BISA working group on Historical Sociology and IR
Centre for Advanced International Theory, University of Sussex

 The Historical Sociology of International Theory

One day workshop – Thursday 13th September 2012

The discipline of International Relations is home to a wide range of theoretical approaches and its history is characterized by (metaphorical) debates and competition between these theories. This theoretical pluralism – deplored by some and celebrated by others – does not only concern the substantive claims of particular theories but also the conception of theory itself. This refers us back to debates in the philosophy of social science. What counts as theory, what role theory can and should play and how it best fulfils this task is not a settled question in IR.

Moreover, inasmuch as the emergence and development of different theories is strongly influenced by their historical and sociological context, the same is true for conceptions of theory itself. Hence, the considerable recent changes within the international system – from the end of bipolarity, through the ideological hegemony of market democracy, radical fluctuation in the world economy, to open challenges to the institution of sovereignty – can be expected to affect the conception of theory (and consequently the development of theories) itself. This workshop seeks to explore the ways in which time and place impact on the conception of international theory and to develop an understanding of the nature of international theory and its implications at the beginning of the 21st century.

To this end, we invite papers that analyze the emergence, development, change and implications of conceptions of international theory from a historical sociological perspective. We are particularly, but not solely, interested in contributions that:

  • reflect on the connection between time, place and conceptions of theory;
  • provide an historical and sociological account of the development of conceptions of international theories;
  • explore the implications of recent changes in the international system for conceptions of international theory;
  • and, conversely, investigate the impact of conceptions of international theory on our understanding of the broader historical and sociological context.

Those interested in presenting papers at the workshop should send brief abstracts (no more than 200 words) to: The deadline for submission of abstracts is 13th June 2012. 

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