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Post-positivism in international political theory relativist or revivalist? O’Callaghan, Terry 1992

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POST-POSITIVISM IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL THEORYRELATIVIST OR REVIVALIST?BYTERRY O’CALLAGHANB.A., Flinders University of South Australia, 1989B.A.(Hons), Flinders University of South Australia, 1990A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTSFOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTSINTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCEWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASEPTEMBER 1992Terry O’Callaghan 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.Department of Political ScienceThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate Oct. 14, 1992DE-6 (2/88)11ABSTRACTAlthough the problem of relativism has been a perennial one in humanstudies, it has only recently become a central issue for international politics. Onthe one hand, scientific realists have charged post-positivists with espousing adoctrine which amounts to little more than an intellectual free for all. In return,post-positivists argue that to avoid relativism, these scientific realists appeal to amethodological procedure which can only be described as a fiction.This thesis argues that the scientific realist approach both internationalpolitical theory and to the problem of relativism is severely and unredeemablyflawed. And although I make no claim to solve the problem of relativism, I doargue that a different reading of international theory relativism is possible whichallows us to make sense of the current relativism. In other words, I argue that tosimply denounce relativism as a bad in-and-for-itself is short-sighted andoverlooks the fact that relativism does make a knowledge claim upon thediscipline of international politics. This claim is that as a form of theoreticalalienation it forces us to look for its source. I argue that this is to be found in themarginalization of values and history from international theory in favour of avalue-free science. What this tells us is that to avoid relativism we need to bringvalues and history back into theory.I”TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract.Table of Contents. iiiAcknowledgements. ivQuotation. vIntroduction. 1Chapter OneFrom Classical Realism to “Crisis”: InternationalPolitical Theory Confronts Post Positivism. 9Chapter TwoPositivism, Post-Positivism, and the Problem ofRelativism. 24Chapter ThreeTwo Forms of Post-Positivist Relativism. 41Chapter FourThe Structural Realism Response to Relativism: HowNot to Deal With the Problem. 53Chapter FivePost-Positivism in International Theory: Relativist orRevivalist? 75Conclusion. 87Bibliography. 91ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to thank my supervisor Professor K.J. Hoisti. I owe a debt ofthanks to Darryl Jarvis. Not only has he been a good friend over the past fewyears, but this thesis is better for his suggestions and his tireless proof-reading.Thanks also to Sharon and Annie. They have been good friends and madewriting easier during the last three months.Thanks also to my sister and mother. They made it financially possible toreturn to Canada to finish this thesis.I also want to thank the Burgess Family for their help over the past years.That I have made it this far is testament to their affection and continuing beliefin the importance of what I am doing.Finally, I would like to dedicate this thesis to the memory of W.A.B.(1905-1992)VYou were not made to live as beasts,but to pursue virtue and knowledge.Dante Alighieri, L’inferno1INTRODUCTION2There is a new form of scientism evident in international political theory. 1Taking its lead from Kenneth Waltz (1979), it argues, among other things, that anunderstanding of realism is possible which not only overcomes the theoreticalweaknesses of Classical Realism, but has a degree of “scientific” rigour approachingthe natural sciences.By appealing to a structuralist logic and utilizing the tenets of Scientific-Empiricism, it is considered by its proponents to be “an impressive intellectualachievement: an elegant, parsimonious, deductively rigorous instrument forscientific discovery.”2 I use the term “Scientific Realism” to designate a theoreticalposition which is broadly committed to this sort of project.3 It is, for example, to befound in the writings of Robert Keohane (1986), Robert Gilpin (1981), Barry Buzan(1989), 3. David Singer (1986), and George Modeiski (1982).It is certainly true that there are differences between these scholars. Theissue of change within the structure of the system is the most obvious point ofdifference among them.4 However, as this thesis is concerned only withepistemological questions, it is valid to consider the work of these scholars as arelatively homogeneous body of literature.5 Each one acknowledge that positivismprovides a powerful methodology for Political Realism. Each one holds to an1.The best discussion of this intellectual shift within the discipline is to be found inAshley (1981).2.Keohane (1986:167-168).3.This version of Realism has also been termed Neorealism, Structural Realism,Hyper-realism, Technical Realism, and Modern Realism.4.Buzan (1989), Keohane (1986), and Gilpin (1981) have all criticized Waltz’s formof structuralism.5.Wendt (1987, 1991) has criticised this form of realism on its structuralist logic.3instrumental conception of rationality and to a utilitarian understanding of morality.Finally, each one appeals to a structural explanation of international politics.6Without doubt, Scientific Realism has made an enormous impact oninternational political theory. Buzan (1989:3) has even argued that Waltz’s theorymay well establish the “identity of international Relations as a field of study distinctfrom Political Science.” But Scientific Realism has also been the subject of intensecriticism. Indeed, it has probably done more to divide the discipline of internationalpolitics than any other theoretical framework to date. For it has precipitated anintense epistemological debate unlike any other in the discipline’s rather shorthistory. As James Der Derian (1988:189) puts it:International relations is undergoing an epistemological critiquewhich calls into question the very language, concepts, methods, andhistory (that is, the dominant discourse) which constitutes and governsa tradition of thought in the field.Post-positivism is an expression of this epistemological critique. It rejects theclaim that a “science” of international politics is the most appropriate means ofunderstanding international phenomena. Richard Ashley (1986:258), for example,argues that Scientific Realism:is a positivist structuralism that treats the given order as a naturalorder, limits rather than expands political discourse, negates ortrivializes the significance of variety across time and space,subordinates all practice to an interest in control, bows to the ideal ofa social power beyond responsibility, and thereby deprives politicalinteraction of those practical capacities which make social learningand creative change possible.”For all the power of this sort of critique however, it is undermined by a counterclaim that Post-positivism is itself a form of relativism.6.Even though their individual understanding of what a structure is may be at oddswith each other. Compare, for example, Waltz (1979) and Modelski (1978).4It is, perhaps, somewhat ironic that the strongest articulation of the charge ofrelativism is to be found within the logic of Scientific Realism.7 Yet they do notnecessarily make this claim. Rather, it is implied in their scientism. Any view whichdenies the universality of scientific method, which posits a multiplicity ofinterpretations, which does not keep fact and values, theory and practive, subjectand object separate, must succumb to some form of relativism. In other words, oncewe give up our epistemological foundations, or give up on the project of groundingknowledge, we are then left with what Kratochwil and Ruggie (1986:768) call“explanatory anarchy. Richard Bernstein (1983:2-3) captures the spirit of this debatewhen he writes:From a manifest perspective, many contemporary debates are stillstructured within tradition extremes. There is still an underlying beliefthat in the final analysis the only viable alternatives open to us areeither some form of objectivism, foundationalism, ultimate groundingof knowledge, science, philosophy, and language or we areineleuctably led to relativism, scepticism, historicism, and nihilism.In essence, then, I am making two claims. The first is that the intellectualdifferences between Scientific Realism and Post-positivism hinge, to some extent, onthe problem of relativism. Second, that Bernstein’s characterization of the debate interms of objectivism and relativism is eminantly applicable to the issue as it hasmanifested itself in international politics.We can, then, put this issue in the following way. If it is true that Post-positivism leads to a state of explanatory anarchy, the’ argument is that thediscipline of international politics will be unable to make any authoritativestatements about its subject matter. One interpretation will be as good as another.In this case, Scientific Realism surely will be vindicated. If, however, the charge ofrelativism is mistaken, or something of a red herring, then the post-positivist critique7.A number of other scholars have attacked Post-positivism as relativist. See Hoisti(1989:261); Biersteker( 1989:265); Lapid (1989:243-244); Almond (1990:13-32).5will strike at the very heart of Scientific Realism, depriving it of much of itsforcefulness.At this point, at least three questions need to be asked. First, is Post-positivism relativist? Why has the problem of relativism arisen at this time in thedisciplinhistory? And finally, if the charge of relativism is well-founded, is the onlylogical alternative the kind of foundationalist and scientific enterprise offered bysome strong formulation of Scientific Realism?The argument I seek to establish is that first and foremost, Scientific Realismis vindicated to the extent that some formulations of Post-positivism are relativist.Having said this, however, this thesis argues that its significance has been largelymisunderstood by scientific realists.8 Post-positivist relativism is not withoutintrinsic intellectual value. Nor is it simply a “rage” against knowledge, reason, andtruth. On the contrary, this relativism is a valuable event if the history of the field. Itis so, because it highlights the degree of theoretical alienation in the discipline.This alienation is the result of three factors. First, because internationaltheory has too long considered values and historicity as marginal to the business oftheorizing international politics.9 Second, because scientific realists have attemptedto hijack the study of international theory by turning it into a positivist structuralistscience; thus, reinforcing the marginalization of values and history. Third, ScientificRealism is itself a species of idealism. It idealizes the value of scientific method.8.Although this thesis is concerned with the work of scientific realists with regard tothe problem of relativism. It should be noted that most traditionalists are in closeagreement with the general methodological claims of Scientific Realism. By this Imean that relativism is simply intellectually bad, containing no redeemable qualitieswhatsoever.9.It will become clear that by “values” I have in mind those formative assumptionswhich give substance to, and motivate all theoretical viewpoints. In this sense,“values” are intimately linked to ethical issues. This thesis, however, will not attemptto deal with this issue due to considerations of space. With regard to the concept ofhistory, I do not mean the re-telling of past events, but rather “history” definedphilosophically as something which is determinate of what we are as human beings.6Post-positivism relativism, then, is a crude and understandable response to adistorted view of international theory.In the final analysis, post-positivist relativism is a consequence of a disciplinewhich has too long considered science and scientific method (that is, positivism) themost desirable road to knowledge. Scientific Realism is the apex of this type oftheorizing. Ironically, though, Scientific Realism must also be considered an acuteform of alienation because it cannot account for historicity and values in itsconceptual scheme. Thus, Post-positivist relativism and Scientific Realism aredialectically linked. Unlike Bernstein, however, who wants to look at the newintellectual conversation which is emerging among scholars, I take up a prior issue.Within the field of international political theory, we will not be in a position to seewhat is emerging unless we understanding something about the causes behind thecurrent crisis. Ultimately, the aim of this thesis is to uncover a dimension ofinternational theoretical activity hitherto unthematized.Post-positivist relativism, then, actually tells us a great deal about the state ofinternational theory, and about the sort of theory Scientific Realism is. Indeed, Iargue post-positivist relativism turns out to be a crude form of realism. Let us beclear here. I am not saying it is “realist” in the sense of a new doctrine ofinternational politics. Rather, it is realist in the sense that it attempts to restore abalance to a field which has become so obsessed with being “scientific,” that it isunwilling to acknowledge other more hermeneutical forms of knowledge. Somewhatparadoxically, then, this thesis argues that post-positivist relativism makes a knowledgeclaim upon us which cannot be ignored.In order to demonstrate this argument, I divide this thesis into five chapters.In the first chapter I look at the developments which have led to the current state ofintellectual turbulence in international theory. I look at the shifts which have takenplace during the seventies from Classical Realism to Scientific Realism.7Furthermore, I interpret the “crisis’ which has arisen in recent years as aconfrontation between scientism and relativism. The second chapter takes a detailedlook at both positivism and post-positivism, as well as the problem of relativism.In the third chapter I look at two forms of relativism in contemporary post-positivism. I argue that the recent work of Mansbach and Ferguson provides anexample of a submissive form of relativism, while the post-structuralist theory ofRichard Ashley is a strong example. In the fourth chapter I proceed to show howscientific realists deal with the issue of relativism. In other words, I show how itutilizes scientific method against relativism. In the final section of that chapter Iargue Scientific Realism is a failure and cannot withstand the logic of post-positivism. Upon close inspection, it proves to be a historically rooted theory with itsown conception of the good life. In chapter five I argue that we need to listen towhat relativists tell us, not because they are correct, but because they represent analienated view of reality; an alienation brought about by the excessive idealism ofScientific Realism. Ultimately, then, post-positivism proves to be a form of PoliticalRealism.In conclusion, international theory must realize that its “worshipfulrelationship with the natural sciences” has deprived it of new ways of seeing, ofcreating, and of doing theory. 10 Certainly, science plays a significant role in ways ofunderstanding international politics. But theory by scientific method is limited. Asone commentator puts it: “strictly speaking, method is incapable of revealing newtruth; it renders explicit the kind of truth already implicit in the method.”ll Just asthere is no Marxist or liberal chemical experiment, so too we cannot understandhuman beings and their relationship to the world solely by scientific means.1O.See Lapid (1989:246).11.Palmer (1969:165).8I think the lasting value of Post-positivism will be the realization that to talkof values and ethics in international theories are not necessarily expressions ofidealism, nor a marginal enterprise of the discipline, but its greatest strength. Thus,we need no longer hide behind the dishonest mask of a value-neutral social science.As Hilary Putnam (1978) argues: “A view of knowledge that acknowledges that thesphere of knoweidge is wider than the sphere of “science” seems to me to be acultural necessity if we are to arrive at a sane and human view of ourselves or ofscience.” It is this insight which gives Post-positivism “revivalist” potential.9CHAPTER ONEFROM CLASSICAL REALISM TO “CRISIS”INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL THEORY CONFRONTS POST-POSITIVISM10REALISM UNDER FIRE: PARADIGM LOSTThe aim of this chapter is to place Scientific Realism and Post-positivismin both a global and intellectual-historical context. This is best achieved byseeing Scientific Realism is an attempt to recover and revitalize PoliticalRealism in the wake of criticism from behaviouralists and globalists.Furthermore, I argue Post-positivism is an intellectual reaction to the extremepositivism of the new realism.In the 1970’s, Puchala and Fagan (1974:252) argued that “we maypresently be taking at least a small step away from the anarchy of the traditionalstate system.” According to them, the crude power politics which characterisedthe Cold War was giving way to a more cooperative and interdependent world.Some of the factors which led them to this conclusion were increases intransnational capital flows and technology transfers, the growth of multinationalcorporations, the thawing of relations between the superpowers, the importanceof domestic politics in foreign policy decision-making, the Vietnam War, and therealization that all states, no matter how big or small, were becomingincreasingly dependent on scarce commodities. 