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Terminological Entrepreneurs and Discursive Shifts in International Relations: How a Discipline Invented the “International Regime”

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Hartmut Behr



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2021.

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The disciplinary history of international relations (IR) is usually told as asuccession of theories or “isms” that are connected to academic schools.Echoing the increasing criticism of this narrative, we present in this articlea new perspective on the discipline. We introduce concepts fromlinguistics and its method of digital discourse analysis (DDA) to explorediscursive shifts and terminological entrepreneurship in IR. DDA directsattention away from schools of thought and “heroic figures” who allegedlyinvented new theories. As we show exemplarily with the rise of “regimetheory,” there were entire generations of IR scholars who (more or lessconsciously) developed new vocabularies to frame and address their commonconcerns. The terminological history of “international regime” startsin nineteenth century international law, in which French authors alreadyused “régime” to describe transnational forms of governance that weremore than a treaty but less than an international organization. Only inthe 1980s, however, was an explicit definition of “international regime”forged in American IR, which combined textual elements already in use.We submit that such observations can change the way in which we understand,narrate, and teach the discipline of IR. DDA decenters IR theoryfrom its traditional focus on schools and individuals and suggests unlearningestablished taxonomies of “isms.” The introduction of corpus linguisticmethods to the study of academic IR can thus provide new epistemologicaldirections for the field.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Behr H, Steffek J, Mueller M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Studies Review

Year: 2021

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Pages: 30-58

Print publication date: 01/03/2021

Online publication date: 27/02/2020

Acceptance date: 02/01/2020

Date deposited: 02/03/2020

ISSN (print): 1521-9488

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2486

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/isr/viaa003


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