Teaching International Political Sociology
- Vincent PouliotVincent PouliotDepartment of Political Science, McGill University
Teaching international political sociology (IPS) is intellectually rewarding yet pedagogically challenging. In the conventional International Relations (IR) curriculum, IPS students have to set aside many of the premises, notions, and models they learned in introductory classes, such as assumptions of instrumental rationality and canonical standards of positivist methodology. Once problematized, these traditional starting points in IR are replaced with a number of new dispositions, some of which are counterintuitive, that allow students to take a fresh look at world politics. In the process, IPS opens many more questions than it provides clear-cut answers, making the approach look very destabilizing for students. The objective of teaching IPS is to sow the seeds of three key dispositions inside students’ minds. First, students must appreciate the fact that social life consists primarily of relations that make the whole bigger than the parts. Second, they must be aware that social action is infused with meanings upon which both cooperative and conflictual relations hinge. Third, they have to develop a degree of reflexivity in order to realize that social science is a social practice just like others, where agents enter in various relations and struggle over the meanings of the world. There are four primary methods of teaching IPS, each with its own merits and limits: induction, ontology, historiography, and classics.