1 Moreover, internationalorganizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Club ofRome, began to play a more prominent and necessary role in the well-being ofnations and their citizens.To many, the realist understanding of international politics had beenovertaken by world events.2 Not surprisingly, trenchant critiques of PoliticalRealism followed with the aim of developing more suitable theoreticalexplanations of these emerging global phenomena. Behaviouralists argued thatRealism lacked the theoretical rigour necessary to meet “scientific” standards of1.This is especially true of oil.2.For a fuller statement of these issues see Rosencrance (1971) and Barry Jones& Willetts (1984).11inquiry.3 The state as actor assumption was challenged; as was the view that theinternational sphere was autonomous from domestic politics.4 The rationalityassumption came under fire from those who highlighted the irrational aspects ofcrisis decision-making.5 Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was arguedthat Political Realism was just too narrow a theory to account for the complexityof the international sphere. War, security, and power were not the only problemsfacing states. Other concerns such as the economy, the environment, humanrights, underdevelopment and poverty, ethnic issues, and freedom were at leastas important to states. Richard Rothstein (1972:358) even warned that we shouldnot hang on to this dying paradigm because its “irrelevance” was becoming adanger to the emergence of a new international system. Without doubt, PoliticalRealism was under siege for the first time since E.H. Carr’s (1964) powerful anduncompromising defence of its central principles.6Realism no longer provided the organizing and harmonizing frameworkwhich had been foundational to the discipline of international politics since thepost-war period. As Mansbach and Ferguson (1986:19) put it: “Realism was nolonger a disciplinary matrix.” This state of affairs forced dedicated realists to re3.For a critique of Behaviouralism see Vasquez (1983). Vasquez argues thatBehaviouralism was itself a form of Political Realism.4.See Halliday (1988); Gourevitch (1978); Fitzpatrick (1988:172) has argued thatrealism has become extinct as a viable theory of geopolitics precisely because ofits “state as actor” focus. “The state as actor perspective cannot be reformed fromwithin or adjusted in its detail, while leaving the axiomatic base intact. The onlysolution is to jettison the lot and to start again on new foundations.”5.See Hoisti (1981). A number of scholars, for example, argued that in a crisissituation, actors have a reduced capacity to make the “right” or optimal tacticaldecisions.6.Even Hans Morgenthau began to express doubts about the applicability ofrealism to contemporary international politics. See Campbell (1986). Sothorough have these criticisms been that Michael Banks (1985:222) has recentlytalked of “Realism Devastated.”12articulate their understanding of international politics in a way which wouldmake Political Realism impervious to the sorts of criticism outlined above.7The best way to understand the rise of Scientific Realism is to see it inthis light. To do this, means going back to the Classical Realism of HansMorgenthau.8 Not only was his conception of realism the target of most of theearly anti-Realist critiques, but it was also the benchmark against whichScientific Realism developed as a new and powerful paradigmatic alternative.FROM CLASSICAL REALISM TO STRUCTURAL REALISM:PARADIGM REGAINED?The Classical Realism of Hans Morgenthau commenced with anassumption about the nature of human beings, and, consequently, of humanaction. Because human nature was imperfect, human actions always fell short ofhumanity’s desired goals. According to Morgenthau, this unfortunate factmitigated against the possibility of there being a time now, or in the future, inwhich the potential for war and conflict would not exist. It is morally reckless andpolitically naive to overestimate the ability of humans to alter their world in aradical way, and according to the image of some pre-ordained moral vision. AsMorgenthau (1967:4) tell us:...believes that the world, imperfect as it is from a rational point ofview, is the result of forces inherent in human nature. To improvethe world one must work with those forces, not against them. Thisbeing inherently a world of opposing interests and of conflictamong them, moral principles can never be fully realized.In response to idealists of whatever ilk, Morgenthau put forward acounter-manifesto made up of six fundamental principles. First, internationalpolitics is about the discovery of “objective laws”, and international political7.1 shall henceforth call this “Classical Realism” to distinguish it from otherversions of realism.8.Morgenthau (1967:7). Keohane (1986:11) summarizes it well when he writesthat states are rational in the sense that “they have consistent, orderedpreferences, and that they calculate the costs and benefits of all alternativepolicies in order to maximize their utility in light of both those preferences andof their perceptions of the nature of reality.”13theory “consists in ascertaining facts and giving them meaning throughreason”.(p.4) Second, in international politics “interests defined in terms ofpower” is the basic conceptual category which motivates and orientsstatespersons. Third, these interests are the essence of politics and not effectedby the vagaries of time and place. Fourth, questions of universal morality lieoutside the realm of state action. Because states act in their own interests andbecause the world of states is anarchic, questions of morality are continuallysubject to prudential constraints. If morality comes into play in the actions ofstates, it does so because it serves the immediate needs of that state. Fifth, byviewing the actions of all states through the lens of “interests defined in terms ofpower,” realism posits an initial equality among states in terms of how they willact. In this way, political realism provides a good benchmark from which toevaluate the actions of states, including one’s own. That states are consideredequal on these terms means that theorist’s can avoid the twin pitfalls of. ideologyand nationalism. Finally, Classical Realism defends the autonomy of the politicalsphere in terms of the sort of interpretation it brings to the study of internationallife. International politics is not about economics, morality or law. This alsoimplies the international sphere is, itself, an area of concern separate fromdomestic concerns where these sorts of factors find their valid expression.Although Morgenthau summarizes his conception of realism in sixprinciples, we can, with some justification, consider a seventh. The theinternational system can be understood rationally. But the rationality principle isnot simply one principle among many. On the contrary, the rationality principleis the epistemic base upon which the principles of Political Realism are erected.Realism, then:shares with all social theory the need, for the sake of theoreticalunderstanding, to stress the rational elements of political reality;for it is these rational elements that make reality intelligible fortheory.(p.8)14His basic premise, then, states that reality is rational and capable of beingexplained by the social scientist. Hegel’s dictum: to those who look at the worldrationally, the world looks rationally back, conveys Morgenthau’s meaning nicely.International politics becomes intelligible by attempting to discern universalrational principles or objective laws about its functioning which approximatereality as near as possible.Realism, believing as it does in the objectivity of the laws ofpolitics, must also believe in the possibility of developing a rationaltheory that reflects, however imperfectly and one-sidedly, theseobjective laws.(p.4)It is clear that by a theory of politics based on reason, Morgenthau hassomething specific in mind. Because states are calculators of interests, theconcept of rationality operative in international politics, is most accuratelyrepresented in utilitarian terms. He writes: “a rational foreign policy minimizesrisk and maximizes benefits, and hence complies both with the moral precept ofprudence and the political requirement of success.”9But understanding the utilitarian nature of international politics was notsimply a descriptive insight, it is one which had practical value for statesmen anddecision-makers. It would allow states, including the United States, to know thelimitation of their actions. As the well-know phrase goes, it would allow them, “toknow when to hold and to know when to fold.” Policy makers and state leaderscould, according to Morgenthau, make accurate predictions about the behaviourof others which was not coloured and distorted by the foibles of ideology,morality, psychological motives, and the like. Global progress came, not throughrapid change, as revolutionaries and idealists claimed, rather: “The realist ispersuaded that this transformation can be achieved only through the9.Morgenthau (1967:9). Whether the classical realist conception of reason hasany genuine practical moral potential seems to me a moot point. While it is trueclassical realists like Morgenthau, Kennan, and Lippman were highly critical ofaspects of post-war U.S. foreign policy (something modern realists seem to haveforgotten in their concern with descriptions of the international system), it isarguable whether classical realism is not simply a form of moral scepticism. Onthis see Cohen (1984).15workmanlike manipulation of the perennial forces that have shaped the past asthey will the future.”But for all the elegance of Morgenthau’s conception of realism, it sufferedfrom a lack of terminological and theoretical precision. Central concepts wereinadequately defined; the concept of “power” chief amongst them. 10 StanleyHoffmann (1981:654) questioned its evaluative power and whether it was anadequate framework for analysis. Moreover, and as I noted above, the growingimportance of economic matters meant that Morgenthau’s view that politics andeconomics were somehow separate fields became increasingly hard to defend.This was also the case with his state-centric assumption.Modern Scientific Realism, then, comes on the scene as a response tothese sorts of problems. On the one hand, it is a trenchant critique of ClassicalRealism and, on the other, it considers itself its intellectual fulfilment. AsKenneth Waltz (1979:1), the most systematic exponent of this form of realismargues, his purpose is “to construct a theory of international politics whichremedies the defects of present theories.” If Political Realism was to regain itsstatus as the dominant paradigm in international politics, it had to become a“super-paradigm” capable of demonstrating that the state-centric model had an apriori and superior claim upon students of international politics. In addition, itsexponents had to show that the criticisms emanating from the interdependenceschool were not well-founded theoretically. The eventual success of this projectwould lead Richard Little (1987:74) to comment that: “far from falling intooblivion... [realisml...shows every sign of recovering its former position of preeminence.” Or, as Richard Ashley (1981:25) expresses it, Waltz’s realism is, “aprogressive scientific redemption of Classical Realism.”10.Raymond Aron (1967:190) for example, called Morgenthau’s use of powerconceptually confusing. See also Aron (1973:322) Similarly, mis J. Claude(1962:25-26) argued that the concept of “balance of power” was open tonumerous interpretations.16The work of Kenneth Waltz is the most systematic form of this viewpoint.It is, therefore, worth exploring his “science” of realism to get an idea of thedirection Political Realism took after the apparent demise of Classical Realism.Essentially, Waltz argues that Political Realism is not flawed, as its manycritics believed. Rather, the project has been inadequately thought through.Indeed, he goes to great lengths to preserve the “hard core” of Classical Realism.This hard core, as Robert Keohane argues, retains the state-centric assumption,the rationality assumption (although Waltz denies this), the power assumption,the centrality of anarchy, and a balance of power theory.11Waltz’s main criticism of Classical Realism is that there is no need toinfer the anarchical nature of international politics from the inherentimperfection of human nature. 12 According to him, this is both unscientific andreductionist. It is unscientific because it is based upon a dubious metaphysic, andreductionist because it failed to take systemic causes of state behaviour intoaccount. Morgenthau’s reductionism is a consequence of overlooking the degreeto which the structure of the system itself conditioned state action. Morgenthauwrongly attributes to the system that which rightly belongs at the unit level.Instead, what is needed is a systemic theory which focuses attention on both thestructure of the system and the interaction which takes place between both theunits of the system, and between the units as a consequence of the system. Thestructure of the international system is, primarily, responsible for the outcomesperceived at the systems level. It rewards some behaviour and punishes others.More importantly, it constrains the behaviour of the units, and can frustrate theirobjectives because others possess similar powers.The structure of the international system is defined by two factors. First,the way in which it is ordered, in this case anarchically. Second, structure defines11.On this see Keohane (1986:164-165).12.See Waltz (1959). See especially chapter two.17the distribution of the capabilities of the units. The international system is,therefore, defined by the major players. 13 By abstracting out all the particularattributes of states from the structure, Waltz argues one can determine the kindsof behaviour which the structure of the system exerts on the states, as well asaccount for the external behaviour of states more accurately. In this way, heovercomes the “human nature” problem which plagued Classical Realism, andgave international politics only a veneer of “science.”Waltz believes that a systems theory of international politics has what hecalls a “positive payoff.” By this he means that his theory is superior to othersbecause of its explanatory and its predictive power. A “theory,” for Waltz,explains recurrence, regularity and continuity. As he (1979:69) puts it:Within a system, theory explains continuities. It tells us what toexpect, and why to expect it. Within a system, a theory explainsrecurrences and repetitions, not change.The positive payoff, then, is that we are able to understanding theanarchic nature of international politics, why wars occur and reoccur, the narrowlimits of actor movement within the system, and why substantial changes at theunit level do not produce change at the systems level.Along with its perceived explanatory and predictive power, what scholarslike Buzan (1989), Keohane (1986), and Gilpin (1983, 1986) find most attractiveabout this formulation of Political Realism is both its simplicity and its systematicnature.14 As Buzan (1989:4) argues: “Waltz’s accomplishment is to identifyimportant durable elements in a field where development of scientific analysis iseverywhere hampered by the apparent universality of change.”13.Previously, Waltz (1964) had argued bipolarity was the most stable form ofinternational system.14.Although it is curious that these scholars celebrate Waltz’s theory for itssimplicity, then proceed on a neat course of complicating it. That this is the case,calls into question the view that a good theory is a simple one. Indeed, it maywell be that the opposite is true.18To discover these so-called durable elements, Waltz employs astructuralist understanding of international reality, and utilizes the tenets ofscientific-empiricism. Waltz’s structuralism is nothing new, of course. Not onlydoes it have articulations in psychology (Piaget), anthropology (Levi-Strauss).linguistics (Chomsky), history (The Annales School), and Marxism (Akhussar,Poulantzas), it has also been a long-standing approach in international politics.The two most important precursors to Waltz here is the Structural-Functionalismof the likes of Ernst Haas (1964) and the neo-Marxist development theory ofImmanuel Wallerstein (1979).It is not necessary to say too much about structural approachesthemselves.15 Its basic assumptions are evident from the previous discussion ofWaltz’s realism. In the interests of theoretical clarity, however, it might be worthpointing out the distinctive features of all structuralist approaches. First, there isa prioritizing of the whole over the parts. Second, the parts themselves comprisesets of relations. Thus, in a structuralist anthropology a kinship system can onlybe understood by looking at the relations and the sets of relations betweenbrothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, etc. Third, these interactions are considered tobe regular, systematic, and orderly, and have an enduring character.16 Fourth,these sets of relations form a structure or a system. Fifth, we are unable tounderstand the properties of the system under investigation unless we takeaccount of all the sets of relations. Thus, we will not be able to understand akinship system unless we consider all the familial relations. Finally, the structureor system is not an observable phenomena. It is inferred by the totality ofrelations.Perhaps the most important short-coming of all forms of structuralism istheir static nature. They do not account for human agency very satisfactorily, or15.On this see Runciman (1969:253-265); Keat and Urry (1982: 121-140).16.Keat and Urry (1982: 120).19for change in the system. Thus, Waltz’s explanation of the enduring aspects ofthe international system is bought at the cost of an adequate explanation ofchange. As Keohane puts it: “Waltz’s theory does not explain change well.” 17Because a structure is by nature fixed, the ability of human agents to alterthe structure of the system, or their place within it, is negligible or non-existent.Individuals are impotent against the power of the structure. It has, therefore, atendency toward being conservative. Following on from this, is the anomalypointed out by Alexander Wendt (1987) of how the structure came about in thefirst place. The only answer to this question can be agents.The other essential aspect of Waltz’s theory, and of Scientific Realismgenerally, is adherence to Scientific-Empiricism. We shall investigate thisquestion in the next chapter. It is enough at this point to note that internationalpolitical phenomena are comparable to natural phenomena. The study ofinternational politics is, and can be, scientific.Essentially, this meant a number of things. First, positivism is adopted asthe most appropriate methodological framework. Second, Waltz’s understandingof morality is purely utilitarian. Third, international politics is modelled onmicroeconomics. 