ISA Midwest 2020: Conference Presentation on Structural Materialism
Today, I had the great pleasure of join an insightful panel on International Relations Theory at the ISA (International Studies Association) Midwest 2020 Conference.
The ISA is the world’s largest and most prestigious organization of International Relations scholars and it is a delight to engage with a global community of outstanding thinkers.
The conference was a great opportunity to present a paper introducing my original theory of social sciences, structural materialism – my title and abstract is listed below.
Many thanks to Prof. Aaron M. Zack for his invaluable comments and to Prof. Brian Frederking for chairing the discussion!
It was also fantastic to hear about Professor Justyna Zając’s take on Poland’s foreign policy, Dr. Ryuta Ito’s work on realism and neuroscience and Srdjan Orlandic‘s work on constructivism-based research.
I look forward to joining more ISA conferences in 2021!
Author: Ivo Ganchev, Queen Mary University of London
Title: Breaking the Barriers of Innovation in International Relations: On Structural Materialism and Its Productive Potential as a Grand Theory
Abstract: Why and how has IR evolved since 1919? What explains shifts within established paradigms, emerging new approaches and changes in the relative popularity of theories over time? Historically, much of IR research has been shaped by external influences through borrowing ideas from other disciplines and reacting to short-term trends in international politics. This has produced a ‘bad habit’ of following, rather than leading genuine innovation. A change requires the establishment of a novel and distinct disciplinary departure point without undermining the hard-earned legitimacy of current paradigms. This paper proposes a grand theory which is termed Structural Materialism and focuses on the effects that material development and changes in social structures induce on each other. It is commensurate with the assumptions of most established IR theories and draws a key link between natural and social phenomena, emphasizing their combined impact on ‘the international’. An evaluation of the practical implications of this move concludes that it can be a productive tool for providing IR with greater disciplinary autonomy by shifting core debates to emerging, yet perpetual challenges for the international community, such as climate change and the importance of the Anthropocene, global health crisis management and the social impact of technological development.