International Relations Theory from a Former Hegemon

Richard Little

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

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


International Relations Theory from a Former Hegemon

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This article assesses whether the status — past and present — of the former European great powers, and more specifically Britain, has had any impact on how theorists in these countries approach the study of international relations. Relatively little thought has been given to this topic. In part, this is because of the widespread acceptance of the positivist assumption that the aim of the social sciences is to develop a view of reality, independent of time and space — a ‘view from nowhere’, as Thomas Nagel (1986) puts it. But it is also because of the widespread belief that the American academy occupies a hegemonic position in the discipline, thereby undermining the potential for international relations theory to develop autonomously outside the United States. The article challenges both of these assumptions. First, it accepts the postpositivist argument that we have no alternative but to adopt a ‘view from somewhere’, and as a result our analysis necessarily embraces a subjective dimension. Secondly, it questions the hegemonic thesis and argues that, even if we only focus on Britain, it immediately becomes apparent that there have been autonomous developments in British international relations theory that relate specifically to the rise and fall of Britain as a great power.

Keywords: European powers; Britain; international relations; positivism; hegemonic thesis

Article.  5306 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Comparative Politics

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