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How does the “English School” of international relations differ from American approaches?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Steven Hawking: A Brief History of Time
  3. The English School's pluralistic, multi disciplinary intuitive approach
  4. The intellectual frustration characterizing the English School and American School debate
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

According to Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time, "a theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model which contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations". This definition is of course one that comes from a scholar of physics, a science where the ability of a theory to predict is a fundamental element ensuring its survival. It nevertheless demonstrates the rigorous scrutiny a claim carrying the label of a "theory" undergoes independent of the discipline it belongs to. The field of international relations (IR) has thus been subjected to the same strict requirements and demands for empirical proof and outcome prediction. These demands, could be argued, have been the main challenge the discipline has brought upon itself once it crossed into the "science" realm and established departments of "political science" in major research universities across the West.

[...] To use the ideas of IR scholars themselves, according to the English School identities are important, and as defined by the social constructivist perception, "it is not a case that a state exists first and then goes on to perform its foreign policy; rather it is in the continual act of delineating itself from things presented as 'foreign' --outside as well as inside itself --that a state's identity is constructed"10 Hence, as an interaction between two sides, perhaps the current transatlantic debate is contributing to the maturation of the field itself and the construction of its identity. [...]


[...] theoretical fields of study, The English School of international relations, starting from its very name, does not easily render itself to clear-cut definitions. With its main literature produced in the 1970s and 1980s, the English School (which should in fact be called the British School), emerged as an academic discipline within the IR field in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics under the lead 1 Steven Hawking, A Brief History of Time the framework of the classical liberal tradition while exhibiting a wide variety of influences on part of functionalism, social constructivism, realism, and critical theory2. [...]

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