International Relations

Free Articles on the Deplorable State of IPE

Jun 11 '09

I mentioned a few months ago that Marty Finnemore and I had written a piece for a special issue of the _Review of International Political Economy_ on the current state of American IPE. With the exception of a reasonably optimistic article by David Lake, none of these articles was especially enthusiastic about IPE as it is currently constituted. RIPE has now made this “issue freely available”: to readers without institutional or personal subscriptions to the journal. Below the fold, abstracts and links to the PDFs of the articles.

Catherine Weaver – Reflections on the American school: An IPE of our making . “Link”:

bq. No abstract.

Daniel Maliniak and Michael J. Tierney – The American school of IPE. “Link”:

bq. This paper uses the results of the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project: a multi-year study of the international relations (IR) field in order to discern the major characteristics of international political economy scholarship in the United States today. It finds that, like Benjamin Cohen’s depiction of the American school, IPE in the United States is increasingly positivist, quantitative, and liberal in orientation. It employs data from a journal article database that tracks trends in publication patterns. It also analyzes data from two surveys of IR scholars in the United States and Canada that were conducted in the fall of 2006.

Robert O. Keohane – The old IPE and the new. “Link”:

bq. The ‘old’ IPE of the 1960s and 1970s explored the political implications of economic interdependence, in an analytically loose but creative way. The ‘new IPE’, as embodied in the open economy politics approach, is more rigorous and has the virtue of integrating comparative and international political economy into a common framework. But it pays too little attention both to how interests are constructed and how policies are subject to processes of international diffusion, and it is remarkably reluctant to focus on major changes taking place in world politics. IPE should come to grips with the fact that genuine economic development is taking place on a global scale; on the role of China, on volatility in financial and energy markets; on the role of actor other than states, and on the implications of the Internet for the analysis of power.

David A. Lake – TRIPs across the Atlantic: Theory and epistemology in IPE. “Link”:

bq. Beginning from the Teaching, Research, and International Politics (TRIP) survey, this paper outlines the most important emerging paradigm in international political economy (IPE), known as open economy politics (OEP). This approach forms the core of the ‘American’ school of IPE. The paper then contrasts the epistemology of OEP, based on partial equilibrium analysis, with that of the ‘British’ school of IPE, which favors a more holistic approach. This difference is not captured well in the TRIP survey, nor is it particularly well understood by many proponents of either side. Recognizing the progressive nature of the OEP research program, the essay concludes with a call to bridge but not necessarily to abolish the transatlantic divide.

Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore – Ontology, methodology, and causation in the American school of international political economy. “Link”:

bq. This paper explores disjunctures between ontology and methodology in the American school to better understand both the limits of this approach and ways we can counter its blind spots. Tierney and Maliniak’s TRIP data point to a strong elective affinity between, on the one hand, rationalist/liberal ontological assumptions and quantitative methodologies, and on the other, constructivist assumptions and qualitative methodologies. This affinity is neither natural nor obvious, as is discussed. It also raises deeper issues for the field about the nature of causation. As a variety of philosophers of science have insisted, we need to do much better in thinking about the relationship between our underlying notions of causation and the methodological tools that we employ. By so doing, we will not only be able to better build social-scientific knowledge, but also better help bridge the empirical-normative gap that Cohen identifies. More broadly, the paper suggests that by combining a more thoughtful approach to causation with a broadly pragmatist approach to the philosophy of science we can both remedy some of the defects of the American school of international political economy, and provide some pointers to the British school, too.

