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Ideas and Identities

A Festschrift for Andre Liebich

Edited By Jaci Eisenberg and Davide Rodogno

This volume gathers contributions at the intersection of history and politics. The essays, covering such topics as diverse as Italian identity in the Tientsin concession, international refugee policies in the interwar period and after, and the myths and realities of the Ukrainian-Russian encounter in independent Ukraine, show that history provides better grounding as well as a more suitable paradigm for the study of politics than economics or other hard sciences. All of the contributors have a common link – doctoral work supervised and shaped by Professor Andre Liebich – but have since expanded widely in the world. Hence, the authors of this work at once share a common base and yet benefit from diverse viewpoints.
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History and Politics: Happy Marriage, Unhappy Divorce: Andre Liebich

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History and Politics: Happy Marriage, Unhappy Divorce

ANDRE LIEBICH

I

The fall of the Soviet Union was a turning-point in international relations. It was also – or should have been – a milestone in the academic study of international relations. A world-shattering event, such as the collapse of one of two existing superpowers and with it the disappearance of an ideology and a world built upon that ideology, shook the world to its core. It also undermined the intellectual foundations of a political science that claimed powerful explanatory and predictive value. In fact, mainstream political science recovered rapidly from its initial self-questioning disorientation. It was left to others to draw conclusions from the failure to anticipate and perhaps even to explain so far-reaching an event. It is such reflection that has led observers to reconsider the limits of social science and the consequences of the divorce that has separated the study of politics from the study of history, to the detriment of both disciplines.

The first to suffer what may be called an “epistemological crisis” with the fall of the Soviet Union were, unsurprisingly, Sovietologists. For decades, political scientists specializing in the Soviet Union had been struggling to catch up with the methodological sophistication that their counterparts in other sub-fields were so brilliantly deploying. Grounded in the study of American and other Western societies, political science drew its legitimacy from the abundant empirical data which it enjoyed thanks to the openness of the societies...

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