Monday, January 11, 2016

Alas Those Poor Realists

Today is yet another day where folks are pondering whether realists are oppressed or underrepresented or whatever.

I don't have much patience for this, having written much about it.  But my real frustration is that I have a piece that takes some data and applies it to the question of the plight of the Realists and of Grand theory in general, and this piece is having a hard time at ye olde journals.

So, here is a link to a draft of it.  It basically argues that:
  • the growth in publication outlets means that there is not actually less stuff (less realism, less qualitative work, less grand theory), but perhaps relatively less Realism and less qual work.  
  • that both Realism and the paradigm wars peaked in the mid 1990s, so the question is not really whether there is more or less, but whether the mid 1990s were typical or normal or the right amount of attention.  Assessing the state of play today by comparing to an abnormal peak makes sense for those who focus on loss aversion and the key of identifying the point of comparison.  BUT Realists and Grand Theorists are doing fine compared to any other time, except the mid-1990s, in recent IR scholarship history. 
The reality is that IR scholarship is and always has been a big tent.  Realism has always had a prominent place, and that remains the case.  If there are fewer realists now than before, who can they blame?  They can try to blame the structure of the system, but they have controlled the commanding heights of key parts of the IR scholarship system for decades.   Or maybe they can blame themselves for not being persuasive enough?  Or blame themselves for not reproducing enough?

What I do know is that the term IR Troll fits so very well, since one Realist makes a bad argument and then everybody else gets sucked into the discussion.  Well done, sir, well done.

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