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The eternal divide?: history and international relations

Lawson, George (2012) The eternal divide?: history and international relations. European Journal of International Relations, 18 (2). pp. 203-226. ISSN 1354-0661

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1354066110373561


On one level, history is used by all parts of the International Relations (IR) discipline. But lurking beneath the surface of IR’s approach to history lies a well-entrenched binary. Whereas mainstream positions use history as a means to fill in their theoretical frames (seeing history as a kind of ‘scripture’ of abstract lessons), many post-positivists reduce history to a pick-and-mix of contingent hiccups (a ‘butterfly’ of what-ifs and maybes). Interestingly enough, this binary is one reproduced throughout the social sciences. As such, there is a bigger story to the apparently ‘eternal divide’ between history and social science than first meets the eye. This article uses the various ways in which history is used — and abused — in IR to probe more deeply into the relationship between history and social science as a whole. This exploration reveals four frameworks, two drawn from history (context and narrative) and two drawn from social science (eventfulness and ideal-typification) which illustrate the necessary co-implication of the two enterprises. The article employs these tools as a means of re-imagining the relationship between history and social science (including IR), conceiving this as a single intellectual journey in which both are permanently in view.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 European Consortium of Political Research
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2012 15:43
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 23:11

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