For many of my generation of scholars, our first introduction to IPE grappled head on with its complexity, namely in the work of Robert Gilpin and his ‘blue book’, the magisterial synthesis of The Political Economy of International Relations (1987). The rich and nuanced interplay of human drives evident in IPE – for efficiency, for power, and for social status – was thoroughly explored by Gilpin, who although a realist, engaged deeply with alternative perspectives. In particular, three characteristics stood out in Gilpin’s work and provide a striking contrast to much of today’s scholarship. The first characteristic is a non-negotiable view of the economy as permeated by politics and state power. This may seem obvious, perhaps trivial, but if one reads current work in the field of IPE, one finds that power is strangely absent, and that economic motives often substitute for political ones. A second characteristic of Gilpin’s, expressed so well in the blue book, is the profoundly interdisciplinary nature of his scholarship. He seemed in preparing that book to have read and thoroughly digested nearly everything written on the topic, in the last several centuries, by an astonishing range of political scientists, historians, economists and sociologists. Again, while the current vogue in IPE is to burrow into a narrow circle of like-minded academics, Gilpin cast a much bigger and more catholic intellectual net, and showed that one can catch a lot more by doing so. For example, in War and Change in World
Politics (1981), Gilpin’s attention to power, legitimacy, and the rules of governance demonstrated his singular ability to engage both rational materialist and ideational arguments, and remains remarkable in a field riven with ontological cleavages. Finally, Gilpin’s work, in the blue book and elsewhere has always had a deep grounding in history. Placing any given episode of currency crisis or trade openness or closure within a long historical context allowed Gilpin to shed light on the broader dynamics at work in producing change or continuity. I suspect that these three facets of Gilpin’s work have contributed to his high ranking on the list of ‘most influential’ authors in Maliniak and Tierney’s survey of IPE scholars. The question (and puzzle) is how much Gilpin’s influence is actually visible in the prominent journal articles that are the focus of Maliniak and Tierney’s survey, and to what degree Gilpin’s model of pluralistic inquiry is still the norm. In terms of graduate training more generally, doctoral seminars in IPE taught at top research universities a decade or two ago also ranged across a diverse group of authors. My firsthand experience with a doctoral seminar in IPE taught at a first rank research university reflected an astonishingly rich set of ideas and methods. The required reading included Douglass North’s (1990) explanations of the rise and decline of nations as a function of the long history of their institutional arrangements, Peter Gourevitch’s (1986) probing of the social and political sources of severe economic depressions, Fernand Braudel’s (1992) stunning historical exploration of the role of exchange in transforming social and political relations, Stephen Krasner’s (1976, 1983) analysis of the role of hegemony on trade openness, and Ronald Rogowski’s (1990) path breaking work on political cleavages across factoral groups. I doubt my experience with IPE training was unique: in the United State academy in the first half of the 1990s, theoretical and methodological pluralism reined. Markets and politics were examined through the theoretical lens of microeconomics, sociology, historical institutionalism, power politics, and investigated with the aid of both qualitative and quantitative tools. IPE was deeply intertwined with the field of IR as a whole, with key debates about American decline and hegemonic stability, regimes, absolute and relative gains, the role of institutions all arising from substantive IPE and crossing over to illuminate much broader dynamics of international politics. Volumes such as the International Regimes book and Cooperation under Anarchy (Oye, 1986) brought together scholars from security, IPE and international organization (IO), whether realist, liberal, or ideational, under broad conceptual frameworks. Syllabi of the era, the debates in the literature, and Maliniak and Tierney’s data demonstrate the original character of IPE as diverse, and influenced by and influential beyond its subfield boundaries. The goal of doing high quality work on important questions, whatever the method, was what permeated much first rate graduate training.