At a time when the woes of a shrinking globe reach into the most insulated corners of the academic world, the study of international relations has become one of the most crucial areas of scholarship. For this reason, the recommendations of the Committee on the Behavioral Sciences for a center of international studies at Harvard deserves careful attention.
From the Law School to the School of Public Health, the University already has tremendous resources for work in international relations. But these facilities are scattered, and the work accomplished is largely done through uncoordinated, one-man research. What the committee visualizes is a center, like the Russian Research Center, which would bring to focus on a specific problem the talents of a team of researchers drawn from half a dozen different fields. Rarely, in international politics, is a problem confined to one particular area of study.
Like any such center, the one recommended would require a large amount of money. And even in this age of benevolent foundations, the needed funds would be difficult to raise. There are other reasons, not financial, against the establishment of a research center, however. Unless a whole corps of scholars were brought in, and the endowment required for their salaries would prohibit this, the center would remove members from existing departments where their talents are also badly needed. Moreover, scholars often hesitate to associate themselves with the type of institution where they might have to either spread their talents over too wide an area, or be forced to specialize too intensively.
Still, there is a real need for some means of coordinating the study of international relations--existing departmental lines are much too rigid. History Department experts in modern diplomatic history, for example, should be available to teach courses and guide research in international relations. The Economics Department should provide courses which more clearly stress the economic aspects of politics than the international economics courses now being taught. Sociologists form Social Relations and experts from the graduate schools of Business, Law, Public Health, and of course, Public Administration, could also contribute much to an international relations program. In the Government Department, the traditional home of international relations, existing programs emphasize far too much the problems of administrating American foreign policy. There is, of course, a real need for the foreign policy studies, and they should be maintained. But other areas of the present programs should receive new emphasis.
It would not take an expensive physical plant to coordinate all these various fields and schools. A Faculty committee, drawn from the members of all the departments whose work impinges on international relations could do the job of planning graduate study and directing large research programs that would cut across artificial departmental barriers. On the undergraduate level, it could function like the present committee on history and literature, providing a field of concentration, with courses drawn from all the allied departments. Thus, for both teaching and research, a committee would provide many of the advantages of a physical center for studies, without consuming large operating expenses. Eventually, like the Committee on General Education, a Committee for International Studies would acquire funds of its own, and could use them to endow chairs for well-known experts, such as Ralph Bunche, whose interests cut across the whole field of international relations.
Like anyone giving free advice, the Behavioral Sciences Committee has made some proposals the implementation of which would be wishful thinking at best. But in stressing the need for a center of international studies, they have touched a real problem. A co-ordinating committee would go a long way towards solving it.