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A Sociological Analysis of the Decline of American IR Theory

Published on Jul 31, 2016in International Studies Review2.08
· DOI :10.1093/isr/viw028
Ido Oren9
Estimated H-index: 9
(UF: University of Florida)
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Abstract
In recent years the centrality of grand, paradigmatic theory in American IR has eroded, with the vacuum being filled by largely atheoretical “hypothesis-testing” research. Although a heated debate has emerged on whether it is good or bad for IR, hardly anyone has tried to analyze this trend. I offer an analysis grounded in a conceptual framework elaborated by sociologist Richard Whitley. In the 1980s and 1990s IR approximated the type of social organization Whitley labeled “polycentric oligarchy”—a hierarchic structure dominated by leaders of competing schools, toward which scholars orient their research. In recent years the field has become more of a “fragmented adhocracy.” Its reputational hierarchy has become more fluid and, concomitantly, its intellectual output has become more fragmented, more empirical, and less oriented toward a theoretical center. To account for this change, I discuss three external forces that reduce American IR's “reputational autonomy”: the corporatization of American higher education; a surge in the availability of research funding from the Pentagon and other defense agencies; and the enduring embeddedness of American IR in the political science discipline. To strengthen my argument, I compare American IR to its Australian counterpart on these three dimensions.
  • References (40)
  • Citations (8)
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References40
Newest
Published on Jul 1, 2014in International Theory1.26
Charlotte Epstein9
Estimated H-index: 9
(USYD: University of Sydney)
In this article I consider what it means to theorise international politics from a postcolonial perspective, understood not as a unified body of thought or a new ‘-ism’ for IR, but as a ‘situated perspective’, where the particular of subjective, embodied experiences are foregrounded rather than erased in the theorising. What the postcolonial has to offer are ex-centred, post-Eurocentric sites for practices of situated critique. This casts a different light upon the makings of international order...
Published on Jun 1, 2014in International Studies Quarterly2.17
Paul C. Avey1
Estimated H-index: 1
(MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology),
Michael C. Desch15
Estimated H-index: 15
(ND: University of Notre Dame)
What do the most senior national security policymakers want from international relations scholars? To answer that question, we administered a unique survey to current and former policymakers to gauge when and how they use academic social science to inform national security decision making. We find that policymakers do regularly follow academic social science research and scholarship on national security affairs, hoping to draw upon its substantive expertise. But our results call into question th...
Published on Sep 1, 2013in European Journal of International Relations2.76
John J. Mearsheimer25
Estimated H-index: 25
(U of C: University of Chicago),
Stephen M. Walt22
Estimated H-index: 22
(Harvard University)
Theory creating and hypothesis testing are both critical components of social science, but the former is ultimately more important. Yet, in recent years, International Relations scholars have devoted less effort to creating and refining theories or using theory to guide empirical research. Instead, they increasingly focus on ‘simplistic hypothesis testing,’ which emphasizes discovering well-verified empirical regularities. Privileging simplistic hypothesis testing is a mistake, however, because ...
Published on Apr 1, 2013in Australian Journal of International Affairs1.17
Lee Morgenbesser1
Estimated H-index: 1
This article analyses the results of the most recent and largest cross-national survey on the international relations discipline. Completed by scholars in 20 countries, the survey covered the areas of teaching, research, foreign policy, the profession, and the relationship between policy and academia. From an Australian perspective, the key findings include the strong link between what academics teach and research; the narrowing epistemological gap between the USA and Australia; the curious pess...
Published on Jan 1, 2013
John J. Mearsheimer25
Estimated H-index: 25
,
Stephen M. Walt22
Estimated H-index: 22
Theory creating and hypothesis testing are both important elements of social science. Unfortunately, in recent years the balance between theory creation/refinement and the testing of empirical hypotheses has shifted sharply toward the latter. This trend is unfortunate, because insufficient attention to theory can lead to misspecified models and overreliance on misleading measures of key concepts. In addition, the poor quality of much of the data in IR makes it less likely that these efforts will...
