When did you last feel surprised?

February 23, 1996

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Edited by Walter Carlsnaes Sage, quarterly, Pounds 30.00 (individuals) Pounds 90.00 (institutions) ISSN 1354 0661

The establishment of a specifically European journal of international relations must surely be welcome. It is a discipline that, despite the influence of its English school, has been long been characterised as an American social science. Indeed, Kjell Goldmann's quantitative comparison of the content of seven international relations journals in 1972 and 1992 (published in the journal's second issue) suggests that the dominance of North Americans, largely of a particular theoretical cast, remains as pronounced as it was 20 years ago, and may even be deepening. Can this pervasive influence be cinternational relationscumvented?

Of course, one journal alone cannot carry this burden. The editor of this one, Walter Carlsnaes, makes clear that it is born from, and its life will be inextricably bound up with the communion of scholars who now meet regularly as Europeans, not simply as members of British, Nordic or American professional associations. But does the simple fact of sharing a continent give "us" particular concerns that are recognisably European? Will "our" journal plough a different furrow to the leading American journals?

Carlsnaes certainly suggests European international relations scholars are a distinctive breed. The fact that we live in different countries and have to travel through geographical and linguistic boundaries to form an academic community may have given us "a built-in antidote to parochialism". Certainly the journal has avoided parochialism to the extent that it caters for a mid-Atlantic audience. Already a number of academics resident in America have made an appearance. However, the spread of European contributors may need more attention. Scrutiny of the contributors' details reveals that the majority of academics published to date work in the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries.

If the contributors are not exclusively European (or are drawn unevenly from this continent) what can be said of the academic concerns tended by the journal? Insofar as one can judge on the showing of three issues, the editor's commitment to "pay special attention to Europe and its internal and external relations" has been adequately demonstrated. The issues to date have carried articles devoted to European institutions, regimes and relations, and to the theorising of integration. Of course these are the most obvious manifestations of the journal's geographical and intellectual moorings: the question remains as to whether the journal as a whole has committed itself to non-American approaches to international relations.

There are encouraging signs. The journal has carried contributions to metatheoretical debates in the reflectivist tradition, historically more pronounced on this side of the Atlantic. But it has not eschewed quantitative approaches, which find more favour in American international relations circles.

The journal has published articles that attempt to marry the theoretical and the empirical and attracted publications from leading scholars as well as academics at the start of their careers. And it has also published work in a variety of formats. There may be no book reviews, but along with conventional articles there are review articles, research notes and discussion pieces.

These debates are challenging. Wherever they hail from, international relations scholars would do well to read James Rosenau's spirited call for "the desirability of our being more in awe of our subject matter". The journal could do worse than to take this as a motto.

Carlsnaes lists many of the now "commonly accepted subfields" that will find a home in his journal (foreign policy analysis, international organisation, international political economy, peace, conflict and strategic studies and so forth). He also makes a rather ambiguous statement about "facilitating ties with cognate disciplines I such as international history, international law and international economics". No mention has been made yet of the considerable work being done in the field of gender and identity and IR. It was perhaps the feminist scholar Cynthia Enloe who prompted James Rosenau's thoughts, when she asked a panel of leading IR scholars gathered in Aberystwyth when they had last been surprised by events. For many of them, the posing of that question appeared their first surprise in some considerable time.

Susan Carruthers teaches in the department of international politics, University of Aberystwyth.

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