Does It Matter If IR Is Eurocentric?
The West accounts for Europe and more recently the United States. Far from representing any moralistic view point, the term eurocentrism will be used for the sake of concision. When talking about eurocentrism or Eurocentric concepts, we respectively mean an ontological position and concepts shaped by the experience of the modern West. Also for the sake of concision, when talking about the world minus the West, we will use the term non-West or non-Western realities.
What can be seen as a major problem with critics of Eurocentric IR is their tendency to overstate the impact of Eurocentrism as an ideology by confusing it with a more geo-historically situated form of Eurocentric world order. Stated differently, anti-Eurocentrics do not differentiate in general between Eurocentrism as an ideology (one that sees Europe, or a more global West as the only active subject of world politics) and Eurocentrism as a picture of the world that derives from the significance of European powers at a certain point in time, basically from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. This perception leads the critics to exaggerate the extent of Eurocentrism in IR. Virtually all forms of analysis that give a prominent role to the European (and Western) actors in the global political order come to be seen as Eurocentric. Whenever a scholar chooses to focus on the significance of the European powers (or the impact of the West), he/she is targeted as Eurocentric. The extent of this problem becomes more visible when considering the work of anti-Eurocentric scholarship, which demonstrates an unending circle of intra-IR disciplinary blaming and bashing.
‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose’ (Cox, 1986:207). This statement appears highly relevant when discussing the Eurocentrism embedded in the academic discipline of International Relations (IR) since it reminds us that IR theories, as with any other theoretical approaches, developed at certain times and for certain reasons. Keeping that in mind, this essay will discuss whether IR is a parochial discipline whose principles should not be universalised.
The article has discussed the way in which Eurocentric conceptualisations of the international are reproduced in different geopolitical contexts. It has argued that the analysis of Eurocentrism and the way it forms an integral part of the production of knowledge thus needs to take into account the way in which it is re-enacted in the present and not solely at the ‘centre’, but also in other different geopolitical contexts. Eurocentric enactments of the international have been discussed through the spatial and temporal designations through which ‘Gezi’ and ‘Turkey’ were scripted into the international.
Matin, Kamran, ‘Redeeming the universal: Postcolonialism and the inner life of Eurocentrism’, European Journal of International Relations, 19:2 (2013), p. 354
T. R., William Fox and Annette Baker Fox, ‘The teaching of International Relations in the United States’, World Politics, 13:3 (1961), p. 358