Debating IR

Probing the philosophical underpinnings of the international system and anything else of interest.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Weber

I didn't particularly like the Weber article, or understand its relevance, but I suppose that how relevant you find Weber depends on how much you view international relations as a science. I tend to think of science as something precise, a search to discover objective facts, and IR is anything but that. IR is about state interactions that are determined primarily by the intents of whatever policymakers happen to be around at the time and how constrained they are by the pre-existing structures that dictate the limits of their authority. You can study it, but it will never become objective. That said, my definition is hardly objective itself, so I might want to consider revising it rather than telling my fellow SIS majors that they're not actually studying a science.

The study of international relations is attractive to me precisely because there are no objective answers. The landscape is constantly changing with the fluctuation of power hierarchies between states and elite perceptions of their relative capabilities. That, of course, is a fancy way to say that nothing is constant. After that nasty "Cold War" thing, Russia and the U.S. are on relatively friendly terms, while we have since invaded Afghanistan, the country that we supplied with weapons in order to frustrate the plans of the U.S.S.R. Additionally, of course, Germany (the country behind two World Wars) is now one of our closer allies. Is there some sort of mathematical formula we can use to predict how state relations change and what the introduction of one variable does to their overall dynamic? Doubtful, but that's what makes it interesting.

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