North America A glimpse into the history of science

A glimpse into the history of science


International relations was a discipline that became popular, especially after the Cold War. The civil service is referred to as Foreign Affairs. But this field was treated like a sub-branch of the Cold War period Political Sciences. Civil Service was also changed to Political Sciences. I have always wondered why this was the case. It was perhaps specific to the Cold War. The world was separated as democratic and autocratic regimes. In relation to this, academic interest was focused on this fundamentally ideological separation, and prioritized understanding and explaining how political organizations, structures, or regimes formed and differentiated. In other words, internal differences were referred to as independent (determinative), and external differences as dependent (determined) variables.

 Meanwhile, Cold War constructs had stopped state and international relations. Any action in this field was quite limited. The detente and peaceful coexistence periods, which transformed the Cold War atmosphere that emerged in the 1960s, were substantially the result of foreign affairs efforts. This is perhaps the essential dynamic that started the autonomization of international relations.

 Once the Cold War ended, this autonomy was at its most developed state. It almost completely separated from political sciences. The Sept. 12 events in particular should be remembered. First, the name reformed from “Hariciye” to “Uluslararası İlişkiler” (both meaning “international relations, with the first being an Arabic term, and the second, a Turkish term). Reform was not limited to this. It seemed like Political Sciences was put away and baptized as public relations. Political sciences were merged with disciplines such as Urbanization and Environmental Problems, Administrative Sciences. International Relations was structured independently of Political Sciences. Sure, there were common courses. In fact, even though they were a minority, the separation of departments in some faculties continued to be structured more traditionally as Political Sciences and International Relations.

 It is important to understand all this. The world was undergoing transformation. We were now grasping the globalization era. This was an open-ended and hopeful period. States were being downsized. Instead, a new network of relations was being formed through social, in fact, through civil society organizations. Foreign Affairs was, after all, a state concept. Yet, new relations would be carried on through civil society organizations (CSOs), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), not between states like in the old times. States should not be overshadowing these.


This was a period in which economism emerged as well. The economy has been separate from Finance for quite some time. But this time, the Business and Engineering disciplines pervading and making dependent on the Economy as a science was the other side of the process. Business used to run in the past as an institute alone. The complete opposite happened in university structuring post-cold War. Business suddenly emerged. The Business departments, which those who failed to get into Economy faculties chose to study due to their low scores, started to become popular. The economy, on the other hand, fell from grace.


This was a transitory period. As the crises of globalization started to prevail, the International Relations and Business departments started to lose popularity. The academic reactions to this are quite thought-provoking. The Business discipline rapidly expanded to new specializations. New departments such as Human resources, Public Relations, Marketing, and Finance were established. Most of these became volatile. It seems that Finance is the only sub-discipline that survived somehow. International Relations departments remained as a name only, but its curriculum rapidly shifted towards realpolitik and strategy. Eventually, psychology came through among them all and won – which is the ironic dimension of the process.


The course is obviously very problematic. Growing economic crises on the one hand and the ongoing wars and escalating war risks on the other hand are painting an increasingly pessimistic picture by the day. Should universities not be involved in these processes? Yet, economists who present the economy with all the realities, good or bad, are quite rare. Nobody listens to them anyway. What does the Business department say in a world in which a substantial portion of businesses has become like zombies say? What problem can be solved by Political Sciences experts, International Relations experts talking outside of the social context? We may be entering a new scholastic era. One of three things is being done. When a current affair is on the agenda, some academics start to make a story out of it at the simplest level, at the introduction level. Everyone is over it by the end of the story, and it stops there. The second approach is often producing unbacked conspiracy and jealousy theories and telling a story as well. Surely this approach raises attention. The last one is throwing the dice, very much like gamblers. Claiming that such and such will happen, and when it doesn’t happen, repeat the same thing at a different table with no shame. This is the same in every field. In other words, the history of science was never this slack.

Süleyman Seyfi Öğün
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