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International Political Economy (IPE) and the Demand for Political Philosophy in an Era of Globalisation

Richard Higgott

CSGR Working paper 210/06

International political economy (IPE) and the demand for political philosophy in an era of globalisation


Recent years have seen international political economy (IPE) become an increasingly bifurcated field of inquiry. On the one hand deductive, rational choice driven analysis has taken IPE increasingly in the direction of economic analysis toute courte. This has especially been the case in the United States. On the other hand, driven more by the largely inductive tradition in the non-economic social sciences, IPE, especially in a European and 'southern' context has become more, indeed as some would argue excessively, 'reflexive' in direction. One approach asserts its social scientific status while the other asserts its normative imperatives. This bifurcation is undesirable and, this paper argues, unsustainable in the contemporary era. The need to understand and explain globalisation should, in both theory and practice, make this bifurcation redundant. Fortunately there are elements of an evolving IPE that is increasingly historically and empirically grounded, analytically sophisticated and in search of tighter, less indulgent, more policy relevant, normative purchase on key issues of IPE such as justice, equality and development. It is doing this by paying close attention to work on these issues by normative political philosophers. Similarly, political philosophers are recognising the need to come to terms with the research agendas of IPE. This coming together is not an easy process. Indeed it is in its formative stages. But it is an important scholarly project, and one which should cast larger policy shadows over the global order, which is likely to gather momentum over the next few years.


IPE, globalisation, rationalism, reflexivism, normative philosophy.

Contact Details

Richard Higgott

CSGR, University of Warwick

Coventry CV4 7AL