International political economy as a global conversation

Authored by: Mark Blyth

Routledge Handbook of International Political Economy (IPE)

Print publication date:  February  2009
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415771269
eBook ISBN: 9780203881569
Adobe ISBN: 9781135984014


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What you hold in your hands is not a textbook. Or, at the very least, it’s a rather unusual textbook. Most textbooks start off with a declarative. That such-and-such field of study is defined by parameters A and B, which is in turn best studied by methods P and Q. In this way boundaries are set, and what is “in” and what is “out” of the field of study in question, in terms of theories, topics, etc., is established. International Political Economy (IPE) textbooks have from the field’s inception attempted to do something similar; to define what IPE is and hence how it should be studied. For example, in many ways the original textbook of IPE, at least in the United States, was Robert Gilpin’s magisterial The Political Economy of International Relations (1987). In this work Gilpin defines IPE as “a set of questions to be examined by means of an eclectic mixture of analytic methods and theoretical perspectives” (1987: 9). Thirteen years later Jeffrey Frieden and David Lake (eds.), in their International Political Economy: Perspectives on Global Power and Wealth (2000: 1); define IPE as “the interplay of economics and politics in the world arena.” However, these seemingly quite open statements of intent belie what became a rather uniform way of answering these questions.

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