Should We Leave Behind the Subfield of International Relations?

Annual Review of Political Science

Vol. 18:481-499 (Volume publication date May 2015)
First published online as a Review in Advance on December 17, 2014


This article considers whether political science should abandon the subfields of American politics, comparative politics, and international relations (IR), for new subfields of conflict, political economy, institutions, and behavior. The focus here is whether the field should abandon IR. The article lays out the arguments in favor of abandoning IR, describing scholarly trends that cross conventional subfield lines and are pushing to dissolve IR. Next, it argues that the costs of abandoning IR exceed the benefits, as new subfield divisions would remove some artificial walls but create new ones. Abandoning IR might undermine objective theory testing, would disadvantage the study of international system and structure, and would undermine the ability of political science to inform foreign policy debates. The article concludes by recommending that the field keep IR and its current subfield boundaries but that the walls between subfields should be kept low and porous.