"New Times" and New Conversations
V. Spike Peterson and Jacqui True
Theory is always for someone and for some purpose. All theories have a perspective. Perspectives derive from a position in time and space, specifically social and political time and space. 1
Many perspectives frame theoretical debates in international relations (IR): realism, neorealism, critiques of these mainstream IR theories, and feminism. These perspectives, as the above quotation from Robert Cox reminds us, derive from particular social contexts and relations of power. Our current global context is one of "new times": interacting and simultaneous sociocultural, economic, and political transformations that demand new perspectives, not least in how we theorize international relations. 2
To talk of new times is not to suggest that we are living in a qualitatively different world undergoing swift and total transformation. It is, however, to speak of the dimensions of change that we are currently experiencing that cannot be understood through "old" theoretical paradigms such as Marxism, liberalism, positivism, or (neo)realism. It is to rethink the relations between individuals and contemporary economic, political, and sociocultural structures in terms of their multilevel, multisource variables and their dynamics of change.
With the authors of New Times, we acknowledge that looking for the new amid old and unsolved problems and contradictions is a contestable endeavor. Nevertheless, New Times is also an invitation to join in conversation concerns that are all too often dealt with individually. By situating various international relations perspectives in the context of new times, we hope to facilitate old conversations--conversations that include many voices 3 and permit more illumination of today's relationships and realities.