POL 2103 E - Intro to International Relations & Global Politics - Joseph Roman - 02 Jan. 08
Understanding IR (International Relations)
- Where does the discipline come from?
- What role does theory play?
- How do we do research in IR?
- Debates within IR
The Origins of IR as a Discipline
- Debates surround whether IR (1) has a distinct object of analysis, (2) agrees on a definition, or
(3) ought to analyze power and institutions
- Is IR a discipline of its own or a sub-discipline of PS?
- Generally, IR does seek to explain international politics & state behaviour, how do states
interact with each other
- Emerging fields of international political economy and international organization
- Emerging sub-fields, e.g. gender in IR, foreign policy analysis
- Can sub-fields eventually become fields of their own?
- IR as an enterprise that is distinctlyAmerican social science
- Emerges after World War 2 & explodes during the Cold War
- Generous funding leads to the US becoming a centre for IR research
- IR becomes “international”
- Hierarchies of Research & publishing
- Within the leading IR journals, the only way to get published is to employ certain
methodologies (positivist method, the SS methods should be models after the natural sciences,
- They’re mostlyAmerican
- Island of research that prizes theory over empirical work
Theory in & of IR
- IR theory always seeks to see the world
- Theories always have ontological, epistemological, & methodological components
- Ontology = what actors make up the world, i.e., the social furniture
- Epistemology = how we know the world
- Methodology = the techniques we use to unearth data & evidence
- Theory always seeks to explain & provide temporal sequences
- Is theory practice or is it to gain knowledge of the world?
Positivism vs. Post-positivism
1. Positivists advocate for: systematic observation; collecting data to reveal patterns & establish
general laws; refraining from including non-observables
- Emphasis on parsimony (limiting variables to see what’s important)
- Quantification key concept too
- According to positivists, if conclusions, etc. can’t be quantified, it’s useless
- Modelling the social sciences after the natural sciences
- Positivism dominates the field of IR, affecting the discipline’s questions & answers, limiting which questions may be asked and which answers are valid
- reject positivism as a means to understanding social processes
- You can’t just remove a variable and know what results from the change, like in
the natural resources. Therefore, positivism isn’t even consistent, as you can’t experiment with
social life while controlling all variables.
- Post-positivists say interpretation matters.
- Hermeneutical approaches
- Interpretive approaches focusing on beliefs and meanings
- Ps say that an objective reality exists. PPs (post-positivists) say that no, you have
to interpret things
- Qualitative analysis
- PPs say that just because you can’t measure certain things, it doesn’t mean it’s
- Don’t reject empirical inquiries, but some aspects of social reality are not amenable to