18The Structuralism and the Scientific-Empiricism, then, provided PoliticalRealism with a powerful intellectual framework. It had the merit (real orapparent) of basking in the glory of neo-classical economic theory, and gave thestudy of international politics a research paradigm which promised cumulativeknowledge of the fleld.19 With such intellectual power, then, it is no wonder that17.Keohane (1986:18). See also Ruggie (1986).18.Keohane (1986:15) also writes that the significance of his theory is in hisattempt to “systematize political realism into a rigorous, deductive systemictheory of international politics.”19.See Ashley (1983).20it is considered by its devotees to be a revolutionary intellectual achievement,and a worthy heir to Classical Realism.The contribution of Scientific Realism to contemporary internationaltheory is a double edged sword however. On the one hand, it sees itself as theculmination (or fulfilment) of international theory. On the other, its scientismhas been a principal factor in the “crisis” which now confronts the discipline, andhas prompted the move by many theorists into a “post-positivist” mode oftheorising.20Essentially, post-positivism rejects the claims of Scientific Realismoutright. Drawing its inspiration from recent debates in the philosophy andhistory of science and in social and political theory, it attempts to take historyseriously, is concerned with the unstated assumptions in a theoretical discourse,and is radical to the extent that it believes an adequate theory should beemancipatory and practical-critical in its outlook rather than a problem-solvingtheory.21 Moreover, because it is historically grounded, it challenges thepossibility of a single explanation of reality, international or otherwise. Post-positivism, therefore, celebrates theoretical and methodological pluralism. Thereis no one “truth” about international politics, nor a single way in which we canarrive at new knowledge. There are simply “ways” of knowing. As Holsti(1989:256) expresses it: “Theoretical pluralism is the only possible response tothe multiple realities of a complex world.”This may seem a rather obvious statement to make. However, itchallenges much of the conventional “scientific” wisdom of the discipline. Ifpluralism is true, there can be no “science of international politics.” For the latter20.See, for example, Ashley (1981, 1983, 1986); Cox (1986); Campbell (1988);George & Campbell (1990).21.See Kuhn (1970); Lakatos (1970); Adorno (1976); Maclntyre (1976); Rorty(1979); Ricoeur (1981); Habermas (1987); Gadamer (1988); Taylor (1989). For ageneral overview of these debates see Bernstein (1976, 1983).21is premised upon a universalism which conceives of itself above and beyondmultiplicity.There is, however, more going on here than simply making a choicebetween universalism and pluralism. Attempts to explain the world solely inuniversalist terms invariably smack of ethnocentrism, while pluralism isconsidered to lead us down the path of relativism and “explanatory anarchy.”22This problem has plunged the study of international politics into a state of“crisis.”The term “crisis” has great evocative power. Yet it is not used lightly.Never before has international political theory been so polarized on such animportant issue. Part of the reason for this lies in the fact that the discipline,perhaps more than any other field of study, has striven for recognition as anindependent area of study. The kind of questions thrown up by Post-positivismhave undercut this possibility in a fundamental way. Ultimately, the study ofinternational politics is in the midst a crisis of both legitimacy and identity.We can, perhaps, clarify the foregoing by considering two questions. Bothseem to me to be crucial to understanding the recent disciplinary turmoil. Whatare the appropriate means by which we can understand international politics?And, what are the ends for which this study is, and should be, undertaken? Themajor problem, however, is that the current pluralism gives more than oneanswer to these problems. How are we to choose? How are we to decidebetween competing viewpoints?THEORETICAL PLURALISM AS A “CRISIS” OF REASONWe live in an age which is becoming increasingly cognizant of the inabilityof human reason to solve problems which reason itself has unleashed upon theglobe. Theoretical pluralism is a complex response to the perceived impotence ofa universalist and totalizing conception of reason. Richard Bernstein’s (1983:2)22.Kratochwil and Ruggie (1986:768).22comment, then, seems eminently applicable to the current situation ininternational theory:While at first glance the debates may appear to have very differentemphases, all of them, in essence, have a single concern and focus:to determine the nature and scope of human rationality.Theories which aspire to the status of “science” believe this to be a settledquestion-reason is universal. Epistemology is about demonstrating the possibilityof a universal conception of reason which all individuals have the capacity for,and engage in. Any attempt to understand human beings and their world, mustbegin here, or risk irrationalism. At another level, a universal conception ofreason is also a theory of standards of agreement-a universal language if you like.On this view, there is no reason why perfect agreement cannot be attainedproviding we adhere to the methodological procedures which ensure reason’spurity.Theoretical pluralism in the study of international politics challenges thepossibility of this sort of universalism. That a multitude of interpretations arepossible means reason may well be pluralistic in nature. It also means we mayhave to live with the possibility that incommensurability between competingapproaches is an integral part of human being. Ultimately, pluralism calls intoquestion any single project that sets itself up to be the arbiter of what is right andtrue beyond a historical and social context.It is the tension generated between these two poles which has brought thediscipline into a state of “crisis.” For many, this is a burdensome question becauseif one is willing to admit against Scientific Realism, that “theoretical pluralism isthe only possible response to the multiple realities of a complex world”, one isimmediately confronted with the problem of relativism.23 And scientificallyminded realists have not been slow to point this out.23.See Hoisti (1989); Biersteker (1989).- -- -. - — ---... J23The issue, then, is we either take Post-positivism and theoretical pluralismseriously, possibly ending up with no independent standards with which to judgecompeting theories, or we take the positivist road and deny legitimacy to allother modes of discourse, and ways of understanding reality. Thus, the key tounderstanding the disagreement between scientific realists and post-positiviststurns on the problem of disciplinary relativism.Thus far, I have briefly considered some of the main changes withininternational political theory since the early seventies. I have argued thediscipline is in crisis because of an unresolved tension between ScientificRealism and Post-positivism. We need now to focus on the key concepts of“positivism” and “post-positivism” and show why the problem of relativism iscentral to an understanding of the contemporary dilemma’s facing internationalpolitical theory.24CHAPTER TWOPOSITIVISM, POST-POSITIVISM AN]) THE PROBLEM OF RELATIVISM25Jurgen Habermas (1984a:2) has argued that all attempts at discoveringultimate foundations, in which the intentions of First Philosophy live on, havebroken down. In this situation, the way is opening to a new constellation in therelationship between philosophy and the sciences.Habermas is not alone here. Thinkers such as Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty,Gadamer, Kuhn, Foucault and Rorty, have demonstrated in various ways thatthe epistemological enterprise-in the form of positivism-has been, in CharlesTaylor’s words, “a mistake”.iAt the time that positivism was becoming a dubious methodology in otherdisciplines, Scientific Realists argued the methodological principles of positivismprovided the best framework for a rigourous and scientific understanding ofinternational politics. We need, therefore, to look more closely at the issue ofpositivism and how the “will to science” has become a powerful force within thediscipline.POSITIVISM AND SCIENTIFIC REALISMEpistemology, as the search for a theory of knowledge, argues humanreason can give us truths about the natural and social world which need not deferto experience to be validated. Its mandate was to unify both the natural andhuman sciences around a single methodology, the strictness of which, wouldprovide unimpeachable criteria to distinguish truth from fiction, reality frommyth. According to modern positivists, however, epistemology is dead. Modernpositivism killed it off, or, at least, made it a superfluous undertaking. Theproblem of knowledge which Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Husserl and countlessothers, spent their intellectual energies trying to solve, has become a redundantproblem. In other words, the problem has been solved.The natural sciences, as the expression of “science,” consider epistemologyno longer necessary. Consequently, the natural science model has become the1.Taylor (1989:465). It should, perhaps, be noted that these thinkers are notchallenging mathematical truths and forms of logic.26arbiter of where, and in what sense, we can talk of knowledge. This certitude hasmeant epistemology has given way to the philosophy of science in forms ofpositivism. In essence, epistemology has reached its zenith with positivism, and,in the process has become aufgehoben. “Positivism marks the end of the theory ofknowledge”.2 Certitude requires no more justification. The result, as Habermashas noted, is that “transcendental-logical inquiry into the meaning of knowledgeis replaced by positivistic inquiry into the meaning of “facts” whose connection isdescribed by theoretical propositions.”(p.69) Of course, these theoreticalpropositions vary according to the form positivism takes, and not many seem toagree on a definitive assessment of the term.3 We can, however, outline its basicprinciples.Broadly speaking, positivists share the view that their approach toknowing has a clarity, a veracity, and a finality which they deny to otherapproaches. Instuitionism and intepretivism being two of the most obvious cases.Second, positivist knowledge is factual knowledge unmediated by history, culture,custom, tradition, and such like. It is “knowledge” that is not dependent uponethical or political norms. Among its savants, then, it is considered value-freeknowledge. No other modes of knowing leak into their science.The value-neutrality of positivism comes as a result of the separation of anumber of theoretical categories such as theory-practice, is-ought, fact-value,subject-object, and the like. Norms and values, therefore, lie outside of itsconception of what it is to be rational.Third, and following on from the last point, the “scientist” and the objectof his\her inquiry are also held apart. The scientist must be detached from theobject of study in order to avoid falling into subjectivism; a subjectivism whichwould affect the purity of the results. In this sense, positivism objectifies reality.2.Habermas (1987:67)3.For a General statement see Kolokowski, (1972).--27Finally, to apprehend the world as it really is, is to discover lawlikegeneralizations (if A, then B) about the workings of the social world, which, onceknown, give the social scientist the ability to control and manipulate outcomes.Its particular form of practice, then, consists in the technical application oftheoretical knowledge, or what Robert Cox (1986) calls “problem-solving theory.”The concern of a positivist conception of politics, or science of society, isefficiency. It attempts, through a set of procedures, to discover the technicallyoptimal means of implementing decisions and achieving goals.To the extent international theorists have attempted to apprehend theirfield of study “scientifically”, they have been profoundly influenced by positivistmethodological principles.4 Even Hans Morgenthau (197 1:621), who otherwisecriticised positivism and writes that science is: “incapable of foreseeing what is tobe prevented and of guiding action by knowledge, [and] appears as the verycause of the dangers that it pretends to be able to prevent”, was himselfencapsulated in the “will to science”. His belief in objective laws of politicsnegates much of this critique of scientific methods.But it is in Scientific Realism that optimism in positivism reaches itspinnacle. In Waltz (1986:33), for example, theory becomes an undertaking whichseeks to reveal laws and regularities about the international system. The measureof a good theory is its “usefulness” and this is gauged by a “desire to control, or atleast to know if control is possible”. It is therefore concerned solely withadvancing technical rationality in international theory. His theory is value-free4.It should be pointed out that if we define positivism by the letter no theory ofpolitics is, or could ever likely to be, positivist. Thus, Friedrich Kratochwil(1984:312-319) has argued Waltz’s theory demonstrates “a purely positivisticresearch program in international relations-and in the social sciences in general-is impossible.” Kratochwil is undoubtedly correct. The situation, however, is notas black and white as he portrays it. His rather dismissive remark neither helpsus to understand the broader implications of positivism on international politics,nor the degree to which it has been the dominant and preferred methodologicalprocedure (even if that procedure is misplaced). It makes more sense then toconsider the spirit of positivism, and leave the formalistic criticisms to purists. AsCampbell (1988:20) expresses it, we should consider positivism “a generalintellectual style that still dominates contemporary academic inquiry.”28(at least in his own mind) to the extent states are taken as objective unitsunencumbered by such factors as ideology, religion, type of government, culture,and so forth. These characteristics are banished from the structural realm underthe label “process”.It is ahistorical in the sense that it posits immutable laws and aninternational arena that is unchanging, and unreformable. But what makesWaltz’s theory particularly positivist is his celebration of microeconomic theoryas a model for the social sciences.5 In defining the notion of “theory”, forexample, Waltz argues that:The meaning does not accord with usage in much oftraditional political theory...[but] does correspond to the definition of theterm in the natural sciences and in some of the social sciences, especiallyeconomics.(p.33)I noted in the previous chapter that the crisis in contemporary theorybetween Scientific Realists and post-positivists could be seen in terms of a crisisof reason. For these realists, belief in the value of economics as a model fortheory is also a commitment to a rational choice theory of human agency, and, byextension, state action. States are nothing more than homo economicus writlarge.By terming Scientific Realism’s conception of international politics aversion of rational choice theory, I mean an economic theory which explainsstate rationality in terms of a relation between preferences, actions andconsequences. The sole aim of agents is to maximize the satisfaction of theirpreferences with the lowest possible costs. The success of an action depends onthere being no other option open to that agent which could bring about a higherdegree of utility.6 On this model, preferences are systematically ordered andcalculable. What is considered “rational action” rests on a conception of social5.For a discussion of the historical connection between positivism and economicssee Hollis & Nell (1975:47-53).6.Hollis (1987:16).29theory based upon three factors; (i) it is a means only analysis; As Gilpin(1981:X) puts it “rationality only applies to the endeavour, not the outcome”; (ii)it also assumes a basic egoism; (iii) finally, it posits social atomism in that allindividuals act in the same way. It doesn’t matter who they are or what strata ofsociety they come from, or what their social and cultural disposition is. The onlydifference might be the level of skill with which the atomistic individual tacklesthe problem of preference satisfaction. Taken together, rational choice theory issaid to have an excellent value in predicting or illuminating significant featuresof social and political life.7 Thus, Gilpin (198 1:XI) concludes:economics provides a highly developed theory of social behaviour,and for this reason economic theory has been applied to an everincreasing range of social and political phenomena.In essence, then, what makes Scientific Realism a distinctive project is themarrying of a utilitarian conception of rationality (and of ethics) to a positivistmethodology within the parameters of neo-classical theory.But it is not simply a question of whether economic theory has utility forthe study of international politics as Gilpin believes, or, whether one can write abook that is coherent from beginning to end based upon principles of economicrationality. The issue is a great deal more profound than this. It concerns whatwe are as human beings, our way of being if you like. Human beings asminimizers-maximizers, “satisficers,” wanters and achievers comprises only oneaspect of what it is to be human, and a small one at that. The issue, then, iswhether a meta-theory like Scientific Realism, which claims to be the only way ofunderstanding international politics, can account for the whole range of statebehaviour by basing politics upon categories derived from neo-classicaleconomics.7.Hindess (1984:259).30As we shall see shortly, post-positivists argue that it cannot. Beforeturning to look at Post-positivism in more detail, I think it is important to inquireinto the motivation for adopting a positivist approach to theorizing.A positivist conception of theory takes as its sole end and aim epistemiccertitude. If theory cannot discover, or provide a solid basis for its arguments andits empirical evidence, there is no possible way of being sure that one’sknowledge is “true.” According to positivists, we are left with relativism when wegive up our commitment to this endeavour. Ultimately, the coherence of thepositivist project lies in its belief in the existence of universal or transcendentalcategories. This can be considered from a number of perspectives, but ultimatelyit begins with a universal conception of reason which it takes as valid beyondtime and place. Thus, the view that international politics in characterised byanarchy is a universal statement, as is the view that all states are self-interestedentities which seek the maximization of power.According to its proponents, once such universals are grasped, we areable to develop criteria of evaluation which we know to be true and objective.On the other hand, if we deny their existence, we also deny the