A Field and Diverse Purposes: Science, Application and Critique in the American Field of International Relations

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Title: A Field and Diverse Purposes: Science, Application and Critique in the American Field of International Relations
Authors: Grenier, Félix
Date: 2017
Abstract: One of the most important aspects of the American field of International Relations (IR) is the deeply-rooted and broadly shared commitment to a “scientist” understanding of scholarly work. Scientism can be described as an indubitable belief in our ability to produce value-free and non-normative knowledge and in the power of such knowledge to resolve societal problems. Since the mid-20th century, this scientist commitment prevailed in the main approaches and standards guiding the practice of IR scholarship in the United States. One problem with the dominance of scientism is that it reproduces a restrictive view of American IR scholarship. More precisely, the dominance of scientism has not only limited the diversity of methodological and theoretical approaches but, this thesis argues, also restricted American IR scholars’ ability to further different understandings of the legitimate purposes of scholarly work. Following this idea, this thesis endeavors to challenge the dominance of scientism and legitimize alternative forms of scholarship in American IR. More precisely, this thesis advances that American IR scholars’ work is guided by three categories of objectives, that is, the production of scientific knowledge, the application of knowledge and the advancement of critical thinking. To clarify how these three objectives are concretely formulated, the thesis also specifies nine categories of epistemic approaches (e.g. forms of methods and theories) that are associated with scientific, applied and critical objectives. This categorization is conceived as a useful thinking tool for understanding how and why scholarship is generated in American IR. After detailing this categorization, the thesis underlines the specific value and purpose associated with each category of objectives by examining a series of graduate education programs in American IR. This empirical examination concentrates on ten professional M.A. and ten PhD programs offered in elite American universities. Using a discursive analysis of the curriculum and the syllabus of one core course in each program, the thesis discusses how and why scientific, applied and critical objectives are furthered in American IR. It particularly underscores why applied and critical objectives are marginalized across the selected graduate education programs and the benefits associated with these alternative orientations for American IR. In doing so, this thesis helps challenge the dominance of scientism and legitimize other forms of scholarship in American IR.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/36917
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-21189
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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