Scaling IR Theory: Geography's Contribution to Where IR Takes Place

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This article re-engages international relations’ (IR) longest debates on “where” and “why” global politics happens: the levels-of-analysis debate and the agent-structure debate. It argues for the continuing relevance of the conceptual questions contained in these debates, but critiques the inadequacy of current iterations of those debates in the international relations literature. In it, I introduce to political scientists political geographers’ concept of scales and scalar processes to replace levels, agents, and structures. I outline the benefits of such an approach for the substance and method of IR's studies of global politics. I then formalize a scalar approach to global politics in six principles, modeled after Morgenthau's six principles of political realism. The article concludes with suggested directions for a scalar approach to IR, focusing on reformulations of IR's approaches to the study of the War on Terror.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472-500
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2008


  • scale
  • geography
  • international relations
  • international relations theory
  • space
  • levels of analysis

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