possibility ofknowledge. All phenomena become little more than a fleeting expression ofmoments in time and space. Planning becomes impossible, solutions to politicalproblems become a hit and miss affair, and continuity of deed and action is lost.It is not too difficult, then, to understand why positivists have difficulty withmodes of thinking which claim scientific knowledge to be only one form ofknowledge among others. Not only does this pluralism threaten the unity ofscience, but more importantly, it calls into question the whole process wherebywe discover knowledge. According to these positivists, it makes the word “truth”meaningless, and a mockery out of the entire intellectual enterprise. It leaves uswith thoroughgoing and extreme forms relativism. E.D. Hirsch (1978:13)expresses this viewpoint neatly. And although his target is pluralistic mindedliterary theorists, it would no doubt find accent among Scientific Realists.31Some of my colleagues are indignant at the present decadence inliterary scholarship, with its anti-rationalism, faddism,, andextreme relativism. I share their feelings. Scholars are right to feelindignant toward those learned writers who deliberately exploit theinstitutions of scholarship-even down to the punctiliousconventions like footnotes and quotations-to deny, that is, thewhole point of the institutions of scholarship, to deny that is, thepossibility of knowledge.Relativism, then, must be considered the most important issue facinginternational theory to date. However, we must ask whether Scientific Realistsare correct in their assessment of the danger relativism poses to the discipline.Does Post-positivism represent a loss of intellectual standards? Does it mean wecan no longer judge between different interpretations? Answers to these sorts ofquestions mean taking a closer look at Post-positivism and the place of relativismwithin it.POST-POSITIVISM AND THE PROBLEM OF RELATIVISMAs I noted at the beginning of this chapter, post-positivists argue that thepositivist conception of theory, method, and of the forms of political organizationwhich follow as a consequence, constitute a mistaken view of reality.Generally speaking, post-positivists reject forms of epistemologicalfoundationalism and any attempt at grounding knowledge. In doing so, they havecalled into question, and undermined, the validity of the natural science claim tobe the arbiter of what shall and shall not pass for “true” knowledge on thegrounds there are modes of experience which cannot be verified by scientificprocesses. By rejecting the subject/object dichotomy, and the view that we canapprehend the world of sense independently of our place within it, Post-positivism posits a new account of the interrelationship between subjects andobjects. It is one in which the road to knowledge is conceived intersubjectively,and conditioned by historical, social, and cultural factors. In terms of itsconception of rationality, post-positivists regard technical reason only to be amoment in the life of reason, rather than reason itself. Positivists, then, havemisunderstood its nature all along. Instead, Post-positivism focuses on the32connection between reason and language, arguing we gain knowledge throughcommunication, argument, and persuasion in a intersubjectively shared languageworld, rather than by deductive or inductive means. In essence, it constitutesnothing less than a re-evaluation of human subjectivity and our way of being-in-the-world. It argues that a whole host of practices essential to understanding ourrelations to/with the world are simply ignored and artificially constrained bytechnical reason.It is with these sorts of criteria in mind that Robert Cox (1986) andRichard Ashley (1981, 1986) criticised Scientific Realism for its reduction ofreason to a technical-strategic logic. They variously argued that the scientificrealist understanding of international politics was ahistorical, asocial,economistic, a subtle form of ideology masquerading as value-free science, and aconservative defence of the current order. In addition, Cox (1986) and Ashley(1986) argued scientific realists fail to understand the nature of social powerwhich lies behind states, criticized the artificiality of the state/society split, andmost importantly, argued the logic of politics has been reduced to a technique,and effectively neutered. In Ashley’s words:the economization of international politics can only mean thepurging to international politics of those reflective capacitieswhich, however limited, make global learning and creative changepossible. It can only mean the impoverishment of politicalimagination and the reduction of international politics to abattleground for the self-blind strategic clash of technical reasonagainst technical reason in the service of unquestionedends.(p.297)Post-positivism, then, has issued a major challenge to positivist forms ofinternational political theory. Yet the validity of its critique is cast into doubtwith the charge of relativism.8To argue Post-positivism leads to relativism is to argue it also leads tosubjectivism, irrationalism, and nihilism. With this in mind, scientific realists8.See, for example, Hoisti (1989:261); Biersteker (1989:265); Lapid (1989:243-244); Almond (1990:13-32).33argue, “how can we take these critiques seriously?” Post-positivists are engaged ina wrecking operation which seeks to tear down all that patient scholarship hasbuilt up over the centuries. This relativism must be resisted with all theintellectual force available to modem thought.Arguing that Post-positivism leads to relativism has an unexpectedbenefit, however. It provides scientific realists with the justification it needs tolegitimate (or re-legitimate) its own project-a task all the more necessaryconsidering the allegedly relativistic turn in international theory. On this logic,Scientific Realism presents us with a simple either/or proposition: reason orirrationalism, truth or error, science or myth, progress or stagnation,enlightenment or a new dark age.As far as I am aware, no contemporary text in international politicaltheory treats the problem of relativism in any depth. This is remarkable given thedegree to which scientific realists “fear” it. But what is even more remarkable isthat this comes from a group of scholars whose traditional counsel to policymakers and state leaders has been “know thy enemy.” In light of this ommision, itis necessary to provide a brief outline of just what relativism means, and why it isconsidered a problem for intellectual life.There are two ways of understanding what relativism is. The first is aphilosophical disposition which specific characteristics. This is an epistemologicalrelativism. The second, which follows on from the first, refers to our inability tomake critical judgements between say a first year essay and a paper by a leadingscholar in a specific field.In the first instance, relativism is a particular way of interpreting,translating and explaining reality.9 It challenges the cherished assumptions ofphilosophers, theorists, and religious believers by denying the existence of anyuniversal truth whatsoever. There is no hierarchy of peoples, no unfolding of9.Lukes & Hollis (1982:1).34Geist or hidden hand directing particular cultures. In short, there is no implicitteleology, eschatology, or pre-determined world view; the notion of a steadilyprogressive goal for humanity is no more than a myth. Instead, relativismacknowledges the diversity of beliefs, the multiplicity of cultures, conceptualschemes, paradigms, theories and forms of life. No one viewpoint takesprecedence over another, for we have no way to judge whether one is better thananother. Rather, they are all unique expressions of particular historical epochs,and particular ways of seeing the world. In the final analysis, history exhibits only“differenc&’. There is, as Richard Bernstein (1983:11) expresses it, “anonreducible plurality of such schemes, paradigms and practices.”This form of relativism has another important dimension that issometimes overlooked. It is a crusader against all forms of ethnocentrism.Moreover, it has a somewhat romantic appeal, in that some relativists seethemselves as the purveyors of the humanitarian ideals of liberalism and open-minded tolerance. Its overriding aim is, therefore, the veneration of all societiesand peoples on their own terms. Herkovitz (1966:63)) argues:Cultural relativism is the social discipline that comes of respectfor differences-of mutual respect. Emphasis on the worth of manyways of life, not one, is an affirmation of the values of eachculture. Such emphasis seeks to understand and harmonise goals,not to judge and destroy those that do not dovetail with our own.Although this thesis is not particular concerned with cultural relativism,the point made by Herskovits remains valid for all forms of relativism. For inplacing the emphasis on “difference,” relativism will only carry out internalinterpretations. That is, a particular paradigm can only be understood in relationto itself and the social, historical, cultural and environmental realm in which itexists or has existed.Second, those who argue relativism will lead to intellectual incoherence,do so because they argue that once the possibility of knowledge is acknowledgedas problematic, then all scholarship becomes simply a matter of subjectiveinterpretation. Ultimately, one view becomes as good as the next and we have no35means of adjudicating between contending interpretations. As Lapid (1989:249)writes:If adopted uncritically or taken to its logical conclusion,methodological pluralism may deteriorate into a condition ofepistemological anarchy under which almost any position canlegitimately claim equal hearing.If we finally succumb to the relativity of all standards, then, nothing willhave binding validity upon us. All that will be left will be either subjective truthswhich we place upon ourselves, or those arbitrary truths which are placed uponus by our social and physical environment. For some, this will result in nothingless than the decay of society. We shall inevitably fall victim to scepticism,irrationalism, and, finally, nihilism.10 As Gordon Kaufmann (1960:4) argues:“when men no longer bring themselves to take a position on issues of truth andvalue, human culture cannot long survive.”I think we can now begin to see why relativism poses such a problem forinternational theory. At one level, our ability to distinguish between the validityof differing viewpoints becomes impossible. As Thomas Biersteker (1989:265)notes, relativism:does not offer us any clear criteria for choosing among themultiple and competing explanations it produces. Once liberaltoleration yields to the production of alternative interpretationsand understandings, how are we to choose from the abundance ofalternative explanations?The very real possibility exists, then, that students of international politicswill no longer be sure of anything. The concept of “truth” vanishes as the goal oftheorizing, and the study of politics becomes a wholly subjectivist process. Thus,10.Historical relativism is a form of scepticism. Scepticism is, in general, a modeof thinking that doubts the ability of the senses to be able to discover how thingsreally are. Sceptics doubts our ability to have any true knowledge. But historicalrelativism believes in the conditioned and finite nature of all historicalknowledge. Thus, while it may be a form of scepticism, the fact that it ishistorical alters its focus. Philosophical irrationalism is the fundamental doubt ofthe ability of reason to adjudicate between competing claims. Nihilism is anextremist mode of thought which denies all values whatsoever, even down tobelief in human existence itself. Needless to say all forms of communication areruled out.36one often hears the criticism that Post-positivism is simply a form of “politicaladvocacy”. 11Yet, it hard not to draw the conclusion that there is something odd inmaking the claim that Post-positivism is a form of “political advocacy.” Onemight, for example, simply turn the charge on its head, arguing that “positivists”themselves are no less advocative when it comes to their own preferred doctrine.To claim a priority for the scientific viewpoint does not save them either. For onecan still be a dogmatic social scientist.In addition, it is surprising that those who champion scientific approachesto scholarship on the grounds that results attained by this means are precise andaccurate, suffer from a high degree of imprecision and inaccuracy when it comesto scrutinizing and understanding Post-positivism. 12The identification of Post-positivism with relativism comes about becauseof this imprecision. Ultimately, it leads to a misunderstanding of the place andfunction of relativism in contemporary international theory. Post-positivists arenot exempted from this charge either. If we are to correct suchmisunderstandings, then, it is necessary to look at the various strands of thoughtwhich have been labelled “post-positivist.”UNTYING POST-POSITIVISMArguably, a more nuanced reading of Post-positivism is required, than hasbeen given by both scientific realists (and traditionalists) and those who believethemselves to be post-positivist of one form or another. Most internationaltheorists have conflated a number of different theoretical positions under thebanner of “post-positivism”, without attempting to distinguish between “Postpositivism”, “Post-structuralism”, “modernist critical theory”, and “Post11.Almond cited in Lapid (1989:80).12.It should be noted that some scholars who believe themselves to be “post-positivist” seem to have also misunderstood it. I have especially in mind Lapid(1988).37modernism”. These are all different intellectual projects and deserve to betreated as such. Failure to be rigorous in this regard has been a major cause ofthe conflation of Post-positivism with relativism.If we are to appreciate the diversity of philosophical positions which havebeen characterized as post-positivist, it is important to distinguish between“modernist” forms of Post-positivism, between different “Post-modernist” formsof Post-positivism, and finally, between “modernist” and “post-modernist” formsof Post-positivism. 13With regard to modernist forms of Post-positivism, for example, we needonly compare Mark Hoffman and Andrew Linklater. Hoffman (1988:244) locateshimself squarely within the tradition of critical theory as it has come down to usfrom Marx, the Frankfurt School, and Habermas. Taking his cue from Marx’sstatement in the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach, he argued international theory “isnot simply to alter the way we look at the world, but to alter the world.” On theother hand, Andrew Linklater (1986, 1990) has recently argued a more syntheticcase for Post-positivism by seeking a form of Post-positivism that is a synthesisbetween Realism, Marxism, and Wightean Rationalism. We might also mentionthe kind of “modernist” Post-positivism espoused by Robert Cox (1986) andAlexander Wendt (1987) to begin to see the kinds of problems that a lack ofdiscrimination brings with it.Moreover, it is clear that the major philosophical proponents of Postmodernism, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, are in fundamentaldisagreement over the philosophical and political articulation of Post13.See Lyotard (1984). In what follows, I use the term “Post-structuralism”, ratherthan the term “Post-modernism.” In my view, the latter term refers to a social,cultural, and political condition which has rebelled against the enlightenmentproject. I take Post-structuralism” to be a philosophical articulation of this.Moreover, Richard Ashley (1989), a leading post-modernist in internationaltheory, refers to his international theory as a “post-structuralist.”38modernism. 14 So too, the 1987 exchange between Robert Walker and RichardAshley show that neither are completely allied in their views. 15The clearest example of the confusion which has surrounded the use ofthe term “Post-positivism” comes from Yosef Lapid (1989). Although, he hasstimulated debate, the confusions in this paper have exacted a high price.While it is true that he acknowledges Post-positivism is not a “unitaryphilosophical platform”, and that “it presents itself as a rather loosely patched upumbrella for a confusing array of only remotely related philosophicalarticulations”, his tripartite division into “paradigmatism,” “perspectivism,” and“the drift toward relativism,” only serves to increase the confusion.(p.239) Indeed,the latter two classifications are especially problematic. The “drift towardrelativism” is so vague and imprecise a category as to be analytically useless,unless we know precisely whose work it is that has “drifted” into relativism.Indeed, Lapid’s whole discussion of relativism uncovers his own positivistpretensions, and, in my view, effectively undermines his contribution to post-positivist discourse. In fine objectivist manner, he argues relativism is bad in-and-for-itself. But without sufficient attention to the issue, or some minimaldefinition of just what relativism is, when the “drift” towards it begins, why it isundesirable, and whether one can acknowledge historical relativity withoutnecessarily succumbing to relativism, the whole thing is simply an exercise inobfuscation. If he is to defend his use of the term “Post-positivism”, the wholequestion of relativism needs to be cast differently, and in terms of a post-positivist discourse not a positivist one.Like his understanding of relativism, Lapid’s categorization of“perspectivism” also abounds with difficulties; not least because the term itself14.On the debate between Foucault and Derrida see Boyne (1990).15.Ashley’s reply does, however, term Walker’s critique “genial.” Recently, theyhave collaborated in a number of pieces which suggests their differences arebecoming negligible. See Ashley and Walker (1990).39has, among some interpretivists, always been associated with contextualrelativism.16 But we do not need to go beyond asking where does “criticaltheory” fit within Lapid’s framework to begin to see how hopelessly compromisedhis understanding of things are. He never defines critical theory formally, norattempts to make a distinction between “modernist” and “post-modernist”variants. Indeed, Habermasian critical theory could effectively be placed in allthree of Lapid’s criteria. He is concerned with developing a paradigm, employs ahistorical-hermeneutic perspectivism, which has at one time or another beencharged with relativism. 