Kathleen R. McNamara – Of intellectual monocultures and the study of IPE. “Link”:

bq. The intellectual monoculture that we currently observe in American IPE, based upon an allegiance to liberalism, rationalism and quantitative methodology, is a misguided departure from the pluralism that once defined the discipline. This monoculture is evident in the way we currently train graduate students in IPE and in the gatekeeping practices of the leading international relations journals. Fortunately, there is a continued diversity of work appearing in other fora from that surveyed by Maliniak and Tierney, primarily in book form and in alternative journals. The absence of cross-fertilization from these alternative outlets to the high status journals and graduate syllabi portends poorly for the future of the field. Like agricultural crops susceptible to devastating collapse for lack of diversification, an intellectual monoculture in IPE may be unable to effectively respond to the dramatic changes and critical emerging issues in the world economy today

Nicola Phillips – The slow death of pluralism. “Link”:

bq. In this essay, I draw attention to what I see as a slow death of theoretical, methodological and empirical pluralism in American-school international political economy (IPE). In the first instance, I identify its roots in practices of editorial gatekeeping among the leading journals and the self-selection of authors who publish in them, and on this basis put forward a set of sceptical reactions to Maliniak and Tierney’s contention that we can adequately depict the ‘state of the field’ by analyzing the content of the ‘top’ journals. I go on to explore the implications of the close disciplinary association of IPE with the discipline of international relations in the United States, and argue that the marked contraction of pluralism in the American school of IPE is due in large part to its continued shackling to international relations as much as its emerging methodological monoculture.

Randall D. Germain – The ‘American’ school of IPE? A dissenting view. “Link”:

bq. This article challenges three aspects of the ‘American’ school of international political economy (IPE) as presented by Benjamin Cohen and further elaborated by Dan Maliniak and Michael Tierney in this special issue. First, I question whether their depiction of the field is accurate. What they describe is not so much the ‘American’ school of IPE, but the ‘Harvard’ school. IPE in America is a rich and varied enterprise; not so the ‘Harvard’ school. Second, and unfortunately, IPE in America is also highly centralized and hierarchical, and this gives the ‘Harvard’ school enormous latitude to influence the self-depiction of the field and in some ways also its trajectory. This is not healthy, either for IPE scholarship in America or beyond. Finally, notwithstanding the power and authority of the ‘Harvard’ school, we outside of America cannot abandon IPE to its grip. My suggested course of action is to continue engaging with those of our colleagues (both within and outside of this school) who are receptive to the wide-ranging pursuit of knowledge and who recognize that IPE is a field defined by its subject matter rather than by its commitment to a particular methodology.

Robert Wade – Beware what you wish for: Lessons for international political economy from the transformation of economics. “Link”:

bq. To the extent that ‘normal science’ in international political economy (IPE) has come to be rooted in the liberal paradigm, in statistical techniques, and in mathematical models, it has come to resemble neoclassical economics. The history of economics from interwar pluralism to postwar neoclassicism should sound warning bells about IPE following this path. Neoclassical economics has built-in biases in favor of self-adjusting systems and American hegemony; and biases against attention to inequalities of income and power, and against states’ retaining power to shape internal arrangements within frontier controls. The transformation of economics also raises pertinent questions about IPE’s shaping by its ‘patrons’, in the form of university administrators, government officials, business groups, and foundations.

Peter J. Katzenstein – Mid-Atlantic: Sitting on the knife’s sharp edge. “Link”:

bq. This paper responds to two issues raised in this special issue on the American school of international political economy (IPE). I react first to the assumed convergence towards an open economy politics (OEP) framework. While OEP clearly has merits, I find that its narrow conception of actors and interests neglects other approaches’ insights into preference formation and institutions that would enable it to offer better explanations of political economy. Second, I respond to the perceived monoculture in American IPE, which many (wrongly) attribute to professional power over journals and (rightly) tie to graduate training in the United States. More to the point of deconstructing the perceived intellectual hegemony driving IPE’s monoculture, I challenge Randall Germain’s indictment of the Harvard school of IPE. I show that the early Harvard Mafia indeed played a critical role in shaping the field, but it did not determine the myopic paradigmatic and methodological trends we currently see in the discipline. Finally, I reflect on why we have, and indeed need, this transatlantic debate and make a plea for more pragmatism, pluralism and problem-driven research in IPE today.

Benjamin J. Cohen – Striking a nerve. “Link”:

bq. In this final word on the special issue on the American school of international political economy (IPE), I reflect on four questions raised by the contributing authors. First, to what extent is there a transatlantic divide in IPE? Second, what is the difference between the American and British schools of IPE? Third, what are the strengths of each school? Fourth, what can and should be done about the divide?