A Century of International Relations: The Politics of Crisis, Uncertainty, and Disorder

First Copenhagen-Tokyo IARU Conference in International Relations

Participation is by invitation only.

The discipline of International Relations was allegedly founded in the interwar period to solve the problem of war and conflict. The conventional story is that it was born during what E.H. Carr called the ‘Twenty Years’ Crisis (1919-1939) of major economic and financial crisis, protectionism and trade wars, the rise of populism, nationalism, and illiberalism, growing threats to the existing international order posed by a power transition from the ‘haves’ to ‘have-nots’, increasingly assertive territorial and geopolitical revisionism and an inability, if not unwillingness, on the part of established (liberal) powers to provide global leadership. Whether this origin myth is true or not, it is hard not to experience some sense of déjà vu as the discipline prepares for the centenary celebrations next year; that we are yet again experiencing another ‘interregnum’ period of crisis, uncertainty, and disorder, and in that sense that history has returned with a vengeance, little progress has made and, therefore, that there is little reason to celebrate.

This first Copenhagen-Tokyo Conference in International Relations brings together scholars of international political economy, security studies, diplomacy and foreign policy to discuss the politics of crisis, uncertainty, and disorder and the role of academic International Relations in it.

The conference is organized into two corresponding sessions guided by a number of sub-questions that participants are invited to address in the general discussion:

The Politics of Crisis

Has world politics entered into a state of crisis and disorder? If so, what does the current ‘crisis’ look like from Europe and Asia – and how is it different from earlier crises? As the state of crisis seems to extend from traditional domains (political, economic, currency, diplomatic, territorial, geopolitical crises) to a range of non-traditional – and in some cases newer - ones (climate, technological, truth, humanitarian, food, migration crises), what are the dangers of lumping together these disparate crises into an overarching discourse of systemic—or perhaps ‘organic’—crisis: the “Twenty Years’ Crisis” then or the current debate on the crisis of the ‘liberal international order’? What does the discourse of ‘crisis’ do in the current political climate and what policies is it conducive of (austerity, containment, etc.)? Finally, participants are invited to reflect on the extent to which their own work touches upon the politics of crisis.

IR on/in Crisis

In the second session, participants are invited to reflect the role of the discipline of International Relations after a century of great expectations to its role in crisis and conflict resolution: Is there some modest cause for optimism, if not celebration, or is IR itself in a state of crisis? What is our public responsibility as academics and experts in relation to contemporary political anxieties about a looming crisis and wider transformations of global order?


From Copenhagen: Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Christian Bueger, Peter Marcus Kristensen, Jens Ladefoged Mortensen, Karen Lund Petersen, Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Ben Rosamond, and Trine Villumsen
From Tokyo: Kiichi Fujiwara, Yee Kuang Heng, Hideaki Shiroyama, and Akio Takahara.