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Political Science


The establishment and maintenance of order—that is, of settled rules and arrangements that regulate actors’ behavior—is central to politics at all levels, including the international level. Political order, after all, is a requisite for modern human existence. Given the priority of the problem of order, the most important questions that can be addressed in an introductory International Relations (IR) course are those that concern the sources, nature, and historical evolution of international order. But a survey of conventional introductory IR textbooks reveals that these questions are typically dealt with glancingly or ignored altogether. Thus a strong case can be made that conventional IR textbooks overlook a vital aspect of the subject they are intended to cover. This failure appears to arise from an effort by IR textbook authors to explain international politics in terms of timeless dynamics that exist apart from history. But excluding history as a source of explanation comes at a high cost. In effect, it prevents textbooks from adequately weighing the significance of the historically specific bargains that have provided the foundation for international order in modern times.


Earlier versions of this work were presented at the Annual Conference of the ISA Northeast, November 4–6, 2021, and at the Annual Conference of the International Studies Association, Nashville, March 28–April 2, 2022.



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