Dominic Johnson writes on the 'Survival of the Disciplines'

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    Photo by Sam Dredge (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dominic Johnson's latest paper, Survival of the Disciplines: Is International Relations Fit for the New Millennium? is out now in the current issue of Millennium: Journal of International Studies.

The paper responds to a debate initiated by Iver Neumann's inaugural address as the new Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at LSE about the future of International Relations (IR) as a Social Science. Neumann argued that to prosper as a discipline, IR will have to engage with a broader set of empirical data and wider inter-disciplinary insights, especially from evolutionary biology.

Johnson not only endorses the debate but sets out four further challenges for IR:

"(1) our empirical data must extend to the deep origins of human societies, and look more at policy successes rather than failures; (2) our scientific toolkit must integrate rather than differentiate psychology and biology, because the former is in large part a product of the latter; (3) evolution continues to be misinterpreted, especially in the condemnation of functionalism, the myth of biological determinism, the perceived lack of relevance to IR theory, and the idea that social facts cannot have biological roots; and (4) there are other issues of more genuine importance, including the levels of analysis problem (getting from the biology of individuals to the behaviour of states), and the levels of selection problem (the predictions of group selection and individual selection for human nature)."

He concludes that despite challenges of communication and collaboration, the benefits of integration with the natural sciences outweigh the benefits of disciplinary isolation, offering new knowledge and methods that will help IR to flourish rather than flounder in what Johnson terms "the Age of Biology".

The paper paper can be found at: http://mil.sagepub.com/content/43/2/749.abstract

Professor Dominic Johnson is Alastair Buchan Chair of International Relations, Director of Research