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International Relations CSS Blog

From Realism’s Disciplinary Dominance to a More Global IR

Image courtesy of TheAndrasBarta/Pixabay.

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 23 July 2020.

Realism’s dominance may be particularly pertinent at a time when International Relations’ Western-centrism is under renewed scrutiny and scholars and students call for the development of a more global International Relations (IR). This requires interrogating realism’s role in IR, how it may contribute to a more global IR, and what realism’s future holds. If realists forgo exploring new avenues to address this criticism, they may miss opportunities to contribute to a more global discipline and to better explain foreign policy and grand strategy beyond the West. Addressing its critics, realism can do useful things to develop a more global IR.

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International Relations History

IR Theory: Problem-Solving Theory Versus Critical Theory?

The Thinker by Rodin. Image: Jean-David & Anne Laure/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 19 September 2014.

Robert Cox began his canonical 1981 essay “Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory” with the observation that it is “necessary and practical” for academic disciplines to “divide up the seamless web of the real social world”. We make these divisions, Cox wrote, in order to analyse the world and thus to produce practical knowledge of that world. It is not a stretch to suggest that the real social world of International Relations scholarship might also be approached as worthy of analysis and theory. Indeed, reflection on International Relations as theory appears in the field as part of the necessary and practical division of the complexity of the social and political world. Rare is the introduction to IR textbook that does not emphasize, and usually begin with, the “great (theoretical) debates” that have structured the field since it emerged as an academic discipline.

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International Relations

Black Swans and Security Curves

A black swan, making waves. Photo: Aziem Hassan/flickr

These days it seems like everyone knows about ‘black swans.’  Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis aside, Nassim Nicholas Taleb used it as the title for his 2007 book about “low probability, high impact” events to which, he argued, the human mind is especially vulnerable.  But ‘black swans’ have an older role in debates about the philosophy of science (as Taleb, a self-described epistemologist, certainly knew) and, thus, relevance for International Relations, a discipline that often aspires to (social) scientific status.