By Gregorio Bettiza

There are certainly a number of very good reasons why we should be teaching the “isms” to our IR undergraduates. Like it or not, the “isms” constitute the theoretical canon of the discipline and most introductory textbooks to IR religiously go through a (growing) range of them. Moreover, despite some important exceptions, much IR research continues to be structured along paradigmatic lines, whether the more orthodox ones – Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism – or heterodox ones – English School, Marxism, Post-structuralism, and Post-Colonialism. Finally, even if we take a more critical perspective on the “isms” and view them akin to ideologies rather than theories, they nonetheless remain powerful systems of meaning that shape how practitioners – from policymakers to civil society actors – think and justify their actions in world politics. Not exposing our students to the “isms” would therefore limit their understanding of IR theory, hinder their comprehension of the theoretical scaffolding supporting much empirical research, and undermine their capacity to discern and critique theoretical-ideological arguments when they spot them in public debates. Yet there are also very good reasons for not teaching the “isms” or, at least, treating them with a great deal of suspicion and caution…


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H-Diplo: Roundtable on Teaching IR’s Paradigms (313.86 KB)