International Politics

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 343–368

Historical Sociology in International Relations: Open Society, Research Programme and Vocation

  • George Lawson

DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800195

Cite this article as:
Lawson, G. Int Polit (2007) 44: 343. doi:10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800195


Over the last 20 years, historical sociology has become an increasingly conspicuous part of the broader field of International Relations (IR) theory, with advocates making a series of interventions in subjects as diverse as the origins and varieties of international systems over time and place, to work on the co-constitutive relationship between the international realm and state–society relations in the processes of radical change. However, even as historical sociology in IR (HSIR) has produced substantial gains, so there has also been a concomitant watering down of the underlying approach itself. As a result, it is no longer clear what exactly HSIR entails: should it be seen as operating within the existing pool of available theories or as an attempt to reconvene the discipline on new foundations? This article sets out an identifiable set of assumptions and precepts for HSIR based on deep ontological realism, epistemological relationism, a methodological free range, and an overt normative engagement with the events and processes that make up contemporary world politics. As such, HSIR can be seen as operating as an open society, a research programme and a vocation.


historical sociologyInternational Relations theoryrelationism

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Lawson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Politics, Goldsmiths College, University of LondonLondonUK