I puttered around with this last year. It seems an apt moment to re-post it. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
The Three Ghosts of IR Theory*
’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the lab
Not a creature was stirring, not even a crab;
The monitors glowed dully with Microsoft’s wares,
In hopes that dissertation fairies soon would be there.
The first-years tossed and turned in their beds,
Wrestling with Political Theory deep in their heads,
But I puttered on, deeply immersed in Chapter 5,
Trying to make sense of an old government archive,
When out on the quad there arose such a clatter,
That I peered through the lab windows to see what was the matter.
I let out a gasp, for what did I see,
But the three frightful ghosts of IR theory!
Monstrous figures rent out of time,
They were the very embodiments of IR paradigms!
The first approached me, and seeing me aghast,
Declaimed, “It is I, the Ghost of IR Past!
Realism is my bellicose and bloody domain,
And in it everything states do is foreordained.
Domestic politics are put in a black box,
And institutions are a load of bollox!
But sadly my predictions did not bear fruit:
The end of the Cold War made my viewpoint moot!
So now all I do is haunt the hallways of Chicago,
Trailing old Mearsheimer like a sad little shadow.
I sought to be timeless and quite ahistorical,
But now I’m just a straw man, a device rhetorical.”
Barely had I made sense of his sorrowful speech,
When the second figure drew nigh and began to preach:
“It is I, the Ghost of IR Present!
Rationalism is the theory I represent.
States are rational actors, just like you and I—
Always wanting their utility to be amplified!
Understanding politics is no difficult task, you see—
Simply identify all the main interests in society.
Then add a rough measure of power,
And you’ve got a new dissertation chapter in under an hour.
But make sure all your studies have a large N,
Lest you encounter an actual expert on Phnom Penh,
Who could go on to point out your paper’s many flaws,
And leave you desperately grasping for straws.
Do remember, whenever your study is in doubt,
To let ‘Bayesian updating’ be your shout!
Sure, my critics say I’m non-falsifiable,
But the power of my reach is undeniable.”
The smug countenance of this shade moved away,
And in its lieu came a much quieter fay.
She began, “Do not despair!
In the future IR will not always be so square.
I am the Ghost of IR (Forthcoming):
Know that one day the field will be more becoming.
A multiplicity of diverse perspectives will be welcome,
And qualitative scholars won’t have to flee to Belgium.
We’ll actually read what they write in the humanities,
And we’ll finally overcome our economics envies.
In this great post-positivist paradise,
Having regional expertise won’t be seen as a vice;
Instead everyone will ‘soak and poke’ all day,
And head off for extensive field research in Bombay.
Your APSR articles will no longer be your main metric,
We’ll all have become so much less Euro-centric—
Well, except for mandatory readings of Foucault,
To whom we’ll all still have to kowtow.
While that day has not yet arrived,
Towards it you must nevertheless strive!”
Those rousing words, I do freely confess,
Made my heart swell deep within my breast.
With that, the three shades began to drift away,
Having brought me some solace during their stay.
And I heard them exclaim, as they moved out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
* I would like to thank Ilona de Zamaróczy for her assistance with this project.