenya, or Mexico. This expansion has been aided by global shifts in power as well as theoretical innovation (e.g., postcolonialism). The World International Studies Committee (WISC), an organization of national International Studies associations that has been active since the turn of the century, has certainly helped as well. Measured in terms of chairs in IR, the discipline even seems to be expanding much more rapidly in non-Western regions, Latin America, and Asia in particular (see the 2009 special issue of International Relations of the Asia-Pacific). Nevertheless, even though almost no comparative data are available on the number of chairs in IR around the globe or relative to other disciplines in political science, Hans-Dieter Klingemann notes that IR appears to be growing numerically even in Europe and North America, if only at the expense of other subdisciplines.
The Expansion of the IR Research Agenda
By most accounts (Western) IR is essentially an invention of the 20th century (for a contrasting perspective, see William Olson & John Groom, 1991). Even if some of its origins may have been romanticized in one way or another, it is widely accepted as common knowledge among IR scholars that the primary subjects of study in the first half of the 20th century were almost exclusively related to governmental activities crossing national boundaries. Against the background of the two World Wars, the question of war and peace loomed large. Accordingly, early (Western) IR framed its research agenda mainly in the vocabulary of international law and diplomatic history. The methods and approaches associated with these disciplines were thought to offer the best hope for “the problem of international governmental reorganization and practice” (Pitman Potter, 1923, p. 391), without necessarily succumbing to the sort of “idealist internationalism” for which the discipline was later chastised by realists in particular (Olson & Groom, 1991). In the middle of the 20th century, the agenda was broadened to include international economics and all those aspects of international relations that could be “described in terms of decision-making by identifiable individuals or groups of individuals” (Frederick Dunn, 1948, p. 145). More important, ever more scholars seemed ready to subscribe to the view that international politics rather than international organization constituted the core of a slowly maturing discipline. While the latter was said to have been approached predominantly with a constitutional frame, the image of an international system made up of states that were interacting “almost like Leibnizian monads” (Morton Kaplan, 1961) and the accompanying clash of national interests and power were considered to be more properly dealt with in a political framework (William Fox, 1949). The first great debate was an expression of this shift.
The war experience (which had involved all those countries crucial for the discipline’s development in the 1950s and 1960s) and the spreading realization that the advent of the nuclear age would not only revolutionize warfare but also affect the very survival of humankind pushed the expanding research agenda of IR scholarship into the field of strategic studies with its focus on state practices such as deterrence thinking and arms control negotiations. While essentially remaining in the classical IR domain of state-based international politics, the novel process of European integration at least offered a paradigmatic alternative to the traditional focus on great-power competition. It not only inspired a series of similar political projects in other parts of the world but also helped stimulate a new and vibrant field of study focused on comparative regional integration. In addition, the process of decolonization laid the foundation for expanding both the territorial reach of IR research beyond the confines of the Western world as well as the disciplinary focus on politics by intensifying the link with economics. Paradigmatically, though, the two major alternatives of the emerging development studies, modernization theory and dependency theory, continued to draw almost exclusively on the Western tradition. (Neo-)Marxist-inspired analyses of capitalism’s contribution to the “underdevelopment” of non-Western regions by scholars such as André Gunder Frank, a University of Chicago–trained economist, helped pave the way for international political economy to fully establish itself as one of the major subfields of IR, starting in the 1970s. On a parallel track, the study of foreign policy, which had been one of the major sections in any North American IR/political science curriculum, continued to thrive as an ever more “scientific,” increasingly separate and differentiating field. Foreign policy analysis (or FPA) was the prime subfield of IR, expanding into those neighboring disciplines (such as psychology and sociology) that were deemed useful in coming up with theoretical and methodological tools for making sense of group decision-making processes under routine bureaucratic or crisis situations.
