In this BISA International Relations as a Social Science Working Group event, Dr David McCourt speaks on the development and refinement of various historiographical approaches in International Relations, against the traditional, limited approach of viewing history as a data-set. He reflects on how IR scholars might think about history, and the related questions of the nature of theory, knowledge, and action in International Relations.
David M. McCourt is an international political sociologist. His primary research interests lie with the social sources of state action in international politics, with an empirical focus on the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. He is also interested in theory – both sociological and international.
Dr McCourt explains, "Trained as a historian, IR's scientific pretensions have always both troubled and fascinated me, especially given their power in my adopted home of the United States. The search for generalizable causal explanations, alongside abstract theory building, have always seemed something of a chimera. The notion of science borrowed from the natural sciences involves an impoverished view of history as a data-set for the testing of theory. But history is not a data-set - history is constantly being re-written at the same time as we live within it, seeking to change its flow. In my comments I will reflect on how IR scholars might think about history, and the related questions of the nature of theory, knowledge, and action in International Relations."
The talk was chaired by Matthieu Grandpierron, co-convenor of the International Relations as a Social Science Working Group.