A Disabling Discipline?

Phillip Darby

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219322
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


A Disabling Discipline?

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The concept of international relations now straddles the globe and provides a common language with which to analyze world politics. In recent years, it has expanded its purview, bringing in new fields of study ranging from culture to ecology. However, for some years, there has been anxiety about the discipline's explanatory capacity, which came into question with the loss of meaning that accompanied the end of the cold war and the failure to predict the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. Of late, attention has been directed to the disorder and the violence that has erupted within and between the successor states of empire. It is the contention of a growing number of scholars at the margins of international relations that processes on the ground in these societies challenge Western imagery of a world being set right by the workings of the market, the promotion of democratization, and the commitment to development. This article focuses on the discipline's failure over most of its history to engage with the non-European world except as an appendage to the body of thought developed in relation to the First World. It goes on to ask how far this situation is changing and whether international relations is now set to engage in a process of decolonizing its thinking. It concludes with some more general remarks about the discipline's knowledge procedures, which inhibit the development of alternative political agendas.

Keywords: international relations; world politics; non-European world; democratization; knowledge procedures; political agenda

Article.  5638 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Comparative Politics

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