"Theory and Policy in International Relations: Some Personal Reflections"
IR Scholars Forum
Journal Article, Yale Journal of International Affairs, volume 7, issue 2, pages 33-43
Author: Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs; Faculty Chair, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Most social scientists would like to think that their work helps solve important problems. For scholars of international relations, there is certainly no shortage of issues to address: ethnic and religious conflict, managing a fragile world economy, global terrorism, climate change, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the Euro crisis, etc.—the list is endless. In this increasingly complex and still-contentious global order, one might think that scholarly expertise about international affairs would be a highly valued commodity. One might expect to see academic theorists working overtime to devise practical solutions to various real-world problems and playing prominent roles in public debates about foreign policy. Yet this does not seem to be the case for most of them. Former policy makers complain that academic scholarship is "either irrelevant or inaccessible. . . locked within the circle of esoteric scholarly discussion," and one academic recently charged that "scholars are focusing more on themselves, less on the real world. . . Inquiry is becoming obscurantist and in-grown...."1
1See David Newsom, "Foreign Policy and Academia," Foreign Policy 101 (1995–96); and Lawrence Mead, "Scholasticism in Political Science," Perspectives on Politics 8, no. 2 (June 2010).
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