Published on Sep 1, 2012in International Interactions1.42
Philip A. Schrodt21
Estimated H-index: 21
(PSU: Pennsylvania State University)
The past decade has seen a renaissance in the development of political event data sets. This has been due to at least three sets of factors. First, there have been technological changes that have reduced the cost of producing event data, including the availability of information on the Web, the development of specialized systems for automated coding, and the development of machine-assisted systems that reduce the cost of human coding. Second, event data have become much more elaborate than the o...
Published on Jan 1, 2012
Margaret Thornton16
Estimated H-index: 16
Ch 1: The Political Economy of Higher Education Ch 2: The Market Comes to Law School Ch 3: Jettisoning the Critical Ch 4: Governance and Academic Life Ch 5: Research in the Corporatized Academy Ch 6: Conclusion
Published on Jun 1, 2011in International Studies Quarterly2.17
Daniel Maliniak8
Estimated H-index: 8
(UCSD: University of California, San Diego),
Amy Oakes5
Estimated H-index: 5
(W&M: College of William & Mary)
+ 1 AuthorsMichael J. Tierney15
Estimated H-index: 15
(W&M: College of William & Mary)
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 a...
Published on Jun 1, 2011in International Studies Quarterly2.17
David A. Lake36
Estimated H-index: 36
(UCSD: University of California, San Diego)
This essay probes tensions between our professional practices and the quality of our professional output in the field of international studies. We organize ourselves into academic “sects” that engage in self-affirming research and then wage theological debates between academic religions. This occurs at both the level of theory and epistemology. Unfortunately, this academic sectarianism produces less understanding rather than more. Theoretically, we should focus on developing contingent, mid-leve...
Published on Jun 1, 2011in International Studies Quarterly2.17
Henry R. Nau8
Estimated H-index: 8
(GW: George Washington University)
In this thoughtful and well-intended essay, David Lake expresses a frustration with the sectarian debates among the “isms” of international relations and calls for a common lexicon or “Rosetta stone” that “aims to facilitate conversation across research traditions by suggesting that all theories of international studies can be disaggregated into the basic and common concepts of interests, interactions, and institutions.” But his lexicon inevitably privileges some concepts and theories over other...
Cited By8
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Published on Feb 21, 2019in European Journal of International Relations2.76
Peter Marcus Kristensen5
Estimated H-index: 5
(UCPH: University of Copenhagen)
This article examines the relationship between the geopolitical rise of new powers in international relations and knowledge production in International Relations. It draws on the science studies literature on the ‘co-production’ of science and politics to conceptualise and analyse this relationship between the ‘state of emergence’ and ‘state of knowledge’. I argue that the ‘state of emergence’ should be conceptualised not only as a real-world condition external to science that imposes itself on ...
Published on Mar 4, 2019in Pacific Review1.86
Eun Yong-Soo (Hanyang University)
AbstractThis article aims to address how to ensure a two-way ‘dialogue’ across ‘the West/non-West distinction’ in international studies. To this end, I first discuss three different approaches to dialogue, the Socratic, the Habermasian, and the Weberian, and clarify what kind of thing dialogue should be if it is to overcome the ‘West-non-West divide’ and transform the current ‘Western-centric’ IR into a global discipline. I argue that dialogue should be understood as reciprocal feedback from dif...
Published on Feb 1, 2019in Politics1.38
Yong-Soo Eun4
Estimated H-index: 4
(Hanyang University)
This opening article maps the terrain of the ongoing debate over various forms of ‘non-Western’ International Relations (IR) theory-building enterprise with the aim not only of providing contextual background for the Special Section, but also, and more importantly, of identifying what is missing in the overall debate. It is often pointed out that IR as a discipline is ‘too Western centric’, and that much of mainstream IR theory is ‘simply an abstraction of Western history’. In this respect, many...
Published on May 3, 2018in International Studies Quarterly2.17
Peter Marcus Kristensen5
Estimated H-index: 5
(UCPH: University of Copenhagen)
View next paperThe Sociology of a Not So International Discipline: American and European Developments in International Relations