17 Lapid’s understanding of the move into Post-positivism, then, is seriously confused. First, his failure to evaluate post-positivisttheoretical and philosophical positions in their context and in their individuality,has been a primary cause of the conflating of different forms of Postpositivism.18 As I noted above, the result of this has been that Post-positivismhas now become synonymous with relativism. Second, and more importantly, hehas misunderstood the nature of the problem completely. For example, he haswarned that if the discipline becomes overly relativist it “may result in a backlashof some new dogmatic version of methodological monism.”(p.249) To overcomedisciplinary relativism we must seek its cause, and not simply threaten post-positivists with a return to scientific “monism”. If he had done this, he might have16.Hirsch (1978:45) for example, writes: “I have argued that perspectivism, thetheory that interpretation varies with the standpoint of the interpreter, is a rootform of critical scepticism. Implicitly it rejects the possibility of a interpretationthat is independent of the interpreter’s own values and pre-conceptions.” Seealso Seung (1982:202).17.See McCarthy (1982). At this point, we should note that Lapid is not alone.Both Hoffman and Campbell also failed to distinguish between variants ofcritical theory. See also Hoffman (1988) and Campbell (1988).18.Hoffman (1991) has recently pointed to the distinction between the twoforms. “The former is characterised by a “minimal foundationalism” whichaccepts a contingent universalism is possible and may be necessary in ethical andexplicatory fields. In the latter approach, even the possibility or desirability of aminimal or contingent foundationalism is abandoned in favour of thedeconstruction of texts and intertexts in world politics. See also George &Campbell (1990).40understood just how positivist is his attitude to the issue of relativism. Thus, hisview is not too far removed from that of the scientific realists. Relativism issimply “bad” in-and-for-itself. It is simply a term which signals the dividing lineacross which no self-respecting intellectual should cross. This is altogether toosimplistic.Post-positivist relativism is the effect of a prior cause. It is a warning signthat something has gone wrong with the way we understand our world, and theway we theorize about it. To take the council of both Lapid and the scientificrealists in this regard, is to remain in ignorance as to this cause.Relativism exists and threatens because of the way international theoryhas been studied over the last thirty years or so. It is not simply a question of“monism” versus “pluralism.” In essence, post-positivist relativism is the end resultof a discipline which has marginalized values. Scientific realists, therefore, areimplicated in the problem of relativism in an intimate way.The remainder of this thesis offers a very different reading of the problemof relativism than Lapid’s. This reading helps place Post-positivism intoperspective, and demonstrates its “revivalist” potential within the study ofinternational politics, even though elements within it can be said to be relativist.41CHAPTER THREEPOST-POSITIVIST RELATIVISM AN]) THE PROBLEM OF VALUES42The aim of this chapter is twofold. I begin by looking at two manifestations ofpost-positivist relativismi. The first is a submissive form of relativism, implicit inmuch of the work of Mansbach and Ferguson (1986), but especially in the essay“Values and Paradigm Change: The Elusive Quest for International RelationsTheory.” The other is a celebratory relativism, characteristic of the Poststructuralism of Richard Ashley.2Second, I shall argue that both are forms of alienated consciousness. Byframing the problem of relativism in terms of theoretical alienation, it allows us toask what is its cause, and how we might deal with it. Of course, these sorts ofquestions cannot be asked by scientific realists. By positing a timeless theoreticalframework, they argue these questions are unnecessary and superfluous. But it isprecisely these questions we need to ask if we are to plot a direction beyond thefield’s prevailing crisis. What is also significant here, is that concepts relativists haveproblematized, and which they do not articulate adequately, are precisely thosewhich scientific realists (and traditionalists generally) omit from their theories:values and historicity. As we shall see in the following chapter this omission provesto be a major flaw of Scientific Realism. On the one hand, itspositivist/structuralism framework denies values and historicity, while on the other,it proves to be both a historically conditioned theory, as well as normative. Thiscontradiction, more than any other, brings out the hopelessness of the scientificrealist project.1.This, of course, does not mean that all post-positivist theories are relativist. Onecan, for example, follow Andrew Linklater (1990:7), appealing to an “empiricalphilosophy of history” which is essentially dialectical in nature. Following Habermas,he argues an international theory should “recognize the significance of moraldevelopment and [seek] to explain the main advances in the evolution of universalmoral norms.” The appeal to universal norms mitigates against the threat ofrelativism.2.The most explicit statement of this is in Ashley (1989).43THE SUBMISSIVE RELATIVISM OF MANSBACH AND FERGUSONMansbach and Ferguson argue that contemporary international theory hasoverlooked signfficant areas of reality, namely historicity and values. For them, asfor all post-positivists, these are two essential and unavoidable components ofhuman experience. But once they are made central, Mansbach and Ferguson arguewe must recognize there can no longer be progressive or objective knowledge ofinternational politics. This realization results in an argument which is a species ofboth historical and value relativism.3The argument put forward by Mansbach and Ferguson has three interrelatedtheses. The first is that the “source” of all normative values is society itself. Theyargue all normative values are socially constructed and value-laden. Paradigms andconceptual schemes are all part of the Zeitgeist, and adherence to the possibility tovalue-freedom is simply misplaced. Scientists believe in the value of theadvancement of science, economists in the free market, and realists, in theimportance of the values of security and order. There is no privileged positionoutside of reality that is objective absolutely; all becomes a function of ideology.Second, debates in international theory are cyclical, not progressive. As I notedabove, intellectual progress is “illusory”.What is striking about these debates and what distinguishes themfrom debates in the nature sciences is that essentially the samearguments and emphases tend to recur over and over again throughtime, despite superficial changes in concepts and language...becausethey revolve around enduring normative themes. The key assertions ofrealism and idealism, for example, have been least sinceThucydides.(p.14)43 .Of course, whether making historicity and values central necessarily leads torelativism is, I would argue, highly debatable, especially in light of Habermasinspired critical theory and contemporary forms of neo-Aristotelianism. However,we need not concern ourselves with that issue here.4.This thesis is, to my mind, entirely problematic. Especially in the light of theadvent of Post-modernism.44Third, because they see an eternal recurrence of issues, paradigm change ininternational theory is of a different kind to that Thomas Kuhn (1970) articulated inhis celebrated book. For Kuhn, change in paradigms occur when anomalies in thedominant paradigm become so pronounced that they lead to an intellectual “crisis”in order to resolve them. This ultimately brings about the ascendency of theparadigm most able to resolve the anomalies of its predecessor. Mansbach andFerguson, on the other hand, argue that in the study of international political theory,paradigm change is related to “issue salience”, which, in turn, always concernchanges in the status of normative values.Changes in issue salience redirect attention toward values thatunderlie the newly important issues and away from values that areassociated with declining issues.(p.21)Whatever the merits of their argument, it never gets beyond showing whatissues contributed to the demise of the old dominant paradigm. In this case, thedecline of Classical Realism is the result of such events as the backlash to theVietnam war, the OPEC oil crisis, and the growing importance of nonmilitaryconcerns, problems of nuclear war, and so forth.(p.20) But if one is going to talk of ashift in our perception of normative values, it is not enough simply to demonstrateempirically why one set of normative values declined. To be convincing, one mustalso show what the new values are that are on the ascent, and what it is that makesthe new values the particular values which happen to arise after a period ofintellectual “crisis”. Instead of teasing out these sorts of issues, they simply positvague and unhelpful generalizations to explain a new emergent paradigm. Thus, weread of a new “ethos of society”, changes in the “normative temper of an era”, and“new opportunities for value satisfaction” as opposed to “value deprivation”.It is probably because of their inability to deepen the discussion to theappropriate level of abstraction, and in the direction needed to make their argument45convincing, that they shift the focus of the paper midstream.5 They proceed tooutline some of the “several dimensions” along which normative value change mayor may not occur.6 We are never told, for example, what the “enduring normativethemes” they speak of are in concreto: only that normative values exist in eternalrecurrence.7 They argue the source of all normative values is society. But they neverdefine what it is they mean by society, or ask the next logical question: what is itabout society that conjures forth normative values? The question of normativevalues, and its relation to society, only makes sense in the context of a concern withreason. Yet, they never mention reason at all.8 It is difficult to see how one canconsider the issue of values without simultaneously asking what conception ofrationality underpins changing attitudes to rules, norms, and values. Moreover, thereis no attempt to pose the question of whether some normative values are moreenduring than others. Is freedom more important than power? Is justice moreimportant than freedom? Are all normative values the same?If we take these difficulties together, we are led to the conclusion theirperception of intellectual history, and of the fall and rise of normative values, is5.The lack of specificity with regard to the whole issue of newly emergent valuesreflects their own ambivalence over the future direction of the study of geopolitics.It is Mansbach and Ferguson who coined the term “conceptual chaos”, and it wouldseem they are the victims of their own lack of conceptual vision. It is perhapsinteresting that in a more recent publication about the problematic nature ofcontemporary state theory the same problem arises. They seem to have no cleardirection beyond realising the current state of the field is chaotic. See their morerecent (1989).6.They call these mutability-immutability; optimism-pessimism; competitivenesscommunity; elitism-nonelitism.7.The only supporting evidence they draw upon is that Political Realism andIdealism existed in Ancient Greece.8.That the concept of “reason” figures nowhere in their arument reflects the highlysubjectivist nature of their viewpoint. It is precisely this sort of argument thattraditionalists like Gabriel Almond and Thomas Biersteker have voiced concernover.46nothing less than an unquestioning and highly conservative form of historical andvalue relativism.International relations will therefore continue to be characterized by awelter of competing theories which reflect significant political,subjective, and normative differences until the global system ‘enters anew period of rapid and stressful change. At that point, a dominanttheory, resembling a Kuhnian paradigm, may emerge for some periodof time, after which the cycle will resume.9What this amounts to is that the dominant values of an age are the right onesbecause they are the ones which have supplanted the previously dominant paradigm.As I see it, their thesis is a version of “might is right”, except in the current post-positivist climate “might” is no longer defined in realist terms as “power”, but as“values”Two points need to be made here. First, this is a form of relativism whichcan, I think, best be described as both soft and submissive. It is willing toacknowledge that universal values exist in time, although it accords no intrinsicsignificance to them except as ideology. In addition, there is a sense of resignation(or perhaps even desperation) in their relativism. It is as if they have been forcedinto historical and value relativism as the only possible solution to the intractableproblem of reconciling paradigm change with the need to take history and valuesseriously. As they express it:...political science will continue to develop more like one of the artsthan one of the sciences unless or until political scientists can isolatethemselves from the milieu whose problems they seek to address.This, we believe, is an impossible task and probably not one worthundertaking.(p.14-15) (My italics)The use of the word “probably” here is instructive for its ambivalence. Itshows them, like Lapid, not to be completely free of positivism. The positivistpromise of cumulative knowledge remains a kind of unobtainable holy grail. In9.Mansbach and Ferguson (1986:30) In the final footnote they write that the study ofgeopolitics is simply be characterized by “diversity”.47short, to be “resigned” to our inability to have progressive knowledge is still to beheld by its power, giving the positivist conception of knowledge a kind ofunwarranted mythical primacy. Moreover, the use of the term “political science”seems particularly out of place in an argument against the possibility of a “science”of international politics.Actually, this resignation leads to the loss of the political dimension ofinternational political theory. Future international theory must become little morethan an exercise in pure description. There is no basis left upon which to deal with,or even criticize, the various paradigms which arise. The result is a completesubmission to that paradigm which is able to gain dominance at a particular timeand place in history. As we shall see shortly, this is not the case with post-structuralrelativism. It is profoundly political in the sense that it is unwilling to acquiesce tothe dominant paradigm. In essence, it wants to say that this soft submissiverelativism will not do because it gives up in the face of the reality of power. The onlyanswer lies in resistance. According to post-structuralists like Richard Ashley, thismeans the only adequate form relativism can take is a defiant relativism which callsall paradigms into question, and privileges none of them. But I am getting a littleahead here.Mansbach and Ferguson’s argument has merit on at least two counts,however. For good or bad, it is an attempt to deal with the thorny issues of the placeand role of normative values. So too, it seeks to take history seriously as somethingintimately connected to what we are as human beings, and not simply as a sterilerecounting of past events. In addition, and equally important, their attempt toincorporate these elements into a conception of international politics suggests a highdegree of frustration and ultimately a loss of faith in traditional approaches to thesubject: approaches which have systematically shunned questions of historicity andvalues in the name of the “will to science.”48ThE CELEBRATORY RELATIVISM OF RICHARD ASHLEYThe second form of relativism comes from Richard Ashley. Without doubt,he is the most well-known post-structuralist writing in the field of internationalpolitics today. Although others such as James Der Derian (1987, 1989, 1990),Robert Walker, (1989) Michael Shapiro, (1989) and Bradley Klein (1988, 1990),have also made significant contributions.Philosophically speaking, Post-structuralism has two divergent expressions.The first emanates from the work of Jacques Derrida, in which science andphilosophy are simply different modes of writing-literary genres if you like. Thesecond strand of Post-structuralism takes as its point of departure thepower/knowledge grid of Michel Foucault. Foucault (1980) is concerned to unmaskthe power structures inherent in different modes of discourse and, which control,order, and dominate our lives. He uses the term “dispositif’ to characterize thesedisparate sites of power. They are:a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble of discourses, institutions,architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrativemeasures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral, andphilanthropic propositions-in short, the said and the unsaid.