Tradition as Invention: The 'Traditions Tradition' and the History of Ideas in International Relations
Although they have been a central feature of the disciplinary history of International Relations, little attention has been paid to the historical and epistemological implications of designating certain sets of writers and their ideas as belonging to particular `traditions of thought'. In light of this, this article is concerned with the theoretical conceptualisation of the term `tradition', its historical connotations, and its specific application to the history of IR scholarship. Relying heavily on Michael Oakeshott's philosophy of history, it argues not only that traditions are inherently `invented' phenomena but that the purposes for which they are invented - that is, whether they are historical or practical in orientation - is central to the analysis of their contents. Having established a theoretical understanding of `tradition', the article discusses the works of John G. Gunnell and Brian C. Schmidt as providing a number of useful ways in which traditions, thus conceived, might be analysed before demonstrating how this might be done in IR scholarship using the works of Martin Wight and Hedley Bull as a pertinent example. In doing so, the article also seeks to make a more general claim about the need for greater historical awareness in contemporary IR scholarship.
Millennium: Journal of International Studies