Conclusion: On the possibility of a non-Western IR theory in Asia

Amitav Acharya, Barry Buzan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


In the conclusion, we seek to ascertain the possibility of a non-Western International Relations theory (IRT) in Asia. We find while there is a good deal of writing that can be regarded as 'pre-theoretical', these have not been fully exploited or exported to other parts of Asia and beyond. There is certainly little that can be called an Asian IRT. This is not because scholars in the region accept that Western IRT is unchallengeable nor that it has found all the answers to the major problems of international relations. Nor is it because non-Western theories are 'hidden from the public eye'. It is rather due to a lack of institutional resources, the head-start of Western IRT, and especially the hegemonic standing of Western IRT. At the same time, the case studies point to the existence of abundant intellectual and historical resources that could serve as the basis of developing a non-Western IRT that takes into account the positions, needs and cultures of countries in the region. There is room in Asia for the development of non-Western IRT, but not an 'Asian School of international relations' (although national perspectives such as a 'Chinese School' are possible) which would assume a degree of convergence of perspectives and interactions among Asian scholars, which clearly does not exist. This development should and could go beyond simply 'joining in to the existing game seeking to add local colour and cases to existing theory', or developing a localist exceptionalism ('Asian values') or organizing local thinking into rebellions against prevailing orthodoxies (especially realism and liberalism) in the manner of the dependencia theory. Western IRT does not need to be replaced, but can and should be enriched with the addition of more voices and a wider rooting not just in world history but also in informed representations of both core and periphery perspectives within the ever-evolving global political, economic and social order. In the conclusion, we first offer some generalizations from the four case studies with a view to addressing the main question posed in the introduction: the apparent absence of IRT in Asia and possible explanations behind it. We then reflect on whether the question of a non-Western IRT in Asia is a meaningful one, and whether the way it is approached in this special issue could result in a productive debate that would advance the discipline of IR. Although our empirical focus is on Asia, we suggest some insights that have more general relevance for non-Western IRT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-438
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Relations of the Asia-Pacific
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Conclusion: On the possibility of a non-Western IR theory in Asia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this