This article engages with the debate on how the role of ideas can be conceptualized within International Relations (IR) and International Political Economy (IPE) and how this is related to the discursive production of meanings embedded in the economy. It is argued that although constructivist and poststructuralist approaches can conceptualize the structural relevance of ideas, thereby improving on neorealist and liberal institutionalist approaches, they nevertheless fail to explain why certain ideas dominate over others at a particular moment in time. In response to constructivist and poststructuralist criticism, it is argued that the internal relation of ideas as material social processes is appreciated better through an historical materialist theory of history. In other words, the article shows how ideas can be conceived as material social processes through which signs become part of the socially created world in a way that surpasses the deficits of constructivist and poststructuralist approaches alike, whilst avoiding the problems of economism.