All academic disciplines periodically appraise their effectiveness, evaluating the progress of previous scholarship and judging which approaches are useful and which are not. Although no field could survive if it did nothing but appraise its progress, occasional appraisals are important and if done well can help advance the field.
This book investigates how international relations theorists can better equip themselves to determine the state of scholarly work in their field. It takes as its starting point Imre Lakatos's influential theory of scientific change, and in particular his methodology of scientific research programs (MSRP). It uses MSRP to organize its analysis of major research programs over the last several decades and uses MSRP's criteria for theoretical progress to evaluate these programs. The contributors appraise the progress of institutional theory, varieties of realist and liberal theory, operational code analysis, and other research programs in international relations. Their analyses reveal the strengths and limits of Lakatosian criteria and the need for metatheoretical metrics for evaluating scientific progress.
About the Editors
Colin Elman is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. Previously he was Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Arizona State University. He is coeditor, with Miriam Fendius Elman, of Bridges and Boundaries: Historians, Political Scientists, and the Study of International Relations (MIT Press, 2001).
Miriam Fendius Elman is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. Previously she was Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Arizona State University. She is coeditor, with Colin Elman, of Bridges and Boundaries: Historians, Political Scientists, and the Study of International Relations (MIT Press, 2001).
"A most impressive effort that should stimulate a rethinking of what is meant by 'scientific progress' in developing international relations theory."
- Alexander L. George, Graham H. Stuart Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, Stanford University
"In this carefully constructed and coherent collection the two editors put forth a judiciously balanced defense of the possibility of progress in our knowledge about international relations. Uniformly strong essays written by a group of distinguished authors support this claim in this innovative application of the philosophy of science to different strands of international relations theory."
- Peter J. Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr., Professor of International Studies, Cornell University
"Using Imre Lakatos's method of scientific research programs, this volume explores in detail six different areas in international relations: realism, institutionalism, liberalism, power transition theory, the democratic peace, and psychological decision making theory. The book provides the best treatment in the international relations sub-field, and perhaps in all of political science, of the Lakatosian criteria for assessing progress in social science. The discussion ofwhat constitutes 'novel facts' in the Lakatosian framework is superb. This volume is critically important for international relations scholars because it will make them more aware of how to assess research, and how to select the best research strategies for actually making progress."
- Helen V. Milner, James T Shotwell Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science, Columbia University