In recent decades, the discipline of International Relations (IR) has experienced both dramatic institutional growth and unprecedented intellectual enrichment. And yet, it has still not generated any ‘big ideas’ that have impacted across the human sciences. In this article, the author seeks to explore why. Mainly by highlighting that at a deep level, IR has never been established as a field in its own right. It emerged as an extension of Politics or Political Science and has remained trapped within a borrowed ontology. The author calls this confinement ‘the prison of Political Science’, and believes it explains the failure to produce ideas that can travel to other disciplines.
In recent decades, the discipline of International Relations (IR) has experienced both dramatic institutional growth and unprecedented intellectual enrichment. And yet, unlike neighbouring disciplines such as Geography, Sociology, History and Comparative Literature, it has still not generated any ‘big ideas’ that have impacted across the human sciences. Why is this? And what can be done about it? This article provides an answer in three steps. First, it traces the problem to IR’s enduring definition as a subfield of Political Science. Second, it argues that IR should be regrounded in its own disciplinary problematique: the consequences of (societal) multiplicity. And finally, it shows how this re-grounding unlocks the transdisciplinary potential of IR. Specifically, ‘uneven and combined development’ provides an example of an IR ‘big idea’ that could travel to other disciplines: for by operationalizing the consequences of multiplicity, it reveals the causal and constitutive significance of ‘the international’ for the social world as a whole.
International relations in the prison of Political Science
International Relations 0047117816644662, first published on April 12, 2016 doi:10.1177/0047117816644662