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Culture(s) in International Relations

Edited By Grażyna Michałowska and Hanna Schreiber

This book presents a critical reflection on how the presence of «culture» in theory and practice of international relations is reflected in International Relations as a research field. The authors analyze culture in International Relations scholarship and evaluate culture in the practice of International Relations, as well as in International Law. The contemporary social sciences have put culture on a pedestal. The proliferation of the meanings associated with the notion of what culture is, has gone very far. The results of analyses presented in this book are meant to contribute to solving the existing confusion, to identify the research fields in IR where culture appears.

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Introduction. Culture(s) in International Relations (Grazyna Michalowska / Hanna Schreiber)


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Grażyna Michałowska, Hanna Schreiber

Introduction. Culture(s) in International Relations

No matter how much one trains one’s attention on the supposedly hard facts of social existence, who owns the means of production, who has the guns, the dossiers, or the newspapers, the supposedly soft facts of that existence, what do people imagine human life to be all about, how do they think one ought to live, what grounds belief, legitimizes punishment, sustains hope, or accounts for loss, crowd in to disturb simple pictures of might, desire, calculation, and interest. […] Bent on certitude, Olympianism, or codifiable method, or simply anxious to pursue a cause, one can ignore such facts, obscure them, or pronounce them forceless. But they do not thereby go away. Whatever the infirmities of the concept of ‘culture’ (‘cultures’, ‘cultural forms’…) there is nothing for it but to persist in spite of them. Tone deafness, willed or congenital, and however belligerent, will not do.

Clifford Geertz1

The ‘tone-deafness’ of international relations researchers with respect to the impact of culture on the contemporary world may be now considered an illness of the past. For over thirty years (or even longer, depending on the history of particular discipline) we have been witnessing a ‘cultural turn’ in virtually all social sciences and disciplines of the humanities, including international relations2.

Subsequent surges of interest in the role of culture in international relations, especially from the Western point...

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