The academic discipline of IR has had a checkered history of relating to the practice of international relations. It emerged as a distinct branch of social science early this century in the wake of the pervasive societal depression and feeling of senselessness that the First World War engendered and has since evolved according to the atmosphere and context that political events have created. 1 It could be argued that this reactive character of the discipline renders it susceptible to expansive reformulation from an ecological perspective. However, the current chapter will describe the determining influences that have defined the space in which we now participate academically. The exclusive epistemological and methodological parameters of IR are shown to be structurally inimical to adaptation to ecological principles and dismissive of ontological realities.
On the other hand, recognition that international theories have failed remarkably, most notably in not predicting the collapse of the bipolar Cold War system, has induced theorists to question the convergence of the external environment with internal debates and to critique the underlying assumptions of traditional paradigms. Both viewpoints lead to a consideration of metatheoretical foundations, which is fundamental to post-positivist debate and has been said to constitute a 'sea-change in the world of international political theory'. 2 Such a 'sea-change' has loosened the traditionally close relationship between academic theorist and practical policy-maker, 3 allowed for the passing of the era of empiricist-positivist methodology and introduced a period of intellectual ferment - all of which characterise the third debate within IR. 4 These changes reflect methodological and theoretical transformations in the social sciences in general, 5 allowing IR to continue to be characterised as 'backward'. 6 In opposition, it has been suggested that debate should re-focus around 'matters of substance'. 7 It is accepted that the existence of IR has been tumultuous, rendering the relationship between theory and practice problematic and inducing uncertainty regarding the subject matter of IR. 8 As such the relationship between the academic discipline of IR and the world, let alone earth, has been tenuous and ambivalent.