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UNIT-4 Exploring the Future Trajectories Notes (IR)


  • International Relations (IR) is the study of interactions between nation-states and non-governmental organizations in various fields like politics, economics, war, and security.

  • The discipline of IR originated in the West with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and has predominantly represented Western perspectives.

  • The non-Western world, including the colonized nations, has been marginalized and neglected in traditional IR, often seen as passive subjects or recipients of Western teachings.

  • The theories of IR, such as Realism and Liberalism, were developed based on Western history, culture, and economic systems, making them inadequate for explaining phenomena in the global South.

  • Global IR emerged as a response to the dominance of the West in the discipline, aiming to bridge the gap and challenge the marginalization of non-Western voices and experiences.

  • Global IR calls for pedagogic change in IR and inclusion of the perspectives from the global South to broaden the discipline and capture the relations of states and societies in non-Western contexts.

  • The underdevelopment of non-Western IR is not solely due to Western intellectual neo-colonialism but also influenced by scarce resources, political interference, and lack of freedom of expression.

  • The realities of colonization and decolonization, significant events of the twentieth century, have been largely overlooked in traditional IR texts.

  • To achieve a truly global perspective in IR, there is a need for a postcolonial perspective that addresses the marginalization of non-Western voices.

  • Traditional IR theories often ignore conflicts and wars outside of Europe, which resulted in significant loss of lives.

Traditional Theories and how it Marginalizes the South

1. Scattered and Invisible Non-Western Theories

  • Non-Western theories in IR remain scattered, unsystematic, and invisible compared to Western theories.

  • The contemporary meaning of a good life in IR, including democratic peace, interdependence, and institutionalized orderliness, is primarily associated with the West, while survival remains a concern in the non-Western realm.

2. Hegemony and Ethnocentrism

  • Western hegemony in IR is influenced by Gramscian hegemony and ethnocentrism, as well as the politics of exclusion.

  • The theories in IR are often analyzed from a Western perspective, neglecting non-Western viewpoints.

  • The dominance of Western theories in IR is attributed to resources, the hegemonic status of Western publications and institutions, and the lack of confidence in non-Western perspectives.

3. Unconscious Gramscian Hegemony

  • Western IR has unconsciously established a Gramscian hegemony in the minds of others, perpetuating the dominance of Western theories.

  • Barriers, intended or unintended, exist for non-Western theories to enter Western discourses, resulting in their hidden status.

  • There is a lack of receptiveness toward non-Western theories within the field of IR.

4. Rise of IR and Parochialism in the West

  • While the first department and professorship in international politics were established in the UK in 1999, the practical development of IR began after World War II with the rise of powerful sovereign European nation-states.

  • Pluralism is on the rise in IR, but the parochialism of the West persists due to positivism and Eurocentrism.

5. Dominance of Positivism

  • Positivism dominates IR, emphasizing scientific methods, empirical observations, and quantifiable, observable factors like material capabilities, economic interests, institutions, and state identities.

  • Positivism shapes theories, defines valid evidence and knowledge, and contributes to an intellectual monoculture within the field.

6. Ethnocentrism and Exclusion

  • Ethnocentrism is a form of exclusion in IR theory and poses a challenge for the emancipatory project.

  • Realism and liberalism, represented by the gatekeepers of IR theory, prioritize Western concepts like national security, which may not fit the non-Western world, resulting in the neglect of important aspects when applying these theories elsewhere.

Dimensions of Global South

1. Fresh Understanding of Universalism

  • Global IR calls for a fresh understanding of universalism, moving beyond monistic universalism that marginalizes alternatives.

  • Pluralistic universalism aims to recognize diverse foundations and perspectives within IR.

2. Global Lens on History

  • Global IR emphasizes viewing history through a truly global lens, not solely focusing on the Cold War and World Wars.

  • Inclusion should involve developing concepts in non-Western contexts that have global applicability, rather than reapplying Western norms.

3. Subsuming Existing IR Knowledge

  • Global IR aims to subsume existing IR knowledge rather than supplant it.

  • Theories like post-colonialism and feminism have contributed to recognizing events, issues, agents, and interactions beyond the West, enriching the study of IR.

  • Global IR challenges realism to consider factors beyond national interest and power distribution, and liberalism to question American hegemony and explore contextualization and regionalism.

4. Center Stage for Regions

  • Global IR recognizes the importance of regions and their diversity, giving them center stage.