With the advent of the East–West détente and the 1973 oil crisis, the disciplinary horizon broadened further. Although the classical focus on “high-politics” security issues kept its prominent place, other issues gained in importance or were added anew to the IR research agenda. First, the introduction of the concept of “transnational politics” at the end of the 1960s contained an unveiled critique of the state centrism of classical IR. It also foreshadowed the broadening of the more narrowly circumscribed foreign policy perspective during the 1970s and 1980s by also looking at nonstate actors and their activities and interactions at the systemic level. Second, the Club of Rome’s “The Limits to Growth” report of 1972, the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in the same year, and the oil crisis in the following year set the stage for environmental issues to be added to the IR research agenda. Third, transnational relations and environmental politics both fitted in neatly with perhaps the most prominent new theme in IR since the 1970s: the spreading interest in the phenomenon of interdependence and globalization. This image of an increasingly globalizing world that affected every corner of the globe and reached across all issue areas in turn helped push a final expansion of the research agenda: the inclusion of an ever-larger group of nonstate actors, to use the mainstream IR vocabulary. Alternatively, critical, postmodern, feminist, and/or postcolonial theories identified a huge, highly diverse, and often indiscernible group that they called the marginalized: victims of war, poverty, or colonialism; women; or, more generally, all human beings who had become mere objects of structures and practices of power rather than being political subjects. At the beginning of the 21st century, there are, thus, few phenomena that cannot be framed in one way or another as legitimate objects of study under the heading of IR. Indeed, some even argue that the discipline has to rename itself in order to do justice to the causal and constitutive connections that link so many levels of political action in global society.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that both the structure of the most influential professional organization in the field of international studies, the International Studies Association, and the most recent comprehensive survey of the major topics of the field appear to cover essentially any phenomenon of politically relevant social action transcending state borders. The book version of the ISA “compendium” encompasses 12 volumes and more than 8,000 pages of text (Robert Denemark, 2010). The open-ended online compendium is even more voluminous. The same applies as far as the structure of the ISA is concerned. The 24 sections are impressive not only for their breadth but also for the fact that paradigmatism is much less visible at this level of organization. Section themes include professional and pedagogical concerns (as in the sections “Women’s Caucus” and “Active Learning in IS”) and epistemological and methodological concerns (as in the sections “Comparative Interdisciplinary Studies” and “Scientific Study of International Processes”), but most often, they cover a broad range of substantive issues (e.g., “Diplomatic Studies”; “Environmental Studies”; “Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Studies”; “Feminist Theory and Gender Studies”; “Foreign Policy Analysis”; “Global Development Studies”; “Human Rights; “Intelligence Studies”; “International Communication”; “International Education”; “International Ethics”; “International Law”; “International Organization”; “International Political Economy”; “International Political Sociology”; “International Security Studies”; “Peace Studies”; “Political Demography”; and “Post Communist States in International Relations”). The only exception as far as a paradigmatic orientation is concerned relates to the section “English School.”
Theoretical and Methodological Expansion
Theoretical and methodological sophistication is almost universally accepted as a key criterion for judging the quality and status of a scholarly discipline. In both respects, IR has seen tremendous, sometimes even exponential, growth. If we concentrate on the 20th century, the formative period of IR up to the 1950s was largely marked by an understanding of theory and method common among the (usually much older) disciplines from which IR was drawing its new talents: (diplomatic) history, (international) law, economics, what is nowadays called area studies, and the study of (domestic) politics. Many of these were considered to be part of the humanities rather than the (social) sciences. Accordingly, the distinction between the empirical and the normative, drawn in a particularly strong fashion in the course of the “behavioral revolution,” was mostly not deemed appropriate then. To be sure, “science” was already cherished among IR novices. Yet it was not yet as strongly associated with a notion of the natural sciences as was the case in the 1960s and 1970s.
The revolutionary shift to the new mantra of “applying scientific methods” was perhaps best captured in the transition from the 1st edition (published in 1961) to the 2nd edition of International Politics and Foreign Policy, a textbook edited by Rosenau (1969), who, perhaps along with Hayward Alker, is himself an exemplar of the shifting epistemological, theoretical, and methodological currents of the discipline over the past 50 years. In introducing the 57 chapters of the 2nd edition, Rosenau apologized for including “only 9 percent of the original selections” even though he himself had stated in 1961 that “articles were included ‘only if they seemed likely to be useful in twenty years.’” Yet rather than taking this to be a “cause for embarrassment,” he saw “cause for satisfaction” due to the “remarkable growth in the scope and pace of the theoretical enterprise” and the “increasingly sophisticated penetration of the mysteries of international life” (Rosenau, 1969, p. xvii). The book contained 25 articles on 14 different types of “theories and approaches” as well as 17 articles on different “research techniques and orientations.” For many older IR scholars, this was a misguided fixation on an ideal of science that was wholly inadequate for the subject matter of international politics. Yet Rosenau’s candid assessment and selections illustrate the predominant mood and trends in the 1960s and 1970s quite well. Although “classical” approaches and methods continued to have their followers—and actually benefitted themselves from the behavioral revolution—the wave of the future seemed to be an understanding of “science” that required “an articulated secondary language that permits reasonable precision and replicability” (Kaplan, 1966, p. 4) as well as sophisticated techniques for gathering and processing data.
