What Does the International Mean?
IR’s Deep Ontology and the Promise
This piece argues that international relations (IR), the academic discipline whose remit is the study of
international reality, including international politics, has a ground of its own. There is an established
notion that IR is a subset of Political Science. I acknowledge the strength and the long lineage of this
view, but I argue nevertheless that IR is a discipline in its own right and it need not be seen as a sub-
discipline of Political Science. I also offer a snapshot of the academic riches that await anyone who will
participate in claiming for IR its fair share of the academic earth.
I go about this task in three parts. First, I outline the key reasons why IR is seen as a Political Science
subset and show their limitations. Second, I argue that IR is a separate discipline because it has a deep
ontology of its own, which is rooted in a distinct aspect of our social world: the coexistence of multiple
societies. A grasp of this deep ontology reveals that IR’s umbilical cord does not run back to Political
Science but, in fact, to a dimension of social reality. And when this claim is successfully defended,
deduction makes it obvious that international politics too is not a sub-discipline of Political Science but
of IR. Third, I briefly discuss the implications of grasping the deep ontology of IR and the properties of
the international for students of international politics and international relations of modern India and
Substantively, there is limited originality to this piece. The conviction about IR’s distinct disciplinary
status has been shared amongst some historical sociologists of international relations. Acting as a bridge-
builder between academic contexts, I reiterate this conviction in and for the Indian and South Asian
contexts because of its sheer importance. My hope is that colleagues and students of international
politics and relations in this part of the world will find it persuasive and share my enthusiasm for its
potential to enormously vitalize and creatively redefine our approach to our subject matter.
Note: This section is coordinated by Rajeshwari Deshpande (email@example.com).
1 Assistant Professor in International Politics, Centre for International Politics, School of International Studies, Central University
of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.
Teaching–Learning Politics in India
Studies in Indian Politics
© 2016 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Atul Mishra, Assistant Professor in International Politics, Centre for International Politics, School of International
Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.