The Multiplicity Project

IR is often seen as a discipline that imports ideas from other fields while having little to say to other subjects in return. Apparently lacking a clear common ground of its own, it has repeatedly seemed in danger of fragmenting too. ‘The end of IR’ has been proclaimed many times and is in the air again today. How should we respond? The goal of this project – including the section at EISAPEC19 – is to rediscover the neglected potential of IR among the human disciplines by refocusing in new ways on its unique object: the fundamental fact of human multiplicity. 

Human existence is multiple – societally, politically, culturally, developmentally and ecologically. And the consequences of this multiplicity – co-existence, difference, interaction, combination and dialectical change – are general features of the human world. IR is the only discipline fundamentally premised on this condition, which therefore provides both a distinctive common ground for IR theory and the basis for IR’s contribution to the social sciences and humanities.

We seek to explore this potential more thoroughly, widening our gaze to bring in new perspectives on and from multiplicity, and helping IR to see – and be seen – differently. We invite contributions from all corners of International Studies, of all persuasions and in all registers: theoretical, philosophical, empirical, historical, contemporary, policy-focused, ‘mainstream’ or ‘critical’.

The Genesis of the Multiplicity Project

In 2015 Justin Rosenberg delivered the EH Carr Memorial Lecture at Aberystwyth University. As his theme, he chose:

‘International Relations in the Prison of Political Science’

In the lecture, Rosenberg outlined a new way of thinking, seeing and doing International Relations scholarship based on the fundamental social fact of societal multiplicity. He elaborated the consequences of this multiplicity and showed how they provide a new basis for IR Theory – one that could help IR break out of the Prison of Political Science.

Rosenberg’s lecture, which was subsequently published in the leading journal International Relations, demonstrated how IR’s development as a discipline obscured and led it away from its own unique contribution to the study of the social world. This development prevented IR scholars from taking possession and realising the potential of their unique perspective, distorting IR scholarship and limiting its uptake among other disciplines.

Multiplicity provides a way of addressing these problems, of revealing IR’s hidden common ground and realising the discipline’s latent potential. Crucially, it provides a way of situating the international as the subject which does the explaining and interpreting, rather than the object to be explained or interpreted.

Multiplicity generated immediate interest and provoked a variety of responses in a forum in International Relations and a high-profile Roundtable at the 2017 ISA Annual Convention in Baltimore (TC32).

To more deeply explore the potential of this new approach, Rosenberg and Milja Kurki convened an EISA EWIS2018 workshop at the University of Groningen. They are in the process of editing a special issue of a leading journal on the basis of this event.

To broaden engagement with and use of Multiplicity, Rosenberg and Benjamin Tallis have convened a section of the EISA 2019 Pan-European Conference in Sofia. We now welcome proposals for contributions to this section, which can be submitted here.

Full details of the section description can be found here.