  • Regionalism has evolved to be less state-centric and encompasses various dynamic regional organizations (e.g., EU, ASEAN, AU) alongside global institutions like the UN.

  • The study of regions involves examining how they self-organize and relate to the world order, contributing unique knowledge.

5. Abstaining from Cultural Exceptionalism:

  • Global IR opposes cultural exceptionalism and parochialism.

  • Exceptionalism portrays one's society or civilization as superior, justifying dominance.

  • Global IR promotes the development of diverse national and regional schools of IR, incorporating identity-based knowledge for a more comprehensive understanding.

6. Broad Conception of Agency

  • Global IR adopts a broad conception of multiple forms of agency.

  • Agency is not limited to military power and wealth; it extends to weaker actors influencing the international system.

  • Examples include Jawaharlal Nehru advocating for a nuclear testing ban, African nations shaping postcolonial borders, and figures like Amartya Sen and Mahbub ul Haq redefining development based on human potential.

Global IR Agenda

1. Fresh Trends, Hypotheses, and Techniques from Global Histories

  • The Global IR agenda seeks to examine new trends, hypotheses, and techniques derived from global histories.

  • It emphasizes the importance of studying historical developments beyond Western-centric perspectives.

2. Changing Distribution of Power and Ideas

  • Global IR aims to analyze how the distribution of power and ideas has evolved after over 200 years of Western supremacy.

  • This dimension explores shifts in global dynamics and challenges the prevailing Western-centric narrative.

3. Regional Worlds and their Diversity and Connectivity

  • Global IR emphasizes studying regional worlds in all their diversity and interconnectedness.

  • It recognizes the significance of regional dynamics and their impact on global affairs.

4. Fusion of Disciplinary and Area Studies Knowledge

  • The Global IR agenda encourages working on topics and techniques that require a comprehensive fusion of disciplinary and area studies knowledge.

  • It seeks to bridge the gap between different academic disciplines and integrate insights from diverse regional contexts.

5. Exchange of Concepts and Standards at International and Local Levels

  • Global IR promotes the examination of the exchange of concepts and standards between the international and local levels.

  • It recognizes the importance of understanding how ideas and norms are disseminated and adopted across different contexts.

6. Reciprocal Learning Across Civilizations

  • Global IR calls for exploring the concept of reciprocal learning across civilizations, emphasizing its historical support.

  • This dimension challenges the notion of a "clash of civilizations" and encourages dialogue and mutual understanding.

Doing Global IR

Asian IR as a Path to Global IR

1. Theorist-Focused Approach

  • Asian IR scholars, such as Acharya and Buzan, argue for a non-Western IR approach through Asian IR.

  • They identify parallels between Western theorists (Thucydides, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Kant) and Asian classical thinkers (Sun Tzu, Confucius, Kautilya).

  • Scholars aim to recover non-Western narratives on state, sovereignty, world order, and justice.

2. Foreign Policy Analysis

  • Another approach to Asian IR involves studying the foreign policies of various political leaders.

  • Mahatma Gandhi's concept of satyagraha (nonviolence) was similar to Western passive resistance.

  • Jawaharlal Nehru's views shaped Asia's early foreign policy beliefs, and he engaged with realist writings.

  • Nehru's Non-Alignment Movement challenged Western-centric perspectives.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma represented a liberal internationalist vision of international relations.

3. Application and Relevance of Western Theories

  • Asian IR scholars have applied Western theories to local contexts and assessed their relevance.

  • Examples include scholars like Takashi Inoguchi (Japan), Yongjin Zhang (China), AP Rana and Kanti Bajpai (India), Chung-in Moon (Korea), and Muthiah Alagappa (Malaysia).

  • This approach tests Western theories on Asian ground while acknowledging the need to address ethnocentric biases.

4. Dependency Theory and Post-Colonial Knowledge

  • Dependency theory, proposed by Andre Gunder Frank and Samir Amin, examines the differences in experience between the West and the third world.

  • Post-colonial knowledge highlights the marginalization of the colonized but does not contribute significantly to IR knowledge.

5. The Global IR Project

  • The global IR project calls for a world safe for diversity, aiming to overcome marginalization, exclusion, and arrogance.

  • Global IR should be vibrant, innovative, and inclusive.

  • Uncovering power structures and understanding global heritage are crucial aspects of the global IR agenda.

