Why International Relations has Failed as an Intellectual Project and What to do about It

R Little, B Buzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

154 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite its many successes, International Relations has failed as an intellectual project. As it has widened away from inter-state relations towards non-state actors and transnational relations it has effectively become the study of humankind as a whole. Its logical role is thus to act as a kind of meta-discipline, linking together the macro sides of the other social sciences and history. Yet while IR touts its multi-disciplinarity, and imports ideas from other disciplines, it exports virtually nothing, and makes little impact outside its own borders. Wallerstein's worldsystems theory, despite its manifest shortcomings, has totally outperformed IR's concept of international systems in this role, in the process demonstrating what could and should be done by IR. Two major reasons for IR's failure are: the alienation from world history caused by an excessively Westphalian conception of international systems; and the loss of interest in grand theory caused by a passion for theoretical atomisation. With its openness to world history and its theoretical pluralism, the English School points a way out of this self-isolation, albeit one that itself needs more work.
Translated title of the contributionWhy International Relations has Failed as an Intellectual Project and What to do about It
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19 - 39
Number of pages21
JournalMillennium
Volume30 (1)
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2001

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Millennium Publishing Group

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