Acharya and the Global International Relations

Amitav Acharya, President of the International Studies Association, the most prestigious association in the studies of International Relations, gave a keynote speech at the ISA South Annual Conference in Richmond few days ago. In the speech Acharya remembered his six dimensions around which revolves the idea of Global International Relations: 1) It is founded upon a pluralistic universalism: not ‘applying to all’, but recognizing and respecting the diversity in us 2) It is grounded in world history, not just Greco-Roman, European or US history 3) It subsumes, rather than supplants existing IR theories and methods 4) It integrates study of regions, regionalisms and area studies 5) It eschews exceptionalism 6) It recognizes multiple forms of agency beyond material power: including resistance, normative action, and local constructions of global order.

It seems that slowly cultural studies, constructivism, traditional approach and non-American schools starts to have an important role finally in the IR scientific theory, following, instead of anticipating unfortunately, the globalization of the world with the mutation of the international system. International relations in reality have 5000 years, not 500 since the creation of national state with Westphalia, and so they cannot be considered just as an expansion of European IR. We need to study more concepts like civilizations, deconstruct religious, political and cultural foundations of identities and open our mind to a more global, pluralistic and universal knowledge if we want to be able to interpret the reality of the world. The international system is going towards a ‘multiplex’ (as Acharya says remembering the complexity of the current reality) more than ‘multipolar’ world and this has to be taken into account by the science of politics, if it wants to remain a science, with some power of understanding of the past and prediction of the future.

It is time to reopen, almost 50 years after, the “new great debate”, as Morton Kaplan had defined it in the pages of World Politics in 1966: the debate between the traditional classical approach towards IR, supported by Bull from the English school, and the scientific/scientifist approach, supported by Kaplan himself from the “American school”? (1) And what will be the new paradigm in IR that is still in formation between chaos and coherence? Future will say but for now it seems that we have a new approach coming from Acharya and other scholars on “Global IR” and this can do only good to the debate on how the future world order will resemble, hopefully less ethnocentric, imperialistic and intolerant and more inclusive of diversity.

Amitav Acharya:

(1) The first approach, opposite of the second, believed that IR, as a social science studying a social phenomenon, could not been analyzed with a rigorous scientific approach like in natural sciences, as IR are based on human behavior, and so besides being systemic oriented are also individual oriented. Understanding of reality has to be based therefore on wisdom, intuition, history, philosophy and culture as basis for the interpretation of IR, more than quantitative measures and natural laws that are not very adapt for a social science.

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