International Relations, Political Theory, and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory?

International Relations, Political Theory, and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory?

International Relations, Political Theory, and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory?

International Relations, Political Theory, and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory?

Synopsis

At the turn of the millennium, and now after the fall of the Berlin wall, the best way to map the trajectories of contemporary international relations is hotly contested. Is the world more or less ordered than during the cold war? Are we on the way to a neo-liberal era of free markets and global governance, or in danger of collapsing into a new Middle Ages? Are we on the verge of a new world order or are we slipping back into an old one? These issues are amongst those that have dominated International Relations Theory in the late 1980s and 1990s. but they have their roots in older questions both about the appropriate ways to study international relations and about the general frameworks and normative assumptions generated by various different methodological approaches. This book seeks to offer a general interpretation and critique of both methodolgical and substantive aspects of International theory. Focusing initially on the 'problem of order' in international politics, the book suggests that International Relations Theory in the twentieth century had adopted two broad families of approaches, the first of which seeks to find ways of 'managing' order in International Relations and the second of which seeks to 'end' the problem of order. It traces three specific sets of responses to the problem of order within the first approach, which emphasize 'balance', 'society' and 'institutions' and outlines two responses within the second grouping: an emphasis on emancipation and an emphasis on limits. Finally, the book assesses the state of International Relations theory today and suggests an alternative way of reading the problem of order which generates a different trajectory for theory in the twenty first century.

Excerpt

Political theory and International Relations theory have drifted into a rather odd and unsatisfactory relationship. This has happened despite the role that some classical political theory plays in most introductory courses to IR, where Thucydides, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Bentham, Mill and others are paraded as foundational formulations of the problems of peace, war and international political economy These roots are mostly noted as part of the intellectual history of IR, and occasionally argued over in the context of debates about the validation of more contemporary versions of realist, liberal and Marxian doctrine. But these obeisances do not constitute any kind of coherent contact between the discourses of political theory and IR. While political theorists have focused more and more on the logical and normative dimensions of what goes on inside the state, IR theorists have turned more and more to the interactions between states and the structures of the international system as a whole. A few brave souls have tried to sustain contact: think of Stanley Hoffmann, Michael Walzer, Michael Joseph Smith and Michael Doyle in the United States; Brian Barry, Chris Brown, Andrew Linklater and Hidemi Suganami in the United Kingdom. But it is probably true to say that most of the core debate in political theory largely ignores the international dimension, and most of the core debate in IR is largely ignorant about the concerns of mainstream political theory.

In part the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the usual demons: narrow academic specialization, and the bizarre intellectual barriers erected by both the creation of jargon-based discourses and the institutionalization of disciplines. But there is a deeper problem of style as well. As Hidemi Suganami (On the Causes of War, 1996) nicely observes, there exists a more general division between those people who find the minutiae of philosophical argument cosmically important to understanding the real meaning of things, and those who see it mostly as irritating nit-picking that distracts from the really important things by posing questions that cannot be answered, and treating them as necessarily prior to dealing with more practical matters. The philosophical mind revels in always finding another logical difficulty, no matter how arcane, that undoes everything that comes before it. This continuous drive towards highly abstract forms of demolition quite quickly bores and frustrates audiences whose concerns are more

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