BA (Cambridge), MPhil (Cambridge)
"Constitutive Theory, the Realist Tradition, and the Transformation of International Relations, c.1980-2000” (provisional title)
In a famous 1977 article, Stanley Hoffmann dubbed International Relations (IR) “an American social science”. This was due to its heightened professionalisation in his adopted country, as well as the outsize influence of realist theory, positivist epistemology and empiricist methodologies, themselves the function of unique features of post-war United States. In the period since, however, two apparently contradictory developments have occurred simultaneously. As world politics became increasingly marked by ideological homogeneity and US hegemony from the mid-1980s onwards, IR became seemingly more pluralistic and at times politically radical.
Funded by a four-year LSE Studentship, my PhD seeks to provide the first intellectual history of IR’s modern transformation, told through the lenses of two central strands in this on-going story: the constitutive and historiographical turns of the 1980s and 1990s. Situating a transatlantic cast of thinkers including Robert Cox, Richard Ashley, Fred Halliday and Francis Fukuyama within the broader political and intellectual contexts of the late twentieth century – from the rise of neoliberalism and neoconservatism, to debates about communicative action, globalisation, the “end of history” and the “third way” – this research not only sheds light on an unexplored and misunderstood period of IR’s past, but also re-evaluates how IR’s history ought to be written. As the thesis will show, IR is neither simply the reflection of world events nor a world unto itself, but rather shifts along the spectrum separating the two extremes.
Dr Peter Wilson