International Relations: An American Social Science?

Essay by kronbonsUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2005

download word file, 11 pages 4.0

The question of whether the discipline of International Relations (IR) was in the past, and is still now, a predominantly American social science, is one that has taken up a great deal of discourse in the field of IR. Indeed this question has been the driving force for the IR theory course for which this paper was written; as evidenced by the title and content of the course textbook at the very least (International Relations -- Still an American Social Science?, Crawford, 2001). But how appropriate is it to actually speak of the discipline of Inter-national Relations, as famously proclaimed by Stanley Hoffmann, as an American social science (1977)? If we accept IR as being mainly American, what are some of the major implications that arise out of the almost total influence that the Americans have on setting up a conceptual box of what matters in International Relations, and what is the correct way to study it?

This paper will discuss the fundamental problem with the discipline of International Relations if understood as solely an American social science, as Hoffman would have you believe it is (1977), and limited to what Holsti for example deems as the main criteria for the study of IR (1985).

The International Relations discipline seemingly is failing to even live up to its name, and as this paper will demonstrate will not be able to achieve substantial and truly universal insights about the world if it continues to be so heavily American-centric and one-sided. This argument will be reached by first identifying the problem, that is to say, demonstrating that there does exist a major American dominance in the field of IR; so large that it could be considered to constitute the actual discipline in that it defines, "what we call international theory...