RSIS Luncheon Seminar by Prof Pascal Vanesson, RSIS
Strategic Thought and International Relations Theory
Presenter: Prof Pascal Vennesson
Discussant: Asst Prof Evan Resnick
Strategic thought, understood as the leading ideas of military and civilian strategists about the threat and uses of force to fulfill the ends of policy, has become increasingly marginal in International Relations (IR) theorizing. Yet, it is one of the earliest form of knowledge about, and conceptualization of, international relations. Moreover, it offers fundamental insights about core IR concepts and practices such as power, political units’ preferences, deterrence and compellence, uncertainty, interaction, contingency, and balancing. The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, I critically assess the main sources of the diminishing contribution of strategic thought to international relations theorizing, namely its dilution in the sprawling field of security studies and its conflation with realism and rational choice theory. While both trends have led to contributions of their own, they also inadvertently created, or accentuated, five misconceptions about strategic thought: the notion that the scope of its relevance to IR is narrow and intrinsincally linked to the Cold War and nuclear weapons, the idea that it is exclusively a branch of realism, its alleged materialism and rationalism and its supposedly purely practical character. Second, I examine the contributions of strategic thought to IR theorizing. I argue that it offers a fresh look into the questions of knowledge, practice-theory nexus, concept formation, and mechanisms in the study of international relations.
The RSIS Luncheon Seminar series is open only to RSIS staff and PhD candidates.