(p. 191)Richard Ashley’s most recent work draws its inspiration from both these twophilosophical positions, although not solely. One also finds references to such post-modern thinkers as Julia Kristeva with her concept of the “dissident” scholar incontemporary discourse. Nowhere does Ashley attempt to give a systematic readingof these thinkers, nor take into consideration the inherent philosophical differencesbetween Foucault and Derrida. Ashley utilizes post-structuralist modes of thoughton a purely ad hoc basis.Post-structuralists argue that the world is characterized only by contingency,diversity, and finitude. Or, as Ashley terms it-historicity. The drive toward unity ofinterpretation which is characteristic of Scientific Realism, as it is of all meta49theories, is misconceived and illusory. Moreover, such claims always turn out to bediscourses which impose a particular conception of reality on the world. Unitybecomes synonymous with power and, therefore, has totalitarian implications. Poststructuralists think that by denying validity to all truth claims it liberates us from theseductive appeal such claims have. It celebrates relativism as the only possiblecourse of action in a world which continually tells us what to think, what to do, andhow we should, and should not, organize ourselves.ioThe essence of Ashley’s post-structural relativism arises out of what he termsthe “radical undecidability of history.” According to him, a good example of this“undecidability” can be seen by looking at two equally truthful propositions whichare at the centre of contemporary international theory debate. The first is thedependence of historical practices on institutionalized structures, conventions, orbackground understandings. What is suggested here is that agents, events, andhuman practices are formed by, and the result of pre-determined structures. AsGiddens (1976:19) puts it: this antecedent structure is “the very ontologicalcondition of human life in society as such.” Alternatively, historical practicesgenerate social structures. Such structures arise only because they are the product ofknowledgeable human practices. Thus, rather than structures having a priorityabove and beyond human agency, it is this agency which is the pre-.condition of itsexistence and continual reaffirmation. Yet for Ashley this issue can never bedecided finally because to support one view is necessarily to exclude the insights ofthe other. In essence, it results in a theoretical paradox. As Ashley (1989:274)expresses it:10.1 think it can be convincingly argued that poststructural relativism is a form ofabsolutism. By not privileging any particular theoretical project it ends upprivileging them all, hence making the concept of diversity and plurality an absolutecategory.50But what comes of this paradoxical opposition, as poststructuralismunderstands it, is not a stable synthesis, an absolute ground, or a newsovereign center for the monological interpretation of history. Whatemerges instead is a respect for this paradox as an opposition in whichit is never possible to choose one proposition over another. It is anundecidable opposition that destabilizes all pretense to securegrounds at the end of history, but it is also an opposition that must berespected as an inescapable feature of the ways in which one maythink about history.iJ.By refusing to decide in favour of any particular viewpoint, by celebratingthis paradox of theory, Post-structuralism is relativist. Like the relativism ofMansbach and Ferguson, post-structural relativism, then, is unwilling to make ajudgement as to the truth value of any theory. There is no single overarching truth tobe discerned. There is only a myriad of different theories, interpretations,conceptual schemes, and paradigms. But unlike the relativism of Mansbach andFerguson, which can do no more than shrug its shoulders in the face of a dominantparadigm, Post-structuralism wants continually to cast doubt as to the validity ofsuch a program. By taking all paradigms in their historicity (even his own), Ashleywants to challenge what he takes to be a central motif of all theories: that is, theyexist, and gain their meaning, as a relation of power. This, not just in relation toother theories, but in the relationship of theories to the world at large. Ashleyconcludes that:In contrast to modern social theory, poststructuralism eschews granddesigns, transcendental grounds, or universal projects of humankind.The critical task, instead, is to expose the historicity-the arbitrariness,the political content, and the dependence upon practice-of the limitsthat are imposed in history, and inscribed in paradigms of thesovereignty of man.(p.284)11.This is a very different reading of the agent-structure problem than that recentlyput forward by the so-called structurationists. They argue the solution to thisproblem lies, not by privileging structure over agency, or agency over structure, butby positing them as ontologically concurrent, or ontologically equal. For Ashley thisis simply another attempt at a solution to that which is insoluble. On thestructurationist perspective see Giddens (1984) and Wendt (1987).51While it is true that there are significant differences between these two formsof relativism, they are similar in a least one important way. Both acknowledgehistoricity and values as defining characteristics of all conceptual schemes andtheories.12 The distinction between relativist and non-relativist forms of Post-positivism revolves around how we interpret this insight. Relativists like Mansbachand Ferguson cede to the dominant theoretical framework and the values whichattend it, while waiting for another to rise up to take its place. But for Ashley this isdefeatist. We should “resist” them all and grant none special or privileged status. Onthis view, they all threaten to enslave us.But whether we “submit” to the dominant values, or “resist” them all, the endresult is the same-we lose our ability to decide whether one theory is better thananother, and thus, whether one set of values is more worthy than another. We aredeprived of our ability to make critical judgements. On the other hand, non-relativist forms of Post-positivism argue we can make universal value judgements.Some values are inherently better than others. According to them, any theory whichcannot theoretically and practically distinguish between values ultimately has littlevalue.Even more importantly, relativism of this sort makes Fascism no better orworse than Liberalism or Pacifism; Hitler and Stalin no different from Wilson orGhandi: South Africa and China no more unpalatable than say New Zealand,Switzerland, or Canada. In the final analysis, human beings, places, and theories, areeither all equally bad or equally good.That theoretical reflection in international theory has come to this, is itselfinstructive. To have lost “faith” in political theories to have positive and beneficialmerit is, I would argue, a sign of acute alienation. And, as with the alienation ofthe worker from the product of his or her labour, or of alienation from one’s12.It is interesting Lapid (1988) seems to overlook this in his discussion of Post-52family and friends, this intellectual alienation has arisen due to the particularenvironment in which it has its origin. If we wish to answer the question whyrelativism has arisen now, and why these relativists have relativized the conceptsof historicity and values, we must do two things. First, unlike the majority ofscholars in the field, treat their views as worthy of serious investigation. And,second, look for the source of this alienation. In the following chapter I arguethat this is to be found in the project I have termed Scientific Realism.positivism.53CHAPTER FOURTHE SCIENTIFIC REALIST RESPONSE TO RELATIVISMHOW NOT TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM54Modern scientific realists are staunchly anti-relativist. To them, Post-positivism represents a manifestation of the failure of intellectual life; anabrogation of our duty to the furtherance of knowledge and truth. Moreover, itsrelativism places us on the slippery slope to nihilism. In order to avoid thispossibility, scientific realists counsel us to apply a positivist, structuralist logic tothe problem of relativism. Only in this way can we be assured of the “truth” ofour research findings.The aim of this chapter is to examine the cogency of this way ofunderstanding relativism. To do this, I demonstrate first how scientific realistsutilize a positivist/structuralist methodology to banish relativism. The secondpart of this chapter challenges this approach. My argument draws on insightsfrom the Philosophical Hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer and the CriticalTheory of Jurgen Habermas. I argue that Scientific Realism cannot withstand thelogic of these insights. It avoids relativism by what can only be described as aphilosophical fiction. And, more importantly, Scientific Realism is not value-freebut surreptitiously smuggles a conception of the “good” into its theoretical matrix.Its approach to the problem of relativism must, therefore, be rejected.The rejection of Scientific Realism as an adequate solution to theproblem of relativism, however, means taking a partisan position with regard toPost-positivism. The question that must be asked, then, is whether the failure ofScientific Realism necessarily entails a relativistic world-view? This seems to bewhat Ruggie and Kratochwil (1986:768) imply when they write somewhatnervously: “Let it be understood that we are not advocating a coup whereby thereign of positivist explanation is replaced by explanatory anarchy.”This thesis rejects this either/or way of framing the problem of relativism.It is based upon a misunderstanding of the place of relativism in intellectual life.Because relativism is a manifestation of alienated consciousness, it is neitherdevoid of insights, nor simply a pernicious strand of nihilism. Somewhatparadoxically, it makes a knowledge claim upon the study of international55politics. It tells us something about the state of the discipline and provides uswith clues as to the direction we might seek answers.The importance of this chapter in regard to the overall aims of this thesiswill be to unmask the extent to which Scientific Realism is also an alienatedconceptualization of theory. Simply put, it believes itself to be transcendentally“true”, and value-neutral, when it proves to be both historically conditioned andvalue non-neutral. It denies essential aspects of its own theoretical formulation.Herein lies its alienation.Let us be clear here. I am arguing that Scientific Realism claims to bevalue-neutral and objectively true. But to claim that one’s philosophical positionis value-neutral and objectively true, does not make it so. Close inspection of thebasic premises of Scientific Realism leads to the conclusion that this claim isbogus. That it believes its position to be such is an expression of falseconsciousness.For all realists, international politics has a remarkable constancy about it.What took place between the Athenians and the Lacedaemons is replayed againand again. The contest (power and wealth) remains the same, as do the players(states). As Waltz (1979:66) expresses it: “The texture of international politicsremains highly constant, patterns recur, and events repeat themselvesendlessly.”l. It is this perception of continuity and permanence which givesrealists confidence in the existence of objective and knowable “natural” laws ofinternational politics. As Morgenthau (1967:4) puts it:Political realism believes that politics, like society in general, isgoverned by objective laws that have their roots in human nature.In order to improve society it is first necessary to understand thelaws by which society lives. The operation of these laws beingimpervious to our preferences, men will challenge them only at therisk of failure.1.Similarly, Gilpin (198 1:7) writes: “the fundamental nature of internationalrelations has not changed over the millenia.”56That realists believe the social and political world functions according tonatural laws explains its long-term interest in science. Without doubt, the beliefin “a science of international politics” has been the hallmark of post-war Realism.Indeed, some have argued Political Realism is, and has always been, a science.Robert Gilpin (1986:306), for example, argues Thucydides was the first scientificstudent of international politics, Machiavelli the first political scientist, andinterprets E.H. Carr as presenting us with a “science” of international politics.2What the term “science” means to each of these thinkers is so profoundlydifferent from the meaning Gilpin gives the term, that it renders the historicalconnection highly dubious. And, as Daniel Garst argues, a scientific account ofThe Peloponnesian Wars is “suspect” because of the historicity of the speechesand the fact their reconstruction from Thucydides’ memory must be “incompleteand biased”.3Whatever truth claims can be attached to Scientific Realism, one thing iscertain: relativism threatens it. ‘Where scientific realists strive for “truths” aboutinternational politics, post-positivist relativism puts the whole project in doubt.From the perspective of these social scientists, the choices are simple: a scienceof international politics offers knowledge, relativism only ignorance; scienceoffers release from dogmatism and superstition, relativism threatens to plunge usinto a new dark age; science offers hope in the future, relativism onlyhopelessness. It is a simple either/or question, and the premise upon whichscientific realists base both their implicit critique of relativism, and theircelebration of scientific method. In short, science will save us, relativism will sinkus.The scientific realist fascination with science comes as a consequence ofits desire to ground knowledge claims. The first principle of the philosophy of2.Gilpin is referring to Carr (1946).3.See Garst (1989:6).57science is that there is a permanent, fixed, ahistorical framework or archimedeanpoint which allows us to ground knowledge, determine our standards ofrightness, and, ultimately, give us the security of knowing that we knowsomething, instead of nothing. Similarly, for scientific realists the concept of“structure” acts as its foundation. The structure of the international system isfixed, naturally given, and not open to doubt. As Buzan (1984:4) writes: “Itexposes an area of theoretical bed-rock which can serve as a solid foundation forfurther development of international system theory.”The nature of international politics can be deduced from the way“structure” impinges on and conditions the behaviour of states. As Gilpin(1981:226) argues: “Realism...seeks to understand how states have alwaysbehaved and presumably always will behave. It does not believe that thecondition of anarchy can be transcended.” Thus, the structure of the internationalsystem is given prior to the historical outcomes of state interaction. In this waystructure functions like a unifying concept tying past, present, and future togetherinto a single interpretive whole conditioned by the “fact” of anarchy.According to scientific realists, it also provides the possibility of an agreedupon starting point for the development of sub-theories, a commensurablelanguage and frame of reference, as well as an agreed upon standard by whichsocial scientists can judge the veracity of each other’s findings. Thus, thestructuralist “turn” of Scientific Realism ensures epistemological certitude.Central to realists is the belief that they have found a standard prior to, andunaffected by, history. This is not to say they lack an interest in past events. Onthe contrary, it is the observance of such events which allows them to groundtheir theories in the concept of “structure.” Yet Scientific Realism is ahistorical,in the sense that history is not something constitutive of human subjectivity orconsciousness.4 On this view, history does not affect human rationality, identity,4.1 shall refer to this as “historicity”.58culture, and the like. As Gilpin (1981:XII) writes: “In this book we shall assumerationality is not historically or culturally bound”Value-neutrality is also an essential aspect of the scientific realistresponse to relativism. Without it, structure would be little more than a figmentof the theorist’s own imagination and personal bias, rather than somethingobjectively given and scientifically knowable. The central difference betweenClassical Realism and Scientific Realism concerns just this point. AgainstClassical Realism, scientific realists argue the concept of “human nature” wasvalue-laden, and altogether too ambiguous to serve as a solid foundation fortheoretical inquiry. Moreover, where Classical Realism considered the role oftheory to be prescriptive in the sense of providing a set of criteria by which toguide foreign policy analysis, Scientific Realism makes no such claims. Trulyscientific explanation must be a value-neutral activity. This is not to say thatprescription, in the form of control or prediction, cannot follow once scientificexplanation has been achieved. As Waltz (1979:6) writes, “the urge to explain isnot born of idle curiosity alone. It is produced also by the desire to control, or atleast to know if control is possible.”Both the structuralism and the value-neutrality of Scientific Realismprovide a formidable edifice against relativism. The relativist wants to point tothe historically conditioned nature of all thought, of theoretical frameworks, ofexperience, of culture, and of value judgements, while scientific realists arguethat by appealing to timeless laws operating within a structural foundationalism,we gain an ontological priority over historical difference. In essence, relativism isovercome by positing a static concept of history which gives priority to unity overhistorical diversity, or, as Ollman puts it: “The absolute pre-dominance of thewhole over the parts.”55.Cited in Ashley (1986:265).59THE INADEQUACY OF THE SCIENTIFIC REALIST SOLUTION TORELATIVISMThis approach to the problem will not do. In order to avoid the threat ofrelativism it denies historical diversity and marginalizes values. Yet, when wescratch beneath its “scientific” veneer, we find a theory which is itself historicallybounded and therefore rooted in the concerns of the late twentieth century.Furthermore, it contains a specific set of values which lie at its heart. For all itsperceived parsimony, therefore, it is replete with contradictions.To take history seriously means acknowledging our inability to escape ourhistoricity. It means acknowledging that finitude and contingency arefundamental to any theory we might construct. It also means we can never viewthe world as it really is. We are not unencumbered “selves”, as scientific realistspresuppose. On the contrary, we bring to theory biases, presuppositions, valuejudgements and so on. The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, hasdemonstrated that all interpretations come about through projections ofmeanings that arise out of the interpreter’s own concrete historical reality. Allinterpretation is, therefore, conducted with certain questions in mind, and withparticular ways of approaching the text. The interpretation contributed to, andhad bearing, upon the final result of the interpretation. No interpretation is,therefore value neutral because the interpreter is unable to escape thepresuppositions of his/her own mind and his/her own historicity. As Heidegger(1986:191-192) argues:Whenever something is interpreted as something, theinterpretation will be founded essentially upon fore-having, foresight, and fore-conception. An interpretation is never apresuppositionless apprehending of something presented to us.Heidegger’s critique of positivism and ahistorical modes of thinking hasrecently been taken up by both Gadamer and Habermas.6 Of course, to fully6.Although it must be said that Habermas’s attempt to develop a minimalfoundation in the concept of universal pragmatics creates a tension in his work.60explore the strengths of these critiques is beyond the scope of this thesis. We can,however, get some idea of the force of their arguments from a brief look at twoconcepts which are essential components in their rejection of positivism. Thefirst, is what Gadamer calls vorurteil. This is generally