What's the Point of International Relations?

Author:da Cruz, Jose de Arimateia
Position:Book review

Dyvik, Synne L., Jan Selby, and Rorden Wilkinson, eds. What's the Point of International Relations? New York: Routledge, 2017. xiii + 274 pages. Paperback, $43.95.

The title of this edited volume may take one by surprise. After all, are the editors challenging the very existence of International Relations (IR) as a discipline or field of study? According to these professors of International Relations, this is a question worth asking, precisely because IR's intellectual terrain is so increasingly contested. IR has become home to multiple theoretical traditions and sub-fields, and this heterogeneity could arguably militate against any kind of collective endeavor, let alone cumulative knowledge building. Given this broad conceptualization of issues examined by IR specialists, the editors argue that five features of this 'idea of IR' merit attention. First, the field or discipline of IR is a pluralist endeavor. The editors argue that "the diversity of theoretical, political, and methodological commitments, and of substantive interpretations, is a reason for celebration" (p. 2). Second, the editors favor a dialogical model of pluralism which "does not involve resorting to, and which largely abandons, the static paradigms and isms" (p. 2). Third, IR is a political subject matter in its assumptions and repercussions. Fourth, the editors favor an interpretation of IR as an open field of inquiry where IR scholars are in a constant pursuit of knowledge by incorporating pedagogical approaches from other disciplines beyond and across the social sciences. Lastly, the authors view the IR not as a "master-discipline" which holds a monopoly on understanding the "international," or which, alone among the social sciences, provides the big answers to the biggest questions (p. 2). IR as a field of study has much to learn from the other disciplines in the social sciences.

In the globalized world of the twenty-first century, along with the technological advancements brought about by the explosion of the Internet, IR is undergoing a series of significant challenges. For example, how is IR different from political science? Justin Rosenberg, in his essay "Escaping from the prison of Political Science: What IR offers that other disciplines do not," argues that IR is a prisoner of political science. The reason for the incarceration of IR to Political Science is its continuing failure to emancipate itself from Political Science preventing it from developing freely and...

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