Being Useful

Policy Relevance and International Relations Theory
Miroslav Nincic and Joseph Lepgold, Editors
With a Foreword by Alexander George
How can scholarship in international relations reach policy makers?


In the post-cold war world those engaged in making foreign policy seem adrift searching for new ideas. Despite the growing production—and in some cases the sophistication—of scholarly literature on questions in international relations, policymakers seem to ignore much of this scholarly work in their search for new policy ideas. The contributors to this volume examine the promise and possibilities of making contemporary international relations theory more relevant to the conduct of foreign policy and international affairs. The essays in this volume assess the gap between theory and practice.

The volume has two parts. The first part explores the failure of much international relations scholarship to address practical problems. These essays consider problems arising from differences in the questions that concern academics and policymakers, the institutional settings in which they operate, and the perceptual and motivational baggage they carry.

Essays in the second part of the book illustrate how international theory and research could be made useful to policy makers. First, these writers argue that scholars should pay more attention in theory to the way foreign policy is shaped by its domestic political context. Second, scholars should do more to demonstrate how certain areas of specialized research shed light on specific policy challenges and how approaches based on the rational-actor model can help make sense out of current policy dilemmas.

The contributors are Steven J. Brams, Emily O. Goldman, Bruce Jentleson, Eric V. Larson, Robert J. Lieber, Donna J. Nincic, the late Kenneth Organski, Donald Rothschild, Arthur Stein, and Ernest J. Wilson III, in addition to the editors.

This book will be of interest to scholars and analysts in the areas of international relations and foreign policy and policy makers who wish to know how scholarship could inform their own work.

Miroslav Nincic is Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis and is the author of numerous books and articles on international relations.

Joseph Lepgold is Associate Professor of Government, Georgetown University.

Praise / Awards

  • " worth reading and taking seriously"
    —Donald Sylvan, International Politics, December 2001

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  • 6 x 9.
  • 416pp.
  • 11 drawings, 22 tables.
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  • 978-0-472-08656-6

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