This is a guest post by Randall Germain, Professor of Political Science at Carleton University, as part of the Duck of Minerva’s Symposium on Structural Power and the Study of Business. Links to other posts in the symposium can be found here.
A scholar knows he has been around for a while when the problem of structural power re-emerges as a legitimate and worthy subject of research. My graduate education in IR and IPE was pre-occupied with debates over hegemonic stability theory and neo-realism, which were, in their own ways, very particular demands to take structure and the power of structures seriously in our research. But along the way this interest in structure became transmuted into a quest to make whatever data we had about existing institutions reveal how they functioned in a world of exogenous developments. Research shifted from a focus on what Benjamin Cohen has called ‘big picture’ thinking about the global economic and political order, to a much narrower set of concerns connected to how specific institutions operate and the parameters within which they move. In many ways the concerns that dominated scholarly debates in my academic ‘youth’ have gone south, replaced by concerns which, while not of course unimportant in a scholarly sense, are perhaps somewhat less driven by the ‘big picture’ problems of change and transformation that animated research in that earlier period.