International Relations in the US Academy
Published on Jun 1, 2011in International Studies Quarterly 2.17
· DOI :10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00653.x
Using two new data sources to describe trends in the international relations (IR) discipline since 1980—a database of every article published in the 12 leading journals in the field and three surveys of IR faculty at US colleges and universities—we explore the extent of theoretical, methodological, and epistemological diversity in the American study of IR and the relationship between IR scholarship and the policy-making community in the United States. We find, first, that there is considerable and increasing theoretical diversity. Although US scholars believe and teach their students that the major paradigms—realism, liberalism, Marxism, and constructivism—define and divide the discipline, most peer-reviewed research does not advance a theoretical argument from one of these theoretical traditions. There is no evidence, moreover, that realism and its focus on power relations among states dominate, or since 1980 ever has dominated, the literature. Second, although three times as many IR scholars report using qualitative methods as their primary approach, more articles published in the top journals currently employ quantitative tools than any other methodological approach. Third, there exists little epistemological diversity in the field: American IR scholars share a strong and growing commitment to positivism. Finally, there is a disjuncture between what American scholars of IR think about the value of producing policy-relevant work and the actual research they generate: few articles in top journals offer explicit policy advice, but scholars believe that their work is both prescriptive and useful to policymakers.