Whether you are a security studies expert, an English School thinker, or just the average IR enthusiast, you are more than likely to have come across the writings of Barry Buzan. Widely known for his work within the English School and the Copenhagen School of security studies, Barry Buzan has been the Montague Burton professor at LSE’s IR Department, a role which now concludes as he retires at the end of the current academic year.
As an established IR figure, Professor Buzan emphasizes the ongoing potential of IR scholarship, as multiple components of the field remaining underexplored. Such potential is particularly seen within the English School, which has the capacity to develop into a grand theory and provide ‘the bigger picture’ for international relations. This idea emerged while reconvening the English School during the 1990s, and continues to grow until today. Additionally, through his work, Professor Buzan has addressed the general challenges and weaknesses of IR as a field and its inability to affect other disciplines. Today, he is still concerned that, although IR addresses the meta-side of other disciplines, it shows a natural tendency for fragmentation. Consequently, IR scholars are recognized for their contributions only within IR, while their work fails to have much if any impact within other disciplines, particularly sociology.
Looking back at his career thus far, Professor Buzan concludes that his works within the Copenhagen School and the English School have been his most notable achievements. His book People, States and Fear is widely recognized (though mainly outside the US) as a benchmark within the literature on international security. Today, he considers his recent engagement with the IR community in China to be an exciting and promising new project: “The English School offers an attractive alternative to Chinese IR and is appealing due to its historical approach”.
Although his teaching career ends this year, Professor Buzan will remain an active IR scholar, both through his work at LSE, as well as independently. He will remain a REF coordinator until 2013, a Senior Fellow in IDEAS and an Associate in the Asia Research Centre, while he will still run research seminars and give occasional lectures. “Retiring feels more like a permanent sabbatical”. Professor Buzan will continue writing, with numerous projects already in the works, including a teaching book on the English School, an edited volume on International Society in East Asia, as well as co-authored books with Richard Little and George Lawson.
Along with his academic interests, Professor Buzan enjoys motorcycling, playing chess, and visiting Copenhagen and Vancouver, cities which he holds particular affection for. He often finds pleasure in reading – and writing – science fiction, and commends the sci-fi novels by Iain M. Banks. Despite his interest in watching Western and Sci-Fi movies and enjoying listening to blues or blues rock, he considers himself “a bit of a barbarian” and declares his no real interest in art. He regards H.G. Wells as a highly influential figure, while he quotes Ole Waever in saying: “Anything is possible; it only depends on how many things have to change to make it so”.
In concluding the interview, Professor Buzan offers a personal advice to all young IR scholars: “do what you are interested in”. As he continues to inspire younger scholars, we wish he enjoys his new beginnings and succeeds in his initiatives both within and beyond IR.