Progress, history and identity in international relations theory: The case of the idealist-realist debate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines the link between disciplinary identity formation, history creation and progress by undertaking an excavation of the idealist-realist debate in International Relations theory. I demonstrate how the debate was framed by the realists, who constructed a unified 'idealism' temporally located in the interwar period to be the straw man for the justification of their theories and the starting point for construction of the realist identity. The unified paradigm of 'idealism' turns out to be a multiplicity of discourses running throughout the first half of the 20th century. As those discourses intersected with 'utopian' realism, two in particular became central to realist identity. The world federalism discourse became the unacknowledged, implicit goal of realism as the realists simultaneously constructed it as the explicit and sole goal of the 'idealists'. The sovereignty/anarchy discourse became the lived ideal made real through power for the realists who suppressed any mention of this discourse during the 'idealist', 'interwar' years. I argue that the appropriation of these two discourses by realism is the reason that the narrative history of the discipline requires us to forever remember realism's progressive victory over 'idealism' in the First Great Debate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-185+307
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Volume8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

international relations
realism
idealism
discourse
history
anarchy
identity formation
federalism
sovereignty
paradigm
narrative

Keywords

  • Disciplinary history
  • Disciplinary identity
  • Idealism
  • Progress assessment
  • Realism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

Cite this

@article{5b501804672746cf942791ac24fa5b1d,
title = "Progress, history and identity in international relations theory: The case of the idealist-realist debate",
abstract = "This article examines the link between disciplinary identity formation, history creation and progress by undertaking an excavation of the idealist-realist debate in International Relations theory. I demonstrate how the debate was framed by the realists, who constructed a unified 'idealism' temporally located in the interwar period to be the straw man for the justification of their theories and the starting point for construction of the realist identity. The unified paradigm of 'idealism' turns out to be a multiplicity of discourses running throughout the first half of the 20th century. As those discourses intersected with 'utopian' realism, two in particular became central to realist identity. The world federalism discourse became the unacknowledged, implicit goal of realism as the realists simultaneously constructed it as the explicit and sole goal of the 'idealists'. The sovereignty/anarchy discourse became the lived ideal made real through power for the realists who suppressed any mention of this discourse during the 'idealist', 'interwar' years. I argue that the appropriation of these two discourses by realism is the reason that the narrative history of the discipline requires us to forever remember realism's progressive victory over 'idealism' in the First Great Debate.",
keywords = "Disciplinary history, Disciplinary identity, Idealism, Progress assessment, Realism",
author = "Cameron Thies",
year = "2002",
month = "6",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "8",
pages = "147--185+307",
journal = "European Journal of International Relations",
issn = "1354-0661",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Ltd",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Progress, history and identity in international relations theory

T2 - The case of the idealist-realist debate

AU - Thies, Cameron

PY - 2002/6

Y1 - 2002/6

N2 - This article examines the link between disciplinary identity formation, history creation and progress by undertaking an excavation of the idealist-realist debate in International Relations theory. I demonstrate how the debate was framed by the realists, who constructed a unified 'idealism' temporally located in the interwar period to be the straw man for the justification of their theories and the starting point for construction of the realist identity. The unified paradigm of 'idealism' turns out to be a multiplicity of discourses running throughout the first half of the 20th century. As those discourses intersected with 'utopian' realism, two in particular became central to realist identity. The world federalism discourse became the unacknowledged, implicit goal of realism as the realists simultaneously constructed it as the explicit and sole goal of the 'idealists'. The sovereignty/anarchy discourse became the lived ideal made real through power for the realists who suppressed any mention of this discourse during the 'idealist', 'interwar' years. I argue that the appropriation of these two discourses by realism is the reason that the narrative history of the discipline requires us to forever remember realism's progressive victory over 'idealism' in the First Great Debate.

AB - This article examines the link between disciplinary identity formation, history creation and progress by undertaking an excavation of the idealist-realist debate in International Relations theory. I demonstrate how the debate was framed by the realists, who constructed a unified 'idealism' temporally located in the interwar period to be the straw man for the justification of their theories and the starting point for construction of the realist identity. The unified paradigm of 'idealism' turns out to be a multiplicity of discourses running throughout the first half of the 20th century. As those discourses intersected with 'utopian' realism, two in particular became central to realist identity. The world federalism discourse became the unacknowledged, implicit goal of realism as the realists simultaneously constructed it as the explicit and sole goal of the 'idealists'. The sovereignty/anarchy discourse became the lived ideal made real through power for the realists who suppressed any mention of this discourse during the 'idealist', 'interwar' years. I argue that the appropriation of these two discourses by realism is the reason that the narrative history of the discipline requires us to forever remember realism's progressive victory over 'idealism' in the First Great Debate.

KW - Disciplinary history

KW - Disciplinary identity

KW - Idealism

KW - Progress assessment

KW - Realism

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0038172420&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0038172420&partnerID=8YFLogxK

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:0038172420

VL - 8

SP - 147-185+307

JO - European Journal of International Relations

JF - European Journal of International Relations

SN - 1354-0661

IS - 2

ER -