This is a guest post from Hannes Peltonen, Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Tampere
The State of the Discipline
International Politics/Relations (IR) has allegedly failed, a claim publicized periodically. Barry Buzan and Richard Little began this millennium by highlighting the discipline’s intellectual failure in the journal Millennium. More recently, an influential 2013 forum in EJIR on IR theory, edited by Tim Dunne, Lene Hansen, and Colin Wight, concludes something similar.
IR theorists seem to consider that IR has failed, because it has a one-way relationship with other disciplines and fields. IR research borrows from other disciplines, but other disciplines seem uninterested in what IR has to offer.
One explanation for this one-way relationship could be that IR remains in the shadow of Political Science. According to Justin Rosenberg, IR has failed to develop its own disciplinary “big idea.” Such ideas are based on some characteristic of the social world through which a discipline might define and delineate itself. In Geography, it is space; in History it is time; in Sociology it is the structures of social relations.
Rosenberg’s claim seems to be that without such a big idea, other disciplines are not really interested in IR as independent from Political Science and Political Thought. Much of IR discussions may be of interest to IR scholars, but not to scholars in other disciplines. Other disciplines, however, are of interest to IR scholars exactly because they have their own big ideas which communicate across disciplines, thus being also of interest to IR.
Rosenberg’s own suggestion (“uneven and combined development”) for IR’s disciplinary big idea is promising, but it has also encountered criticism, whether justified or not.
In addition to criticisms presented by others, Rosenberg’s suggestion suffers from its implication, namely that it strengthens disciplinary division at a time, when there is a clear call for innovative interdisciplinarity. Moreover, Rosenberg’s suggestion seems to look back in time while neglecting the future and partially also the contemporary world. Thus, it ignores a rather large detail: the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. Continue reading