IR as a Social Science/IR as an American Social Science

IR as a Social Science/IR as an American Social Science

Anne-Marie D'Aoust

With his 1977 seminal article “An American Social Science: International Relations,” Stanley Hoffmann laid out his now (in)famous argument about the distinct American character of the discipline of international relations (IR). For Hoffmann, IR developed the way it did out of a set of distinctive intellectual predispositions, political circumstances, and institutional opportunities. A profound conviction that all problems can be resolved through the use and application of scientific methods, coupled with the belief that the sophistication of the natural sciences would benefit the social sciences, as well as the immigration of foreign-born scholars like Hans Morgenthau, Ernst Haas, and Karl Deutsch prior to and during World War II: all of this, Hoffmann argues, brought distinctive intellectual predispositions that led to the development of the new social science that IR was to become ( Hoffmann 1977 :35–47). America's rise to power after the war also led to the conviction that “a concern for America's conduct in the world blended with the study of international relations, for the whole world seems to be the stake of the American Soviet confrontation … To study United States foreign policy was to study the international system. To study the international system could not fail to bring one back to the role of the United States” ( Hoffmann 1977 :35).