The schools of thought problem in international relations
Many scholars are dissatisfied with the tendency of research and teaching in the field of international relations to be framed as clashes among competing schools of thought. I examine two prominent options for reform that relate to the schools and offer one element of an alternative path forward. The first option, which I term analytical singularism, calls for the abandonment of the IR schools and their replacement with a single, uniform framework for the study of international relations. By virtue of a constricted ontology and partialist epistemology, this option is plagued by omitted variable bias and underspecified modeling of important international processes. The second option, analytical eclecticism, suggests that improved IR studies might emerge from the consideration of interactions between causal factors that are drawn from the different IR schools of thought. Analytical eclecticism holds promise but faces serious challenges arising from its preference for qualitative methods and context-specific epistemology. I then outline a process of collaborative challenges between adherents of the different IR schools as one way by which we might advance research in international relations.
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