Up With “PostParadigmism” (in IR Theory and Elsewhere)

by Peter Spiro

Daniel Nexon has a gem of a short review of books by Samuel Barkin and Charles Glaser in the December 2011 edition of Perspectives on Politics.  I am enough of an outsider to International Relations theory to have missed the “war on paradigmism”.  I’m glad to hear that it has apparently been won.  The next challenge, according to Nexon:

What should we do with the remnants of the last war—articles and books whose contributions to collective knowledge will be difficult to parse once “liberal institutionalism” becomes about as meaningful to the average reader as “phlogiston”? How should we (and should we) understand the “isms” if we no longer accept their status as paradigms? What the heck is “puzzle-driven research” if we have no baseline theoretical expectations, let alone “analytical eclecticism,” without heterogeneous schools of thought?

Good questions.  What’s remains of IR if the models are taken off the table, beyond some very general rationalist premises?  Maybe it looks something more like legal scholarship, which might itself dba as “puzzle-driven research”.

I wonder if there might also be a cautionary lesson here for legal academics. International law may have become a little bewitched by the prospect of our own isms and the academic respectability that comes with them.  The downside is a scholaticism that doesn’t always move knowledge along (see this interesting piece by Larry Meade, also in Perspectives).  We’re along way from that at the moment, but it’s not hard to imagine our going down this path, too.

http://opiniojuris.org/2012/04/09/up-with-postparadigmism-in-ir-theory-and-elsewhere/

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