Within the discipline of international political economy (IPE), the work of Robert Cox is usually associated with the tradition of historical materialism, especially its Gramscian-inspired version. In this paper, however, I explore some of the less visible elements of Cox's thought. In particular, I highlight a variant of historicism which, although not without a connection to Gramsci's conception of the philosophy of praxis and absolute historicism, is more fully aligned with the work of Collingwood, Vico, Braudel, and Carr. I identify this as a variant of historical idealism, and I suggest that it is this element of his thought which provides a deep intellectual coherence to his work across the different stages of his career. Furthermore, I argue that this use of the idea of history distinguishes Cox's approach from more radical and constructivist accounts of world order, and allows him to connect his framework of historical structures to his method of diachronic change, which centres ultimately on his conception of intersubjectivity. I close by suggesting that Cox's interest in civilizations is deeply connected to these formative historicist influences, which in turn helps to account for why his later work resonates less well with much contemporary historical materialist IPE analysis.

Additional Metadata
Keywords historical reasoning, intersubjectivity, political economy, world order
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/14747731.2015.1128107
Journal Globalizations
Germain, R.D. (2016). Robert W. Cox and the Idea of History: Political Economy as Philosophy. Globalizations, 13(5), 532–546. doi:10.1080/14747731.2015.1128107