Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Another Peril of Paradigm Mentalities: The Widening Academic and Policy Divide


Political Science


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



While the academic-policy divide has frequently been described and bemoaned, relatively few studies seek to explain why and how this divide has widened. I argue that a misapplication of Thomas Kuhn s ideas of paradigms and normal science to the study of International Relations (IR) can help explain the widening gap between academic research and policy makers. This paper is an extension of a previous paper, The Perils of Paradigm Mentalities, published in Perspectives on Politics (June, 2010). In this earlier work, I argued that the discipline s curious reliance on Kuhn gives rise to narrow, constricted, esoteric, and often incommensurable research. As Kuhn famously argued, The areas investigated by normal science are, of course, minuscule& By focusing attention upon a small range of relatively esoteric problems, the paradigm forces scientists to investigate some part of nature in detail and depth that would otherwise be unimaginable. The academic s narrow focus too often misses the big picture confronting the policy-maker. More troubling for the interactions between the scholar and the policy-maker are Kuhn s ideas of incommensurability. Kuhn acknowledged how the the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds and become members of different language-culture communities. In short, as the discipline becomes more specialized, narrow, and esoteric (i.e. Kuhn s ideas of progress), interactions between academics and policy-makers become more difficult. They simply work from different Kuhnian paradigms. This paper concludes with ways in which the gap between academics and policy-makers can be decreased.

Conference Name

Out of the Ivory Tower: Weaving the Theories and Practice of International Relations

Conference Location

London, UK

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