The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Twenty IR terms

February 22, 2007

I’m on sabbatical, which helps to explain my pronounced absence from this and any other blog of late . . . I promise to return to regular posting sometime in a month or two. (Or is that a threat? :-)

But in the meantime I wanted to ask for readers’ help with the design of an assignment I am considering for my introductory World Politics class in the Fall. I call it “IR Vocabulary,” and the basic idea is to split students into pairs and have each pair go off and find consensus definitions of key IR terms, My intuition here is that in order to have a good discussion about world politics, there are some basic terms that we need to know; some of these terms are more or less empirical and refer to objects in the world, while others are more or less conceptual and refer to ways of making sense of those objects. [Yes, yes, this is an unstable distinction; yes, empirical terms are conceptual and vice versa . . . but there is still a difference, if only a difference of degree, between a term like ‘the balance of power’ and a term like ‘the Security Council.’]

So here’s my question for all of you: if you were going to draw up a list of twenty key terms that people ought to have working definitions of in order to sensibly and meaningfully talk about world politics, what would they be? What is the basic vocabulary that people have to know before they can start in with the arguing and the debating and the pondering?

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Patrick Thaddeus Jackson is Professor of International Studies in the School of International Service, and also Director of the AU Honors program. He was formerly Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Relations and Development, and is currently Series Editor of the University of Michigan Press' book series Configurations: Critical Studies of World Politics.