Article

Big Questions in the Study of World Politics

Robert O. Keohane

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219322
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199219322.003.0042

Series: OXFORD HANDBOOKS POL SCIENCE SERI OHPS C

Big Questions in the Study of World Politics

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This article argues that students of world politics have an obligation to democratic publics to help them understand the most pressing problems of the current day. Yet this moral obligation does not imply that we should focus on topical issues or be ‘policy-relevant’ in a narrow sense by speaking to governments in terms that are acceptable to them. Our task is to probe the deeper sources of action in world politics, and to speak truth to power — insofar as we can discern what the truth is. Students of world politics have made theoretical progress in recent decades on issues of war, cooperation, and the role of multilateral institutions; and conceptual progress on issues of sovereignty. However, most of this progress has focused on seeking to establish static conditional generalizations. Although we are living in a period of unprecedented change, our understanding of change is very inferior to our understanding of fundamental long-term regularities.

Keywords: international relations; world politics; war; cooperation; multilateral institutions; sovereignty

Article.  3100 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Comparative Politics

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