International Relations and the Problem of Difference

International Relations and the Problem of Difference

International Relations and the Problem of Difference

International Relations and the Problem of Difference

Synopsis

International Relations and the Problem of Difference developed out of the growing sense that International Relations as a discipline does not assess the quality of cultural interactions that shape, and are shaped by, the changing structures and processes of the international system. IR has long had little to say about the motivations of individuals, about the interactions of communities, or about the role of identity. Inayatullah and Blaney re-imagine IR as a uniquely placed site for the study of differences. They suggest that IR might be organized explicitly around the exploration of the relation of wholes and parts and sameness and difference.

Excerpt

One of the oldest and most persistent questions in Western philosophy-and as far as I understand it, in Eastern thought too-has been the “problem” of the one and the many and/or identity and difference.

-Richard J. Bernstein, The New Constellation

[W]e have all been programmed to respond to human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across differences as equals.

-Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, Sex”

The Colonial Legacy

The discipline of international relations (IR) is hamstrung by a relative in-capacity to speak about “the situation of the Third World-the injuries done to it through conquest and colonialism and the justice of its demands” (Inayatullah and Blaney, 1996:68; see also Neuman, 1998; and Puchala, 1998). This recurrent, if unheeded, protest has informed intellectual responses to dominant perspectives in ir from dependency theory to various postcolonial approaches. Our own intellectual efforts grow from a sense that ir as a discipline does not (except very thinly) assess the quality of cultural interactions that shape and are shaped by the changing structures and processes of the international system. More specifically, while competitive self-help is taken for granted-as backdrop to the entire project of

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