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Speaker(s): Professor Iver Neumann
Chair: Professor Kimberly Hutchings

Recorded on 13 February 2013 at Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House

One origin of the social sciences lies in opposition to the discipline of history. Rather than speculating about the course of history generally, the idea was to look at the variation in forms of social life. The social sciences are not alone in attempting this. Other approaches to such a study may be found in psychology and biology. Drawing on Durkheim and Mauss, Professor Iver Neumann will begin with a discussion of how these different but overlapping approaches stand today, when the psychologising approach of methodological individualism and the biologising thrust towards stressing the genetic make-up of the species are on the rise. Stressing how humans are a meaning-producing species, and so bound to be living in a condition of alterity, Professor Iver Neumann will make the case for privileging social causes in the study of social life. Professor Iver Neumann will go on to discuss the specificity of International Relations (IR) relative to other social sciences. IR’s sensibilities to alterity on all levels of political life means that it is an apt tradition from which to cope with the globalisation that defines the age. Crucially, however, for such analyses to be meaningful, they have to pay attention to the sundry social fields within which global politics now play out. The large-scale hybridization that goes with globalization means that we can no longer afford to analyse social and political life in terms of pre-social ideas about the state, war, diplomacy etc. The study of top-level decision making cannot neglect the everyday, and vice versa. This is why we should be meticulous in insisting on IR being first and foremost a social science.

Iver Neumann is the Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, LSE.

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