The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Any progress in the study of international security?

November 10, 2010

Not so much, argues Phil Arena, whose epistemological leanings are likely very far from my own (via John Sides).

I’m inclined to agree; I also remain unclear if any of the other major subfields of International Relations (IR) can point to the existence of significant settled findings, whether correlative or causal.

This matters, insofar as (some of the) major arguments for demarcating non-behavioral work from “political science” rest upon the putatively cumulative character of statistical and quasi-statistical work.

But what if, rather than producing (non-trivial) settled knowledge, such work largely involves cranking out the n+1th round of data crunching using different techniques, tweaked data sets, or new data sets? Then we have the form of “science” without the content necessary for claims of epistemological priority.

Or, as Patrick argues in his latest book,we lack the grounds for declaring so-called “non-mainstream” methodologies beyond the pale for IR scholars.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.