3nr’s Recommended K Article?

I should preface this post by saying I have nothing but the utmost respect for Scotty P and it was one of my favorite pastimes to watch him in outrounds (which I had no chance of being in, of course) smash people with 50 Derrida cards in the neg block. But I must take issue with one of his recent posts.

The 3nr has posted a “recommended K article” regarding security studies. Full citation is Kolodziej, Edward, “Renaissance in Security Studies? Caveat Lector!” in International Studies Quarterly 36.4 pp. 421-438. While the article is a good read when you want to get to know the sort of structure of security studies and what it may exclude, there isn’t card one in the piece which could be read on the negative because the article ultimately assumes an epistemology whereby all of the concerns that the article raises about “mainstream” or “renaissance” security studies could be subsumed by security studies itself. In other words, I am not objecting to the article’s content itself–Kolodziej’s writing is clear and he summarizes his largely valid concerns about realist security studies lucidly–but rather its utility as a “K article.”

The article takes issue with a so-called “renaissance” in security studies proclaimed by Stephen M. Walt. Kolodziej argues that Walt’s proclamation “analytically…limits the objects of study [to the state and state concerns about security],” “normatively…focuses exclusively on American national security,” and “methodologically…restricts security studies to a highly restrictive and largely traditional array of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches [read: realism and neo-realism].” Now Kolodziej’s problem isn’t necessarily with realism (indeed, he claims in the closing paragraphs of the article that “realism is not on trial”) nor with security studies per se. Rather, he feels that security scholars have focused too much on the state (as opposed to non-state actors) and the threat of violence (as opposed to “positive sanctions”, psychological factors, or behavioral realities) when trying to come up with theories of war and peace.

The article recommends, then, five or six things that security studies ought to include when formulating its theories: it should be more accomodating to alternative visions of “reality,” it should be explicit about its behavioral and normative commitments, it should include more work from the social sciences, it should include non-Western experience, and finally it should let the problem determine the scope of theory rather than the other way around. None of this is really good as K evidence–rather, it makes up the overall argument for the permutation. Now, that doesn’t mean that this is good evidence–Kolodziej simply assumes that all of these concerns can and should be subsumed under the security rhetoric rather than arguing for the possibility of such a synthesis–but this is the working assumption of the article.

And isn’t this precisely what much of what Dillon or Der Derian or Campbell would critique? I can already see what Dillon would say, that this sort of move is just another demonstration of the merely technical virtuosity of the modern administration of life and calculability–including more things in the banalizing process of calculation doesn’t really ameliorate the impact of calculation proper (a standard move in ontological critique: changing the appearances of things without “making appearance appear”). Der Derian would probably say something Nietzschean about how this move doesn’t come from a height of feeling or a lightning bolt or something else pregnant with suggestiveness but ultimately leaves one wanting more (a standard move in psychological critique: that you’ve got the wrong feelings in your heart when you do stuff). Or Campbell might say something about how our ethical obligation to the other transcends the sort of “study-focus” of the article, that one needs no material study about how the world is in order to get behind this obligation (standard move of ethical critique: that you justify something anethically). In any case, the article hardly provides any good K evidence unless you count decent permutation evidence as K evidence.

The middle of the article could be “spun” for link cards as it outlines some of the shortcomings of realism’s exclusions of the social sciences, normative inquiry, and non-Western experience. However, the impact articulated in the article amounts to nothing more than “you couldn’t have predicted the end of the Cold War,” and one is already working too hard to get an impact from their critique of neo-realism if this is the route one has to take.

To all of these concerns about the content of the article, add the fact that its from 1992 and much better critiques of the shortcomings of neorealism have since emerged (i.e., critiques of neo-realism in its own right as well as critiques from outside the tradition like Dillon or Der Derian) and one wonders if this is really a K article to be recommended.

In conclusion, I offer better recommended K reading, especially for international topics:
Kelly, M.G.E. “Foucault, Globalisation, and Imperialism,” in Theoria 57.123, pp. 1-26.

I would also like to pose a question to the audience. The 3nr did a piece a while back where they tried to list good IR K articles and journals. I think such an attempt is a little facile, especially for someone trying to map out actual academic concerns about the discipline rather than mine text for cards. So I would like to ask: which “K articles” and books do you find particularly foundational to critical IR studies? Of course, Ashley and Walker’s work in the late 80’s/early 90’s is widely regarded as the seminal in-journal articulation of “critical IR”, but beyond this what do you think?

My final goal here would be able to create a reading list for people interested in the K. One would break up the reading lists according to topic and we’d have the ability to refer to the archive whenever someone comes asking us where to begin research on a particular K. So, let’s start compiling the first “Critical IR Research Archive”!

The post is not a lie.


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