The Sociology of a Diverse Discipline: International Relations, American Dominance and Pluralism
Turton, Helen Louise
Date: 16 January 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
The discipline of International Relations is frequently depicted as an American dominated discipline. This disciplinary self-image has become so entrenched that it is rarely questioned and operates as a ‘quasi-fact’ within the field. However, the manner in which this widespread claim has been put forth is largely speculative. There is ...
The discipline of International Relations is frequently depicted as an American dominated discipline. This disciplinary self-image has become so entrenched that it is rarely questioned and operates as a ‘quasi-fact’ within the field. However, the manner in which this widespread claim has been put forth is largely speculative. There is a surprising lack of data verifying the prominent notion, and indeed the ‘evidence’ that does exist is largely out-dated and methodologically problematic. As such, this thesis attempts to remedy this dearth of data by systematically investigating if and how the United States dominates the discipline of IR. Rather than speaking of a generic and ambiguous form of dominance this thesis begins by disaggregating the concept of dominance and stating the ways in which an actor can potentially dominate and how this can be measured. What this crucially means is that the US may dominate in some ways and not others. Through exploring twelve of discipline’s international journals over a ten-year period from 1999-2009, and four international conferences from 2005-2011 it becomes clear that the central issue is not whether the United States dominates the discipline but the degree and manner in which it does. Through demonstrating the numerous current trends and inclinations in the discipline a complex image of the IR emerges; an image that challenges a number of prevalent assertions about the disciplinary character of IR. The findings presented illustrate how the discipline of IR is more international and more diverse than is commonly perceived, and yet how the discipline of IR still experiences certain forms of American dominance. This thesis aims to highlight the importance of perspective and consequently how we need to be more nuanced and reflective in the ways we characterize the discipline’s dominance claims. Overall this thesis aims to highlight the many dynamics occurring at different levels of the discipline, all of which shape the contours of the field and IR’s relationship with the American academy.
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