Debates in Global IR Problematizing Global IR

Strands of the Global IR Debate

1. Pre-debate - American Social Science

  • IR emerged in the US after World War II, driven by positivism and realist theories.

  • To achieve Global IR, factors shaping IR should be identified, and case studies on Western alternatives to US IR should be explored.

  • Critical analysis and empirical case studies based on the sociology of science are recommended methodologies.

2. Conceptual-Normative Strand: Western-Centrism in IR

  • Alternative concepts that challenge Western dominance and are sensitive to global South/East realities are needed.

  • Scholars focus on gatekeeping practices that marginalize actors and forms of international cooperation outside the state-centric narrative.

  • The dominance of the English language in IR perpetuates core-periphery dynamics.

3. Empirical Strand: Practicing IR beyond the West

  • Focuses on studying IR beyond the Western context through case studies and quantitative data analysis.

  • Efforts such as the TRIP project analyze theoretical, methodological, and epistemological diversity in IR journals worldwide.

4.Promoting Inclusive IR Education

  • Bringing the global IR debate into classrooms can sensitize students to the limitations of traditional IR and Western-centric perspectives.

  • Understanding the epistemological dimensions of epitomic violence inherent in traditional IR is crucial.

  • Students need exposure to alternative theories, critical deconstruction of IR concepts, and empirical studies beyond the West.

  • The goal is to break Western hegemonic socialization and foster a more inclusive and reflective practice of IR.

Doing Relational Studies for the Global IR

Relational Turn in Global IR

  • Global IR often claims a sense of globalism or universality without questioning the ontology of Western IR.

  • Contemporary IR tends to view the discipline as a 'one-world-world' without acknowledging the pluriverse of time and space.

  • Relational IR challenges conventional ontological commitments, epistemology, and methods in IR.

  • It seeks to move beyond separate and fixed worlds, questioning Western validation and universality.

Key Aspects of Relational IR

1. Pluriversality

  • Rejects the idea of a single metanarrative in IR and acknowledges multiple worlds.

  • Emphasizes the absence of a dominant ontology in IR.

2. Re-relating

  • Calls for a loosening of objectivity and a relational sensibility when engaging with different worlds.

  • Shifts focus from a top-down perspective to a more interconnected and relational approach.

3. Human/Non-human IR

  • Advocates for attentiveness towards both human and non-human actors in understanding complexity.

  • Moves beyond dichotomies and challenges anthropocentric understandings of the world.

Examples of Relational Approaches

  • Drawing on non-Western cosmological traditions to broaden conceptual prospects and logics in IR.

  • Critiquing the self/other binary and seeking to create a syncretic and hybrid world.

  • Exploring diverse understandings of humanity and relations, such as the Quicha concept of 'runa' and Sikh experiences in India.

  • Questioning dominant ontologies imposed by Western categories and promoting fluid and flexible language.

Importance of Ontological Flexibility

  • Differences in ontological perspectives are often at the root of conflicts and marginalization.

  • Ontological flexibility is crucial for understanding and engaging with the "Other" and promoting inclusivity.

  • It expands the methodological toolbox for IR and challenges power relations and dichotomies.


Critique of Conventional IR

  • Conventional IR is Eurocentric and dominated by themes like the state and sovereignty based on the experiences of the global North.

  • The experiences of non-Western regions are often marginalized and treated as experimental grounds for Western IR theories.

  • Global IR aims to bridge the gap between Western and non-Western theories, making the discipline more inclusive and beyond the West.

Challenges to Western Legacy

  • Global IR has been criticized for uncritically following the Western legacy and claiming universalization without questioning existing knowledge.

  • Relational studies in IR aim to challenge dominant ontologies and methods by incorporating diverse notions from different parts of the world.

  • The goal is not to establish a single global theory, but to recognize and engage with multiple worlds and perspectives.

Uncovering Non-Western Prospects

  • Scholars like Behera (2021) explore alternative perspectives in IR, such as understanding IR through the lens of dharma.

  • Global IR seeks to uncover and incorporate non-Western prospects to enrich the discipline.

Need for Comprehensive Changes

  • Changes are required at all levels of IR, including publishing, research, and teaching methods.

  • IR textbooks still predominantly focus on the two World Wars and international organizations, overlooking diverse perspectives and experiences.

  • A comprehensive transformation is necessary to make IR more inclusive, diverse, and reflective of global realities.

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