Of all the self-images of the discipline of international relations, none holds more sway than that which insists that the early field was dominated by a form of utopianism that was later consigned to the dustbin of history by the outbreak of World War II and the Cold War. This story continues to be crucial, both to the way scholars think about the evolution of the subject, and to the self-identity of realist thinkers who have exerted an unparalleled influence on international relations theory since 1939. The basic problem with this reading is that it is mistaken; in fact, once we begin to look in more detail at ‘IR’ in its formative years, a different image emerges that is at once more complex and by implication subversive of the standard account. Certainly, the perjorative terms ‘idealism’ or ‘utopianism’ do not adequately or accurately depict the interwar period of the field’s history, especially in the United States.

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International Relations

Schmidt, B. (2002). Anarchy, World Politics and the Birth of a Discipline: American International Relations, Pluralist Theory and the Myth of Interwar Idealism. International Relations, 16(1), 9–31. doi:10.1177/0047117802016001003