Beyond the Ivory Tower

Beyond the Ivory Tower: International Relations Theory and the Issue of Policy Relevance

Joseph Lepgold
Miroslav Nincic
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Beyond the Ivory Tower
    Book Description:

    The gap between academics and practitioners in international relations has widened in recent years, according to the authors of this book. Many international relations scholars no longer try to reach beyond the ivory tower and many policymakers disdain international relations scholarship as arcane and irrelevant. Joseph Lepgold and Miroslav Nincic demonstrate how good international relations theory can inform policy choices. Globalization, ethnic conflict, and ecological threats have created a new set of issues that challenge policymakers, and cutting-edge scholarship can contribute a great deal to the diagnosis and handling of potentially explosive situations.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50552-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Joseph Lepgold and Miroslav Nincic
  4. 1. The Theory-Practice Gap in International Relations
    (pp. 1-27)

    The first two observations, both from distinguished former U.S. officials, typify many policymakers’ views about contemporary scholarship in international relations: while it ought to be useful to practitioners, little of it is. Much, they believe, is useless and arcane. These particular statements are striking because they do not reflect ignorance about the mission and culture of university scholars. The individual quoted in the first passage has written widely on foreign policy and helped to found the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, one of America’s premier professional schools of international affairs. The author of the second passage held a...

  5. 2. Types of Knowledge and Their Practical Uses
    (pp. 28-54)

    As chapter 1 emphasized, it is ironic that there should be a chasm separating theorists and practitioners in a field explicitly designed to be policy-relevant little more than three generations ago. Since this gap is best explained sociologically, in terms of professional habits and reward structures, there may be no inherently intellectual reason why SIR should not address policy issues while maintaining or even enhancing the quality of scholarship. At the same time, since scholars may legitimately be interested in issues with few practical implications, not all scholarship can be directly relevant. Moreover, the forms of thinking appropriate to academic...

  6. 3. How Knowledge Is Acquired and Used
    (pp. 55-80)

    Having discussed the forms that relevant knowledge may assume, and the comparative advantages that academia may have in its production, we ask how such knowledge can shape the conduct of foreign policy. Two broad issues will be addressed in this chapter. The first concerns the processes and institutions that govern the relationship between scholarship and policymaking, for this largely determines how the knowledge is used. This relationship is structured around the manner in which knowledge, typically in the form of general propositions, enters the policy process, and the shape it assumes when it does so. The second issue involves four...

  7. 4. Scholarship and Relevance: Is There a Tradeoff?
    (pp. 81-107)

    Even if scholarship can help guide the conduct of international affairs, it does not necessarily follow that it should be used for that purpose. From a scholarly perspective the costs may be too great. Prima facie, it surely is better to be useful than not to, unless, perhaps, the costs in terms of international relations scholarship are too great. Academics have a responsibility to their own calling as well as to national policy goals—if the claims of the two should collide, it is not obvious that the latter’s should prevail. The issue, then, is whether the production of knowledge...

  8. 5. The Inter-Democratic Peace—Theoretical Foundations and Policy Implications
    (pp. 108-137)

    In this chapter and the next, we discuss the practical policy implications of some recent international relations scholarship: namely, the literature surrounding the democratic peace and that associated with institutions and international cooperation. Our aim is to determine what guidance, if any, this knowledge might provide to practitioners, and to examine its strengths and weaknesses in this regard. An obvious question at this point is why we selected these two bodies of scholarship rather than others. Three considerations drove the decision. First, we wanted issue-areas that would be broad enough to encompass a variety of specific problems and relationships American...

  9. 6. International Institutions and the Possibilities for Cooperation: Theoretical Foundations and Policy Implications
    (pp. 138-171)

    Having explored the policy relevance of scholarship on the inter-democratic peace, this chapter inquires whether a second body of SIR, one focused on international institutions, has important policy implications. The challenges of dealing with a tightly interconnected international system are increasing, and national policy goals can rarely be attained without substantial international coordination. In principle, well-designed international institutions provide a way to develop and implement common policies to deal with collective problems, and it is hard to find an international issue that has not become increasingly institutionalized in recent decades.

    Especially since the end of the cold war, intergovernmental organizations...

  10. 7. Useful Knowledge: Value, Promise, and Limitations
    (pp. 172-186)

    The gap between international relations scholars and decisionmakers has assumed a character of ineluctability—a condition that is surprising in a field created less than a century ago with the express purpose of shedding light on pressing policy problems. Although scholars and policymakers have different professional goals, both have a strong interest in understanding the processes and parameters of international relations. One would therefore expect sound analysis from inside the Ivory Tower to find resonance within the corridors of power. Good “ordinary” knowledge provides, at best, a partial basis for policy, and there are many ways in which it can...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 187-214)
  12. Index
    (pp. 215-228)