Cultural Relativism and International Politics
Publication Year: 2015
Through historical studies of some of the work of Montesquieu, Comte, Durkheim, Boas, Morgenthau, Aron and Bourdieu, Derek Robbins examines the changing and competing conceptualisations of the political and the social in the Western European intellectual tradition. He suggests that we are now experiencing a new ‘dissociation of sensibility’ in which political thought and its consequences in action have become divorced from social and cultural experience. Developing further the ideas of Bourdieu which he has presented in books and articles over the last twenty years, Robbins argues that we need to integrate the recognition of cultural difference with the practice of international politics by accepting that the ‘field’ of international political discourse is a social construct which is contingent on encounters between diverse cultures. ‘Everything ...
- Front Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Montesquieu: cultural relativist and proto-positivist?
- Chapter 2: Comte: positivist science and history
- Chapter 3: Durkheim: post-positivist social science and politics
- Chapter 4: American anthropology and political realism
- Chapter 5: Aron: politics and/or sociologism
- Chapter 6: Bourdieu: reflexive sociologism and the field of politics
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© Derek Robbins 2015
First published 2015
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2014954625
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Editor: Chris Rojek
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For Diana[Page vi]
About the Author
I gave my professorial inaugural lecture as Professor of International Social Theory in 2002, just a few months after Bourdieu’s death. The title was ‘Finding “Reasons for Maxims”: Social Science and International Relations’. The quote is from Montesquieu’s Preface to De l’esprit des lois. I outlined my intention to try to pursue the implications of Bourdieu’s work for the analysis of international relations. This was the commencement of the orientation which finds fruition in this book. In the intervening period, I had the good fortune to work with Dominique Merllié of the Centre de sociologie européenne on a Franco-British project on the trans-national reception of the work of Lévy-Bruhl, and I have also benefited from the opportunities to explore in detail the work of Durkheim and Lévy-Bruhl provided by the Centre for Durkheimian Studies at the University of Oxford. I am particularly indebted to Willie Watts Miller and Bill Pickering, both of whom encouraged me to explore the nature of Bourdieu’s indebtedness to these predecessors. Since the death of Bourdieu, to whom I owe so much intellectually, it has been a great bonus to me to meet Jean-Claude Passeron and to have conversations which have helped me to understand better the issues at stake in the development of social science in France in the 1960s and beyond, with particular reference to the influence of Raymond Aron. Jean-Louis Fabiani was also a great support when I had the opportunity to try out some of my ideas about the trans-national transfer between France and Britain of philosophy and social science in the 19th century as a Directeur associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris and Marseille, in 2008–9. I have most recently, in 2014, had the opportunity to talk at an international conference on ‘Modernity: Culture Tradition and Morality Reconstruction’ in Shanghai at the invitation of Professor Gao, and some of the ideas presented there are developed further in the second half of the book. I am grateful to him for his invitation and for Dr Yang Yang of the University of Cambridge and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for facilitating the visit.
My greatest debt is to Chris Rojek, who has encouraged me in my work for almost 20 years. I am grateful to him for the opportunity to write this book.[Page x]