Is IPE in Decline as a Field of Study?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 6/01/2014 02:00:00 AM
Out of curiosity, I used the Google Ngram Viewer which records the number of instances a term appears in the books cataloged by the search giant (from the description, it works like a quantitative content analysis across all volumes indexed by Google). Here we can partially deduce the general awareness and popularity of "international political economy" as a field of study relative to closely related ones. I chose to compare IPE with "international politics "and "international economics." Meanwhile, I began the search from 1970 since most accounts date the emergence of the discipline to the first oil crisis of 1973.

Not to any real surprise, IPE still lags behind international politics and international economics in terms of book mentions (see chart below). As an IPE blogger, I myself understand that popular awareness of the discipline is, well, next to non-existent and I thus need to constantly explain what the field is about to those who stumble upon this blog somehow. Perhaps more troubling for us IPE scholars, book mentions of IPE have been falling since around 2002 as a percentage of all cataloged works. This is certainly an investigable question: why isn't IPE making more of a popular impact? Small-but-growing would have been nice; small-and-shrinking isn't. I would put it down to a lack of diversity in viewpoints among general IPE scholarship. For a discipline that considers itself both "interdisciplinary" and "international," it tends to feature too much output from the white malestream--what I call "White PE" [sic]. Not naming names, but the top journals in this field definitely have a [white, male] hegemony of a select few American and British universities talking to each other at academic conferences and calling it "international." If you are not part of their limited conversation and schooled in its abstruse nuances, well, tough luck.

I guess things have to change if we are ever going to attract a broader audience since what Benjamin Cohen calls "mid-level theorizing"--economics envy masquerading as IPE--has lost its relevance. This may shock the white malestream, but it seems not everyone is as fascinated with the concerns and perspectives of a precious few privileged folks who often do not speak any language other than English. The evidence is clear: IPE is in decline by this measure. I would attribute this to its failure to live up to its claims of being "interdisciplinary" and "international." IMHO, we need homegrown Asian theory emerging especially out of East, South and Southeast Asia. Genuine African perspectives would be welcome, too. Certainly, more scholarship out of the white malestream won't save us since the current state of Anglophone hegemony doesn't seem to be expanding the discipline. IPE, you have been warned: change your ways by really globalizing or fall into even greater obscurity.