Field Seminar Global/IR
This course is an advanced graduate seminar in global politics and international relations. It provides a critical survey of this field, in order to prepare PhD candidates for the qualifying exam and their doctoral research.
As a sphere of social relations with its
own character and effects, the ‘international’ is undervalued in the
organization of social and political inquiry. Classically, the social science
and humanities disciplines make the assumption of ‘methodological nationalism’:
that the world is composed of bordered, sovereign entities such as the
nation-state or its functional equivalent. These disciplines study what goes on
‘inside’ borders, making possible objects of knowledge such as ‘German
literature’, ‘French history’ and ‘US politics’. The only discipline explicitly
concerned with the ‘international’—International Relations (IR)—makes a similar
assumption: the international is conceived primarily as a space of strategic
interaction between sovereign states. In Raymond Aron’s view, it is populated
mainly by diplomats, soldiers and businesspeople. Even when other IR scholars
‘add’ NGOs, international governmental organizations such as the IMF, ‘norms’
such as human rights, etc., the international remains a relatively ‘spare’ or
thin social space in comparison with domestic societies contained behind
This course begins with the claim that
this understanding of ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ social spaces is inadequate
and misleading. It makes a contrary assumption: that there are larger patterns
or ‘fields’ of social relations within which states and societies are
situated and out of which they are constituted, reproduced and
transformed. All spheres of the
social—culture, economy, history, society, politics—have irreducibly
‘international’, ‘world’, or ‘global’ dimensions, and cannot be adequately
understood without taking these dimensions into account.
Crucially, the world or global
dimensions are not recent phenomena that arise from communications
technologies, as in much work on ‘globalization’. Rather, the ‘international’
is always already a constitutive domain, one which helps produce and transform
any bordered polities or societies that populate the world at a given time.
This means that the core social science and humanities disciplines have to be
rethought with the global or international in mind, as many scholars realize.
This course is an introduction to and a
survey of such thinking. It takes the form of seminars based on book length
texts, each of which tries in some way to think through the international
dimensions of the social.