chapter  3
20 Pages

The (s)pace of international relations: Simulation, surveillance, and speed

In his 1988 presidential address to the International Studies Association, Robert Keohane gave notice of a new approach to the study of international relations. He labeled it “reflective,” in the sense of reflecting, for the most part critically, on how institutions are thought and written about in international relations. In an edited version of the address that appeared in the International Studies Quarterly, Keohane went on to criticize the reflective approach for failing to research the empirical reality of institutions. Within the criticism lies an implicit imprecation: if one is to find a “genuine research program” it is better to take the enlightened road of rationalist reflection than the benightedwood of poststructuralist reflexivity (Keohane, 1988). There is, moreover, a metaphoric power in Keohane’s choice of terms which insinuates a kind of generic passivity in the reflectivist camp. It would seem that the reflectivist, by definition, prefers or has little choice but to reflect others’ thoughts and actions rather than to engage in the more productive work of empirically testing hypotheses. Then, after dazzling the reflective creature on this familiar road of the enlightenment tradition with an impressive pair of twin high-beams-rationalist theory and empirical research-Keohane concludes that

“eventually, we may hope for a synthesis between the rationalistic and reflective approaches” (Keohane, 1989: 393).