What is International Relations?

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George Lawson
IR436 - Theories of international relations:
narrative (week 20)
Lecture slides
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Lawson, G. (2012) IR436 - Theories of international relations: narrative (week 20). [Teaching Resource]
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IR436 Lecture 20 2011-12
George Lawson
What is narrative?
 Stone: elegant story telling; order and coherence;
agency and causation
 White: poetic ‘emplotment’; aesthetically appealing
stories; order vs. ‘surplus meanings’
 Roberts: turning mess into connected sequences
 IR examples: Carr, Morgenthau, Allison
Why narrative?
 Idiographic: from the particular to the general, i.e.
‘joining the dots’
 Historicism: interpretation and explanation;
complexity and coherence; micro and macro
 Suganami on narrative: narrative as agency,
contingency and cause
Sewell: ‘happenings’ as ‘events’
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History as theory
 History has social logics
 Events are stabilised
 All social science uses emplotment
 Therefore, we all tell superior stories
QED: ‘Embedded theory’ and ‘encompassing theory’
are not so different after all
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Robinson and the ‘real mural’
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What is the ‘proper perspective’?
 The other side of the street
 Next to the mural
 The centre of the street (N.B. careful of the traffic)
 Tacking between the detail and the abstraction
 Andrew Abbott: (relatively) fixed events as configurations,
e.g. revolutions
 Configurations (i.e. enduring, regular, stable interactions)
as ‘social facts’
 ‘Social facts’ help us tell ‘good enough stories’, i.e. ‘causal
narrativity’
Take a deep breath …
 Deepening and broadening: IR as polo mint and/or
jammy doughnut
 Theory and ‘stuff’: remember that the Owl of Minerva
only flies at dusk
 What is theory? Red and yellow and pink and green
Enjoy your symptoms!
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Image: A jam doughnut missing a bite.
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