Mere listing of all the new methods and techniques that were invented and/or imported in IR during that phase could spread out over a couple of pages. Suffice it to say that such a list would include almost the whole range of tools applied in other academic disciplines—ranging all the way from some of the humanities to other social sciences and the natural sciences. Nevertheless, even some of its initial adherents later granted that “the promises of behavioralism were not fulfilled” (Rosenau, 1993, p. 459). Against this background, among others, the third (or fourth) debate in particular represented a move beyond methodology by digging deeper to address the underlying epistemological and ontological questions. Yet rather than shrinking the space, this debate enlarged it further through reinvigorating reflection on the reach and uses of qualitative methods and by problematizing the very basis of theory formation. In many ways, the qualitative label reinforced an encroaching dualistic conception of methodology—with a quantitative pole on the other side. Of course, some influential theories and/or methods (e.g., rational choice and other formal methods) that actually thrived during the 1980s and 1990s in American IR could not easily be subsumed under such a dualistic conception. However, influential publications that reached far beyond IR (e.g., Gary King, Robert Keohane, & Sydney Verba, 1994) actually tried to ease the tension by arguing that there is a unified logic of scientific inference across a large spectrum of different methodologies. While this proposition was hardly acceptable to everyone, it did mirror a widespread understanding of scientific analysis among IR scholars according to which the essence of scholarship lay in “linking theory to evidence.” In the 2002 Handbook of International Relations, this is the title of the single explicitly methodological chapter covering the whole spectrum from rationalist to constructivist theories, the latter even including critical theory. One set of methods that thrived in IR since the 1980s, the so-called case study methods—which were actually put at the center of qualitative methods by some more “scientifically” inclined scholars—actually expressed this understanding most clearly and, for many IR scholars, convincingly.
While it certainly mirrored “mainstream” understandings, the fixation on somehow linking theory and evidence with the help of certain methods had its critics—and increasingly so. As a matter of fact, since the early 1980s, an ever-larger number of scholars subscribed to a variety of postpositivist approaches that all posited the mutual impregnation of theory, reality, and descriptions thereof (evidence). Most important, from a methodological point of view, theories such as feminism, postmodernism, poststructuralism, critical theory, pragmatism, and postcolonialism all questioned whether “social facts” could indeed be treated like “natural facts,” as implicitly assumed by the mainstream approaches (Friedrich Kratochwil, 2008). The answer was an outright “No.” Since nature did not “speak,” concepts and even whole vocabularies had to be invented in order to relate to “the world out there” when one wanted to describe and explain how even small parts of it (not to mention everything) actually hang together. In this view, the issue was not whether (and if so, how) one would come up with the “correct” description to work within the actual business of explanation. Rather, one of the key questions was how we came to describe the world in a particular vocabulary in the first place and what this description did to our being in and relating to the world.
This amounted to a radical critique of the whole enterprise of how the “science” of international relations was practiced by positivists. In a sense, the weight of the charge was equivalent to the one that scientists had leveled against traditionalists during the second debate: the charge of actually misconstruing what scholarship about the international was all about. Methods, however, were not relegated to the dustbin as charges about “anything goes” seemed to indicate. Indeed, if anything, the third (or fourth) debate helped further broaden the theoretical and methodological horizon of the discipline by opening it for a rediscovery of earlier roots in international law and normative theory and by more explicitly incorporating sociological perspectives (as illustrated by the founding of the journal International Political Sociology in 2007). To be sure, few of its adherents would claim that a switch to a postpositivist stance would be rewarded with any of the earlier promises of “cumulation of knowledge” or “progress” (the latter is at least kept as an option in a Lakatosian assessment of different IR research agendas). Yet leaving behind the straitjacket of “method-drivenness”—which has even become a dirty word for the self-proclaimed positivists (Fearon & Wendt, 2002)—seems to be enough in terms of gratification for them. In sum, even if the discipline may not have advanced much on the path of cumulation and progress, it seems to have progressed steadily on the path of theoretical and methodological sophistication.
The story of the field of international relations could be told in an analogous fashion to the story of “the expansion of international society.” It may well be that a casual reader of this entry 20 or
50 years from now might actually have precisely that impression—with all the critical undertones that a postcolonial perspective would want to add. Yet this probably is how “the state of the art” appears to a big group of practitioners of IR scholarship today. As has been discussed above, the discipline is in many ways not up to the task (yet?) of tackling, not to mention overcoming, its many awkward parochialisms. These are all the more glaring given the almost universal expression of an ever more globalizing world—irrespective of how one may define the phenomenon of globalization—and the fact that the discipline itself lays claim to actually analyzing these processes and features within its purview.
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