Academic journal article Global Governance

Why Don't We Have Coherent Theories of International Relations about Globalization?

Academic journal article Global Governance

Why Don't We Have Coherent Theories of International Relations about Globalization?

Article excerpt

This article offers a systematic and critical attempt to consider the question of why the discipline of international relations is at something of a loss to deal with the concept of globalization at a theoretical level. The article discusses this theoretical deficit by raising the following questions: How should we cope with globalization from an IR perspective? Why don't we have coherent theories of IR about globalization? What should we do about that? We argue that although there is a theoretical need to theorize globalization in the framework of conventional IR theories, there are serious impediments that preclude us from developing coherent IR theories about globalization, mainly due to the inherent incompatibility between the features of conventional IR theories and the concept and realities of globalization. Keywords: globalization; global governance; International Relations theories.

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Globalization has become one of the buzzwords of the new millennium in both academic and popular discourses. Although public references to globalization have become increasingly common over the past two decades, there are long and unresolved debates about its genealogy, trajectory, and distinctive features. What has become evident is that our current age of expanding political, economic, and cultural dimensions of globalization has challenged the strict separation between internal and external, domestic and international, and local and global affairs. (1) Hence, globalization has called into question the orthodox premises and conceptions of both the theory and practices of international relations (IR), at least in its territorial-based mainstream variant. Some even question the very identity of international relations as a field of scholarly inquiry, (2) arguing that globalization generates new political and social orders that have replaced "international relations" as a description of not only what the world looks like but also how we should understand the role of politics in the world.

In this article, we consider the question of why the discipline of international relations is at something of a loss dealing with the concept of globalization at the theoretical level. Against the current realities of intensified interdependences and of globalization, IR theory seems to be in disarray, especially regarding its ability to incorporate the theoretical concept and realities of globalization into its conventional research programs. With a few exceptions that we spell out in the first section of the article, IR theorists have not dealt directly with the concept of globalization, so there are no coherent theories of globalization within IR, but rather modest approaches that deal with some of its concrete facets and dimensions. We discuss this theoretical deficit by raising the following questions: How should we cope with globalization from an IR perspective? Why don't we have coherent theories of IR about globalization? What should we do about that?

Based on the discussion of these three questions we argue that, although there is a clear need to theorize globalization in the framework of conventional IR theories, there are serious impediments that preclude us from developing coherent IR theories about globalization, mainly due to the inherent incompatibility between the features of conventional IR theories and the concept and realities of globalization.

Our main argument focuses on the need to emphasize the political linkages between international relations and globalization, as embodied by the role of states as the prevalent agents of change in the processes of globalization. Essentially, as long as states hold their authoritative role in world politics and interstate relations remain predominant in the agenda of world politics, theoretical developments, following the empirical reality, should aim to account for the role and significance of globalization from an international relations perspective. …

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