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Reading and Writing International Relations

Makinda, S.M. (2000) Reading and Writing International Relations. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 54 (3). pp. 389-401.

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As we enter the twenty-. rst century and the third millennium, International Relations1 (IR) is arguably more fragmented than it was 50 years ago. Realism, which has been closely identified with the discipline since the 1940s, is still dominant in North American IR, but even there it is increasingly regarded as just one of the paradigms.2 Most textbooks now include sections on liberalism, neoliberalism, international society, postmodernism, feminism, post-structuralism, constructivism and critical theory (see Jackson and Sorensen 1999; Nossal 1998; Baylis and Smith 1997; Brown 1997). A distinctive feature of recent IR debates is that most theorists tend to address more critically such themes as science and interpretation; objectivity and subjectivity; norms and practices; and materialism and idealism. Very little is assumed or taken for granted. While these debates have provided platforms for previously marginalised Western viewpoints, they have also unfortunately produced cult-like mentalities. Many scholars talk of ‘opening space’ when all they do is provide an ‘opening’ on one side and a ‘closure’ on the other. Others appear to find it attractive to accuse earlier theorists of closure even when they have not engaged broadly the writings of these earlier thinkers. I am of the view that one cannot be serious about ‘opening’ when one insists that certain phenomena cannot be studied scientifically or vice versa. The emancipatory power or hegemonic status of any theoretical framework should not be taken for granted. Indeed, anti-essentialism, like rationalism, has the potential for both closure and opening.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Politics and International Studies
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: Australian Institute of International Affairs
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