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The false promise of global IR: exposing the paradox of dependent development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 October 2021

Ersel Aydinli*
Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
Onur Erpul
Ihsan Dogramaci Center for Foreign Policy and Peace Research, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey
Author for correspondence: Ersel Aydinli, E-mail:


Concerned about the continued dominance of Western International Relations (IR) theories, the global IR community has proposed various measures to address disciplinary hierarchies through encouraging dialogue and pluralism. By investigating the pedagogical preferences of instructors from 45 countries, this paper questions the global IR initiative's emancipatory potential, arguing that disciplinary practices in IR resemble those of dependent development. The study develops a new typology of IR theoretical (IRT) scholarship and examines the readings assigned in 151 IRT syllabi worldwide for evidence of similarity, replication, and assimilation. The findings show that mainstream core IRTs dominate syllabi globally, regardless of region, language of instruction, or instructors' educational/linguistic backgrounds. This domination extends to periphery scholars not using their own local products. Even when they do seek alternative approaches, they prefer to import core alternatives, that is, critical traditions, rather than homegrown IRTs. Finally, the results show that even in syllabi taught in local languages the readings remain dominated by core IRT works. These findings expose a structural defect in the current cry for global IR, by revealing the system's dependent development paradox. The paper concludes with suggestions for creating a symmetric interdependent structure, in the aim of achieving a genuine globalization of IR.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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