The “scholarly mainstream” in German IR

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Given its object of study, one would think that the field of International Relations would be a particularly cosmopolitan and ecumenical discipline. In many ways it is. But in some respects it resembles a collection of warring tribes. This has probably declined somewhat since the Big Debates of the 1990s—the Neo-Neo Debate, epistemology wars between neo-positivists and ‘critical’ theorists—which still provide many of the key readings for students of IR theory. But these Big Debates didn’t really end in a definitive victory for one side. They mostly gave way to a Cold Peace amongst relatively insular scholarly communities. Well they maybe did – it’s hard to know for sure.

One of the interesting phenomena about how IR scholars talk about their field and their tribe is that they often refer to it as ‘mainstream’. Often, this is done by those who feel they are outside of the mainstream. (Interestingly, there does not appear to be an accepted metaphor to refer to those who are not part of the mainstream – backwaters? Counter-currents?) But what does this mainstream consist of?

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It’s Time for Behavioral and Emotional International Relations

Two trends are emerging in International Relations (IR). One is the increasing receptiveness of scholars to insights from behavioural economics; the other is their growing interest in the role of emotions. These two trends have one thing in common: they both seek to bust the myth of rationality. Admittedly, many IR theories have already attempted to do so (e.g. constructivism, post-structuralism, feminism, or practice theory). However, these new approaches differ from the old ones in one important respect: they are more empirical because they are grounded in experimental and neuroscientific findings. This creates an opportunity for an interesting new body of IR scholarship. Before I get to that, let me first say a few words about behavioral economics and the scholarly turn towards emotions.

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