HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs

Abstract

Most social scientists would like to think that their work helps solve important problems. For scholars of international relations, there is certainly no shortage of issues to address: ethnic and religious conflict, managing a fragile world economy, global terrorism, climate change, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the Euro crisis, etc.—the list is endless. In this increasingly complex and still-contentious global order, one might think that scholarly expertise about international affairs would be a highly valued commodity. One might expect to see academic theorists working overtime to devise practical solutions to various real-world problems and playing prominent roles in public debates about foreign policy. Yet this does not seem to be the case for most of them. Former policy makers complain that academic scholarship is “either irrelevant or inaccessible. . . locked within the circle of esoteric scholarly discussion,” and one academic recently charged that “scholars are focusing more on themselves, less on the real world. . . Inquiry is becoming obscurantist and in-grown.” This situation is not what I anticipated when I decided to pursue a PhD in political science in the spring of 1976, while studying at Stanford University’s overseas program in Berlin, Germany.

Citation

Walt, Stephen. "Theory and Policy in International Relations: Some Personal Reflections." Journal of International Affairs 7.2 (September 2012).