translated as prejudice orpre-judgements.7 The second, is Habermas’s concept of “committed reason.”Gadamer (1988:XVII) explains his project in the following terms:The question I have asked seeks to discover and bring intoconsciousness something that methodological dispute serves onlyto conceal and neglect, something that does not so much confineor limit modern science as precede it and make it possible.Gadamer shows that understanding is the result of both a historicallyaccumulated wealth of knowledge, insights, “intuition flashes”, and a basichistorically operative structure. No theory proceeds in a vacuum. This is the casewith a literary text, as it is of a scientific one. Indeed, even the meaning of aparticular scientific experiment does not come about simply because of factorsrelevant to the experiment; it arises out of the tradition of interpretation aboutthe nature, function, and purpose of scientific experiments.The essential feature of Gadamer’s work, then, is premised on our being-already-in-the-world. This means we can never free ourselves from our prejudgements or from our historical boundedness. Hence, we are always involvedin a historical tradition. As Gadamer observes: ‘The finitude of man’s beingconsists in the fact that firstly he finds himself at the heart of tradition.”8 There isno understanding of history without reference to the present. History is alwaysthe history of effect. Through the tradition in which we live our lives, history iscontinually acting upon us by shaping all that we do and think. As Gadamer(1988:245) writes:7.On this see Palmer (1969:181). Bernstein (1983:191) argues the term“prejudice” conveys Gadamer’s intentions more accurately.8.Cited in Ricoeur (198 1:67-68).61Long before we understand ourselves through the process of self-examination, we understand ourselves in a self-evident way infamily, society and state in which we live.In the section on “prejudice”, Gadamer challenges what he calls theEnlightenment’s “prejudice against prejudice.” His aim in doing so is not fromany conservative ambition, as he has been accused of but so that we canrecognise that “all understanding inevitably involves some prejudices.” It isGadamer’s way of giving substance to the “background” which we all possess, andwhich give all theories, whether scientific or otherwise, their particularcharacteristics. By prejudice, Gadamer (1976:9) certainly does not meandogmatic unchallengeable opinions born of a narrow mind. On the contrary:Prejudices are not necessarily unjustified and erroneous, so thatthey inevitably distort the truth. In fact, the historicity of ourexistence entails that prejudices, in the literal sense of the word,constitute the original directedness of our whole ability toexperience. Prejudices are biases of our openness to the world.They are simply conditions whereby we experience something-whereby what we encounter says something to us. This formulationcertainly does not mean that we are enclosed within a wall ofprejudices and only let through the narrow portals those things thatcan produce a pass saying, “Nothing new will be said here.” Insteadwe welcome just that guest who promises something new to ourcuriosity.Gadamer’s radical use of the concept of prejudice points to threeimportant aspects in what it means to take history seriously. First, prejudicescome to use through tradition; second, they are made up of what we are at anymoment in time; third, they have an anticipatory character in that they arealways open to critical testing, and transformation.Perhaps one of the most interesting insights to arise out of this isrecognition that all reason functions within traditions. Tradition is not simplywhat is old hat and a millstone around our neck. On the contrary, a tradition thatis alive, is one which is determinate of our very being, and always open tomodification through a process of mediation.99.In an important passage, Gadamer (1988:250) writes: “The fact is that traditionis constantly an element of freedom and of history itself. Even the most genuineand solid tradition does not persist by nature because of the inertia of what once62Understanding itself should be thought of not so much as an actionof subjectivity but as entering into the happening of tradition inwhich past and present are constantly mediated. It is this that mustbe acknowledged in hermeneutic theory, which is much toostrongly dominated by the idea of a procedure, a method. (258)Gadamer’s critique of positivism is, as Bernstein has noted, “devastating”.It is a radical redefinition of philosophy which challenges positivism, not so muchby saying it is in error, but by showing that there is a theoretical matrix which isontologically prior to all positivist epistemologies.1O In his view, positivism hasabstracted from concrete historical reality and alienated us from our “true” modeof historical consciousness by not taking into account the finitude, historicity, andintersubjective dimensions of the human person. Moreover, it demonstrates themisguided nature of any view which believes theory can be a value-neutral formof inquiry.Intersubjectivity impinges on the study of international politics in anunexpected way. It is made possible because we have a common medium throughwhich to be inter-subjective. Thus, the key to understanding common action ispremised upon our ability as language users.ll There can be no intersubjectivitywithout a shared language through which the interlocutors can understand eachother and be understood.12 Although this is not the place to go into theexisted. It needs to be reaffirmed, embraced, cultivated. It is, essentially,preservation, such as is active in all historical change. But preservation is an actof reason, though an inconspicuous one. For this reason, only what is new, orwhat is planned, appears the result of reason. But this is an illusion. Even wherelife changes violently, as in ages of revolution, far more of the old is preserved inthe supposed transformation of everything that anyone knows, and combineswith the new to create a new value.”lOin other words, the development of the scientific realist perspective alreadycontains intellectual biases which cannot be expunged by labelling it “science.”Our being-already-in-the-world is the ontological basis of all our theoreticaljudgements.ll.This is the overarching theme of the work of Jurgen Habermas (1979, 1989a,1989b).12.The role of language in the study of international politics is a topic which hasreceived scant attention in the literature. I would argue this is a significantomission, and one which has enormous potential for new research.63connection between language, theory-building, and international politics, oneaspect does warrant brief discussion. This is the concept of rhetoric.Vico uses the concept in the context of a defence of the humanistictradition against Cartesian science. He wants to demonstrate not so much thatCartesian science is wrong, but that it is limited in what it can tell us aboutourselves and the world around us. For Vico, rhetoric is an important example ofa mode of knowledge which cannot be encompassed within the domain of theepistemological atomism of the Cartesian cogito. Moreover, it also demonstrateshow we learn and become educated in a particular life-world.Vico understands the art of rhetoric in two related ways. First, goodspeech is itself an ideal. Second, rhetoric takes as its goal the saying of what is“right and true.” To appeal to what is “right and true” presupposes a dimension ofshared reality beyond private thoughts. By its very nature, therefore, it requires aconcrete community, group, or nation, in which to articulate, defend, persuade,and argue about issues of mutual importance. At the same time, however, it mustalso be considered from the perspective of knowledge, for it is intimatelyconnected with our capacity to learn. We learn from persuasive argument. AsGadamer (1986:122-123) expresses it: “Rhetoric is indissoluble from dialectics;persuasion that is really convincing is indissoluble from knowledge of the true.To the same degree, understanding has to be thought about from the vantage ofknowledge. It is a capacity to learn.”If the goal of rhetoric is the “right and true”, and we concede that ourcapacity to learn emanates at least as much from argument as experiment, thenwe are inexorably drawn to the conclusion that: “What is at issue for the purelydialectical rhetorician as well as for the statesman and in the leading of one’sown life is the good.”(p. 123)The idea of statesmen as rhetoricians defined in Vicoian terms isinstructive for our understanding of the place and function of Political Realism64in the study of international politics.13 Not only do statesmen use language wellin order to persuade and guide, but what it is they wish to teach and persuade isbuilt upon a desire to enhance, or at least, maintain the well-being of the nationas a whole. In this way, they are concerned with the “right and true.” Morgenthau(1967:5) tells us: “We assume that statesmen think and act in terms of interestsdefined in terms of power, and the evidence of history bears that out.” Yet, fromthe perspective of rhetoric, “interest” may have a source other than power.Rather, it is interest defined in terms of some “good.” In the case of ClassicalRealism, this good is the defence of the institutions of the United States and theso-called free world against the twin threats of Fascism and Communism.George Kennan (1947:582) demonstrates this when he argues:The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of theoverall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. Toavoid destruction the United States need only measure up to itsown best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as agreat nation.Kennan’s appeal was persuasive simply because it was an appeal to what wasintersubjectively “right and true” in North American terms. Similarly, Waltz’sargument that a bipolar world is the most stable and secure, has much the sameconnotations. An appeal to the value of “security” only makes sense as an appealto a language community with shared recognizable standards. What givesrhetoric its real thrust against a purely scientific world-view, therefore, is that itderives its strength out of intersubjectivity, and not out of a separation of theknowing subject from the object of his/her knowledge. In other words, it is onlyby appealing to some common standards (whether they be political, cultural, orsocial) that “security” makes sense, and is something worth striving for,maintaining, and arguing over.Although more work would be needed to develop the concept of rhetoricinto a basis for a research project, three important points are worth noting. First,13.The word “statesmen” here covers both diplomats and domestic leaders.65Political Realism in any theoretical formulation is, and must be, a form ofrhetoric. It derives its legitimacy both as a guide for political action, and as actualpolicy-as with deterrence-by appealing to a particular conception of what is “rightand true.” Thus, Classical Realism is based upon the assumption that it has asuperior understanding of international politics which diplomats and statesmenoverlook at their peril, and the peril of those whom they represent asgovernment leaders. Of course, this is much easier to discern when one has anenemy of substantial proportions. Thus, it is not difficult to see why PoliticalRealism proved to be such a powerful force for most of the twentieth century. Itwas to be able to articulate “the right and true” more perceptively that itsopponents. So too, it is also not difficult to see why its relevance has recentlybeen questioned. Simply put, the focus of what is considered “good” has shifted toissues besides war and security. Second, and more radically, the concept ofrhetoric calls into question the realist understanding of the connection between“interests” and “power.” Indeed, from the perspective of rhetoric the definition of“interests” defined as simply the maximization (or near maximization) of “power”may well prove to be an unfortunate form of cynicism. Instead, we should seek todefine “interests” in terms of shared “values.” We should keep this in mind in thethird section of this chapter. There I argue that Scientific Realism contains aconception of the “good life.”In similar fashion to Gadamer, Habermas’s use of the concept of“commitment” presupposes many of the characteristics present in the previousdiscussion. 14 One difference, however, is that where Gadamer attacks positivismby showing “what precedes it and makes it possible”, Habermas focuses on theillusory nature of value-neutral theory.14.Habermas, however, finds Gadamer’s use of the term “prejudice” tooconservative. In his view, it deprives individuals of the objectivity that is evidentin their self-reflexive ability to social and political transformation.66All reason is committed reason. As Habermas (1972:258) puts it:“Theoretically guided action is a consequence of the fact that “commitment” isthe undisputed basis of all rational endeavour” (my italics). For theEnlightenment, reason was a “critical” tool, having the power to inquire into thevalidity of traditional values, morals, forms of life, and ideologicalpresuppositions; any conceptual scheme, in fact, which made a claim to truth,without sufficient rational basis. A critical self-reflective attitude based on reasonwas one concerned with overcoming forms of dogmatism. Dogmatism was theenemy of Enlightenment as confinement is to freedom. Failure to adopt a“critical” posture meant humanity would remain the prisoner of dogmatism andprejudice.In the fight against dogmatism, Habermas points out critical theory andpositivism are allied. Both are forms of the critique of ideology. But positivismshifts the emphasis from the original enlightenment meaning. “It is directedagainst dogmatism in a new guise. Any theory that relates to praxis in any wayother than by strengthening and perfecting the possibilities for purposive-rationalaction must now appear dogmatic.”(264) The basic issue facing critical theory,then, is to inquire into this shift from a conception of theory as a “critical” guideto liberating practices, to its conversion at the hands of scientific rationality intotechnical control over social forces. It is Habermas’s belief that we can no longerdistinguish between the practical and the technical, between praxis and poeisis, adistinction essential to the traditional conception of theory and practice.Questions of right action, the “good” life, and the “true” are reduced to our abilityto control. On this view, a liberative practice is simply technical mastery overnature and the social world.Emancipation by means of enlightenment is replaced byinstruction in control over objective or objectified processes.Socially effective theory is no longer directed toward theconsciousness of human beings who live together and discussmatters with each other, but to the behaviour of human beings whomanipulate.(254-255)67Against this, Habermas attempts to reassert a conception of theory andpractice that guided the early Enlightenment thinkers. This means restoring theoriginal relationship between “reason” and “commitment.” What is more, thisinsight is validated by positivism itself. Indeed, what makes Habermas’sargument convincing is the demonstration that positivism is itself a form ofcommitted reason. Positivism is committed via strategic reason to the value ofrationalization.No matter how much it insists on a separation of theory andcommitment in its opposition to dogmatism, positivism’s critique ofideology itself remains a form of committed reason: nolens volens,it takes a partisan position in favour of progressiverationalization.(268)If Habermas is correct, it immediately pushes us beyond the positivistconception of what should and should not count for reason, and, therefore, whatshould and should not count for theory. Indeed, a conception of reason that iswholly technical, while not wrong itself, proves only to be a moment of reasonand not reason itself.Habermas, like Gadamer, challenges us to rethink the way we view theworld. Ignoring the effects of history, culture, and our national environmentmeans we banish relativism. What we lose, however, is significant dimensions ofreality. Arguably, this is as intolerable as the relativism it fears. We end upkilling the patient to cure the disease. But more importantly, this positivism turnsout to be a historically, culturally, and nationally specific theory. Relativism, then,is overcome solely in the mind of the theorist, and not in actuality.In the rest of this chapter I explore this insight. I focus on the fact thatScientific Realism is a value non-neutral theory. It cannot escape its ownhistorical boundedness. This has important implications for the problem ofrelativism. No theory can begin from some archimedean point, but must behistorically grounded, even if relativism proves to be a danger. Moreover, oncewe admit values into the centre of theory we can begin to move away from the68issue of relativism. This, then, also means we must move beyond ScientificRealism as an ahistorical and value-free pursuit.I think we can glean two very different insights from Gadamer andHabermas which show the failure of this articulation of Scientific Realism. First,Gadamer’s argument makes it difficult for us to take scientific realists seriouslywhen they talk of “a tradition of Political Realism.” Indeed, it is precisely becauseof the richness and openness of tradition that scientific realists are able to makethe claims they do about it, and are able to reaffirm its continued relevance. Butthis also points to the contradictory and hopeless nature of their undertaking,and is an important reason why its answer to relativism will not do. By invokingtradition, they demonstrate they are involved in an on-going and open-endedhistorical process, yet the static nature of their various for projects deprives theirtradition of its very essence-its vitality. In effect, Scientific Realism does not takeits own tradition seriously: it chops it off at the knees and says “Nothing new willpass here.” What this means is that it takes its tradition as only one moment inhistory rather than an open-ended and on-going process.They deny the very thing that gives their argument its validity. We can, I think,see what I mean a little better by turning to the recent work of Robert Keohane.Keohane (1986) wants to acknowledge that something new has happenedin international politics, and that Scientific Realism needs further work toexplain regimes and a greater degree of international cooperation. ScientificRealism, Keohane tells us, “does not explain change well.”15 At the same time,he, like Waltz and Gilpin, believes in the value of positive science for the studyof international politics. Thus, he writes:A good structuralist theory generates testable implications aboutthe behaviour on an a pnori basis, and, therefore, comes closer15.P.15. It is not my intention to discuss the copious amounts of literature on theproblem of international change, except to say that I view change as a historicallygrounded phenomenon. As will become clear, I do not believe we can accountfor change solely in scientific terms. On the issue of change see Buzan, & BarryJones (1981), Czempiel & Rosenau (1989).69than interpretive description to meeting the requirements forscientific knowledge of neopositivist philosophers of science suchas Lakatos.