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The Seventh Session of the Eurasian Online Seminar with Barry Buzan

On Friday, 8 May 2020, the International Laboratory on World Order Studies and the New Regionalism and Department of International Relations of the National Research University Higher School of Economics were delighted to host a world-renowned authority on international relations Professor Barry Buzan. The topic of his talk was "Deparochialising IR: Benchmark Dates from a Global Military Perspective".

Barry Buzan is Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the LSE (formerly Montague Burton Professor); honorary professor at Copenhagen, Jilin, and China Foreign Affairs Universities; a Senior Fellow at LSE Ideas; and a Fellow of the British Academy. He took his first degree at the University of British Columbia (1968), and his doctorate at the London School of Economics (1973). From 1988 to 2002 he was Project Director at the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI). From 1995 to 2002 he was research Professor of International Studies at the University of Westminster, and before that Professor of International Studies at the University of Warwick. He was Chairman of the British International Studies Association 1988-90, Vice-President of the (North American) International Studies Association 1993-4, and founding Secretary of the International Studies Coordinating Committee 1994-8. From 1999-2011 he was general coordinator of a project to reconvene the English school of International Relations, and from 2004-8 he was editor of the European Journal of International Relations. 

Professor Buzan has made a significant contribution to IR theory. His thought has helped to shape International Security Studies since the 1980s, and the English School and International Historical Sociology since the 1990s. Being a leading figure of the Copenhagen school, he developed regional security complex theory, and helped to develop and promote Ole Wæver’s theory of securitization. He is considered to be a major figure in the English school of international relations theory, where he is identified with clarifying structural approaches to the study of international and world society. 

Professor Buzan has written, co-authored or edited over twenty-five books, written or co-authored nearly one hundred and fifty articles and chapters, and lectured, broadcast or presented papers in over twenty countries. His more recent books include: An Introduction to the English School of International Relations: The Societal Approach (2014, with George Lawson), The Global Transformation: History, Modernity and the Making of International Relations (2015); Global International Society: A New Framework for Analysis (2018, with Laust Schouenborg); The Making of Global International Relations: Origins and Evolution of IR at its Centenary (2019, with Amitav Acharya) and Rethinking Sino-Japanese Alienation: History Problems and Historical Opportunities (2020, with Evelyn Goh). 

Professor Buzan is currently working with Tarak Barkawi on a new IR periodisation from a global military history perspective. The point of his new paper is to question the standard, West-centric benchmark dates that are widely used to structure teaching and thinking about IR: 1648, 1815, 1919, 1945, 1989. These are all hinged around big wars centred on Europe, and take little or no account of the global South. The paper asks what sort of benchmark dates we would get, and why, if we took a perspective from global, rather than European, military history. The relevance of this is that we are rapidly moving out of the Western era in IR, and need to start thinking about how to periodise IR in terms relevant to global international society as a whole. 

Professor Buzan has agreed to present in his lecture the preliminary results of this paper as a thought experiment. The professor highlighted the benchmark dates that influenced the balance of powers in the world, starting from the 15th century. In particular, in contrast to the European events described above, he proposed the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, which destroyed the Byzantium “shield” of medieval Europe from the Turks, the discovery of America, the first opium war of 1840-1842, which led to a clash of European and Asian forces, the Vietnam War of 1955-1975, which revealed the vulnerability of previously considered invincible US military forces, etc. At the same time, Professor Buzan noted that, in his opinion, events such as the Thirty Years War in Europe or the Taiping Uprising of 1850-1864 should not be considered as key dates in world military history, since these events were local and had a great influence only on the regional balance of power, but not on the global history of international relations as a whole.