Call for Papers: Post-Truth Telling in International Relations: Misdiagnosis, Complacency and Critique

Call for Papers: Post-Truth Telling in International Relations: Misdiagnosis, Complacency and Critique

Call for Papers for a forthcoming Special Section of New Perspectives.

Recent events and dynamics in world politics, including the election of Donald Trump in America, the conduct of the Brexit campaign, and concerns about information warfare in the context of resurgent geopolitics in Europe, have come together to foster a sense that truth-telling has been the casualty of our era. There is widespread anxiety about the future of democratic politics, and the apparent new fragility of the Liberal international order. International pessimism appears to be a distinguishing feature of the so-called ‘post-truth era’.

In recent literatures three clear responses have emerged, channelled by well established traditions of international thought:

The first response has been to contend that the issues in question are simply not new. Truth and politics have never had an easy relationship. Lying has always been a normal part of the conduct of domestic and international power politics, and in particular, inter-state war in accordance with Sun Tzu’s doctrine of deception. New technologies may have introduced new stakes into the game, requiring that international relations now be understood as a form of combat between strategic narratives fought upon a complex new media terrain, but the game itself has never been about truth but rather power. Such a realist constructivism, perhaps, risks a misdiagnosis of what is new about our current situation.

The second response has been that the norms underpinning contemporary international order are far more resilient than levels of contemporary anxiety about truth-telling imply. The international society of states, and the contiguous intersecting global regime of human rights and international law, constitute a robust architecture that imposes costs on those who, for example, freely break contracts, or achieve a reputation as a systematic purveyor of falsehood.  Such faith and optimism in the Liberal order, perhaps, risks complacency when significant or key actors in world politics appear to have ceased to acknowledge established normative or legal frames.

The third is to suggest that the era of untruth is a self-inflicted wound, long in the making. Just when the capacity to ‘speak truth to power’ is needed more than ever, we discover that this capacity has been blunted by the intellectual trajectories scholars have set upon over the last three decades. The abandonment of scientific objectivity, at least as an aspiration, it is argued, leaves some scholars with insufficient means at their disposal to combat blunt falsehood. Various iterations of this argument have suggested that Critiques’ assault on Enlightenment values has left international scholarship as a whole unable to fulfill its mission to be of use in an era of post truth-telling. Others argue, however, that the problem is not so much postmodern destabilisation of ’truth’ so much as what scholars have done – or failed to do – with it. These debates clearly risk abridging the historical role and social utility of critique.

We invite submissions that speak to the predicament of truth-telling in contemporary international relations, from a wide range of perspectives and approaches.

We ask for draft abstracts to be sent to Dr Nick Michelsen – and Dr Benjamin Tallis – – by June 30th, and we will confirm successful submissions by the middle of July, with full draft papers due by the end of October.