(p. 193)One of the ways Keohane believes change can more adequately betheorized within the scientific realist framework is with a loosening up of therationality assumption. Keohane defines the “strict” version of the rationalityassumption in the following manner.To say governments act rationally in this sense means that theyhave consistent, ordered preferences, and that they calculate thecosts and benefits of all alternative policies in order to maximizetheir utility in light both of those preferences and of theirperceptions of the nature of reality.(11)He argues this conception can be found in the work of all realists sinceThucydides. But he criticizes this view on the grounds that it fails to note that themaximization of utility may not always occur. States may be forced, due tostructural impediments, to accept less than the optimal maximization of theirutility. Thus, he introduces the concept of bounded rationality. Moreover, inAfter Hegemony, the notion of “empathy” enters the rationality assumption “inorder to see how cooperation in world politics may be affected if actors take intoaccount others’ welfare as part of their own sense of well-being.”16 Thisreorientation of the rationality assumption, then, is meant to account for thegrowing importance of international institutions and issue-based politics. It is “toattain closer correspondence with reality.” 17But on what “scientific” grounds can Keohane claim to alter thesubstantive characteristics of the rationality assumption? It is not enough to saythat all realists from Thucydides through to Morgenthau and Waltz have not gotit quite right. The perceived constancy of rationality over the millenia is part ofthe reason why a scientific explanation of international politics has beenconsidered possible in the first place. If rationality exhibits changedcharacteristics, it means we can no longer predict continuity to the degree16.Keohane (1984:110).17.Keohane (1986:191).70necessary to maintain scientific status. Unlike Waltz, who maintains that anabsolutely fixed structure in evident in the international arena and thereforepushes “a vast array of causes down to the unit level”, Keohane wants to makestructure less rigid in order to be able to account for change at the structurallevell8. But if this is the case, it seems to me that there is a tension between thedemands of positivism and the demands of a changing reality. Thus, instead of agreater fit between the two it becomes doubtful whether Keohane does eitherjustice. First, a science of international politics rests on the assumption thatuniversal laws about international politics can be known objectively, yet with themodification of the rationality assumption a strict “science” becomes impossible.This is because we have no way of determining what further modifications ofrationality might, or might not, be possible and what the consequences withregard to future outcomes might be. It is conceivable, for example, that boundedrationality could metamorphosize into some other form of rationality, which inturn could affect the way states behave considerably. Anarchy could becomehierarchy if empathetic relations persisted. Of course, Keohane could probablyargue that he is the only one in the last two millenia that has discovered that theessence of international rationality is bounded. But this is a little hard to believe.The essential point is that if Keohane is correct, then rationality has changed. Toadmit this is tantamount to admitting a scientific explanation of internationalpolitics cannot be sustained. A positivist explanation is built upon the assumptionthat rationality exhibits transcendental qualities. Keohane cannot have it bothways. He cannot maintain a commitment to scientific explanation derived from atradition which has maintained rationality is constant, while at the same timecountenance the possibility of a conception of rationality which reflects theparticular social and political world of the late twentieth century and its concernfor regimes and issue-politics. To alter the rationality assumption substantively,18.See also Buzan (1989:5).71in my view, casts doubt on the possibility of a scientific explanation in thepositivist sense. It introduces the very thing scientific explanation works so hardto dispel-uncertainty.Moreover, his use of the concept of “empathy” is also instructive. Not onlydoes it violate the basic canon of Political Realism-a canon he takes as true sincetime immemorial-that states are only interested in expanding and/or maintainingtheir own power, but as an analytical category it conflicts with the value-neutralclaims of Positivism. Indeed, if we separate Keohane’s actual work from hispledge to Scientific Realism, we can draw no other conclusion than he hasentered the world of Post-positivism, or at least validates its claims in aspectacular way. Ultimately, he lends support to Ashley’s claim that rationality ishistorically bounded. He is more post-structuralist that he realizes!The other important point to arise from the discussion shows the difficultyin sustaining value-neutrality. Scientific Realism has its own set of priorcommitments, biases, and prejudices which it smuggles into the framework of itstheoretical propositions under the guise of value-neutrality. The question weshould ask, then, is what is the source of Scientific Realism’s defence offoundationalism against relativism? In one sentence, the source of its defenceagainst relativism is a vision of the “good life”. Before concluding this chapter Iwant to say a few words about this. It seems to me to demonstrate admirably whyit cannot claim to be a value-free science.First, and foremost, scientific realists argue the best theory ofinternational politics is one which marries the principles of Realism with aninstrumentalist conception of theory. This presupposes a conception of what a“good theory” is. A “good” theory is a scientific one. So too, the commitment totechnical rationality (as opposed to some other form of rationality) demonstratesthe best means of understanding and controlling international processes, insuresthe progress and sanctity of knowledge, and leads to the conclusion that a“science of international politics” is a good in-and-for-itself, and relativism is bad-72in-and-for itself. Thus, Gilpin (1981:226) can talk in terms of a “faith that a“science of international politics” will ultimately save mankind.” This amounts tosaying that in the absence of such a theoretical framework, we shall be severelydebilitated in our ability to solve international problems, perhaps increasing thechances of war. Again, as Gilpin puts it: “A scholar of international relations hasa responsibility to be true to this faith that the advancement of knowledge willenable us to create a more just and peaceful world.”(p.226-227) In light of thisview, it is not too difficult to see why relativism seems such an enormous threatto the discipline. It brings this noble project into doubt. Arguably, what this allboils down to is that Scientific Realism is a political theory which defends aparticular way of life and of doing politics. It is, therefore, as value non-neutraland ideologically motivated as any form of Marxism. More precisely, it is anideology and an ideology of science.As I said earlier one need not get involved in the issue of whether this is aworthy or unworthy project. Yet it becomes worrisome in the sense that this sortof explanation deprives theory of the capacity for critical self-reflection. It isprecisely here that it becomes a form of closed idealism.If the foregoing has any cogency, it seems rather bizarre to talk of“science” as the handmaiden of the search for “a more just and peaceful world”and to believe this is a value-free undertaking. scientific realists want to havetheir cake and eat it too. On the one hand, they want to avoid relativism by anappeal to a value-free foundationalism, and, on the other, they have their ownparticular set of values which they wish to enshrine as universally valid. 19This has three important consequences. First, it makes problematic thescientffic realist claim that a purely objective apprehension of international19.11 is interesting here to reflect on Aron’s view (1967:204) that what a theory ofinternational politics should offer “ an understanding of variousideologies...The theory of practice, or praxiology, differs from these ideologiesinsofar as it considered them all and determines the full implications of eachone.73reality is possible. Second, if all theories are value-laden they must in some wayor other reflect characteristics of the social and political milieu in which theyhave their genesis. Finally, all theories contain a vision of the “good life.” Theymust, therefore, be historical in a more fundamental sense than the superficialobservation of past events. We need only ask scientific realists, how long has itbeen since the study of international politics has deemed it necessary to “solve”international problems with methodological procedures, to get some idea of thehopelessness of trying to step outside of history. It is not surprising, then, thatScientific Realism proves not to be scientific in the sense of the term used by thenatural sciences.In my view, the excessive scientism of the scientific realist project, itsunwarranted ahistoricism, and its self-delusion with regard to the way valuesimpinge upon political theories, leads us to the conclusion that it, like post-positivist relativism, is an alienated form of theory. We cannot, therefore, dealwith the problem of relativism by this method. To attempt to do so, is to beinvolved in what Seyla Benhabib calls, “a methodological illusion.” Thus, we areled to the inescapable conclusion that values are central to any theoreticalframework. But rather than treating this as a flaw of theory it should be openlyacknowledged as its greatest strength and celebrated as a virtue of humanconduct. Moreover, the problem of relativism is the result of a discipline whichhas historically marginalized questions of ethics and values through an excessiveconcern with scientific method. We can now see why it was important todistinguish between forms of relativism. The kind of relativism evidenced in thework of Mansbach and Ferguson conveys this loss in a profound way. This iswhat makes their relativism pertinent and is precisely why it needs to beevaluated in a more nuanced way that the dominant orthodox approach.In the final chapter of this thesis I argue the kind of relativism we see inPost-positivism is, in the final analysis, a realistic response to the one-sidedviewpoint of Scientific Realism. In addition, I shift the focus slightly, and defendi7LosnsJdwo3msp>JyrupgpiqMpfoadjopurjtppuwspujiqoqpuoiCqAOW01SnMOJJtpqSflp4PMsnspAoadp‘uTIdTSJp42squisups11JdoJdduTueuounposuodsaijqipuinsipunpujinuesmspJaI?upfoo-jS!1JodjeuopuiuijoXpms42juod1s!feA!AJ,j1qMol&u3uodAq‘Ajjiauwsiisod-1soJ75CHAPTER FWEPOST-POSITIVISM IN INTERNATIONAL THEORY RELATIVIST ORREVIVALIST?76We are now in a position to draw the threads of this work together. Theargument thus far can now be re-stated briefly.First, the study of international politics has recently been said to be in astate of intellectual crisis. This crisis” is a consequence of the debate betweenscientific realists and post-positivists over the most appropriate way of studyinginternational politics.Second, the central overriding issue between scientific realists and post-positivists is that the latter have plunged the discipline into the abyss ofrelativism.Third, scientific realists are correct in their assessment that elementswithin Post-positivism are relativist. They are incorrect, however, to tag all post-positivist theories as relativist. Moreover, and more fundamentally, they havemis-understood the problem of relativism altogether.Fourth, post-positivist relativism has arisen, and is the result of the “willto science,” the marginalization of values, a significant misunderstanding of thenature of history, and finally, the discipline’s self-imposed estrangement frompolitical theory proper.Fifth, relativism is a form of alienated consciousness brought on by theabove factors. In this way, scientific realists are implicated in the relativism ofPost-positivism.Sixth, the scientific realist solution to relativism is fundamentally andirretrievably flawed. To push international political theory in the direction of anextreme scientism can only perpetuate the relativism of Post-positivism. Also,Scientific Realism cannot withstand the logic of Post-positivism. Itsfoundationalism is a methodological illusion and although it claims to be valueneutral, upon close inspection it proves to be anything but value neutral.Finally, Scientific Realism is normative. It is a theory which proves to behistorically conditioned by the political events and theoretical concerns of the77late twentieth century, and contains a concept of the “good” which underpins itstheoretical outlook.In what follows, I establish a different reading of the problem ofrelativism than that offered by scientific realists and traditionalists. We can gaina greater understanding of the issues involved here by seeing post-positivistrelativism as symptomatic of a general malaise of international political theory: amalaise brought on by a misplaced faith in the value of scientific method. Myargument will be that post-positivist relativism is a form of Political Realism.But if Scientific Realism is an alienated theory of theory of internationalpolitics, and we acknowledge the need to take values and historicity as central totheory-building, how can we accomplish this task without succumbing to the fateof Mansbach and Ferguson? In other words, are we left with no transcendentalstandards which will enable us to determine the value of one theoretical positionover another? As if to confirm this, David Campbell (1988:43) has recentlywritten:We have to realize that “giving up” recourse to ultimatefoundations will not debilitate us, because we have never had thosefoundations in the first place.Even if Campbell is correct, does the problem of relativism remain? This ismade all the more pertinent given that Campbell does not show fruitful lines ofresearch capable of incorporating the insights of post-positivism, which, at thesame time, prove not to be relativist. Although I will not be able to deal with thisproblem in any detail, I explore some ways in which we can think of values andhistoricity without lapsing into relativism, and without drawing post-structuralistconclusions.Relativism, as it has manifested itself in recent international theory,cannot be dismissed as the musing of nihilistic writers. Nor is it simply irrelevant.Such responses fails to explain why:78Relativism, a stream in the philosophy of the last two hundredyears that began as a trickle, has now swelled in recent timesinto a raging torrent. 1Undoubtedly, we live in a unique period of history. We have at ourdisposal unsurpassed productive powers, command sophisticated scientific,communications, and medical technology, and enjoy greater globalorganizational capabilities than ever before. “Innovation,” “modernization,”“progress,” “advancement,” “knowledge,” “science,” “quality of life,” “order,”“freedom,” “justice,” “human rights,” are the watchwords of our generation.These are the concepts and ideals of what is generally referred to as theEnlightenment Project: the ideals of modernity, if you like. TheEnlightenment Project is based upon a belief that human reason and criticalintelligence have the power to overcome dogmatism and superstition, thathuman beings are progressing toward moral perfectibility, and that sciencewas the appropriate vehicle by which this end could be reached. The work ofHenri Saint-Simon is central in this regard. As Alex Callinicos (1990:62) tellsus: “Saint-Simon...saw progress taking concrete shape in industrial society,where scientific knowledge would become the basis of social power and classantagonisms disappear.” The belief in the liberating power of scienceengendered a high degree of optimism; what Peter Gay (1977:3) calls “arecovery of nerve.”2 As we shall see, it is an optimism which ScientificRealism still maintains.But the Enlightenment Project also had a pessimistic side. The inability tounderstand and deal with the reality of war dampened this optimism somewhat.1.Bernstein (1983:13).2.Gay writes: “The recovery of nerve was the product of many forces; thespectacular career of the natural sciences, advances in medicine, theimprovement of manners and growth of humanitarian sentiment, the slowcrumbling of traditional social hierarchies, and revolutionary changes in theproduction of food, the organization of industry, the patterns of population-allpointing in the same direction. It was a time in which philosophers-most of themphilosophes--invented new sciences, all of them in the service of man’s powerover his environment.”(5) See also Cassirer (1951).79As Peter Gay notes: “many of them preached peace in the candid expectationthat their preachments would go unheard.”(p.404) The problem of warrepresented everything the eighteenth century philosophers despised. It wasinstigated by the despotic and arbitrary wills of kings and princes, supported bycorrupt clergies, financed by oppressive and unfair taxes, and worst of all, foughtby individuals who either knew no better, or had no alternative. Moreover, it wasthe barrier to a better world; a world of perpetual peace, to use Kant’s evocativephrase. Savigear (1978:44), for example, argues:The dissatisfaction of the philosophers derived from thecontradiction which appeared to exist between the actual fact ofthe power of the state and its disposition to war, and the necessityfelt by them to create a better world.This ambiguity is evident in full measure in Scientific Realism. On theone hand, it is pessimistic, even sceptical, about the possibility of moral andpolitical progress in international politics. As Gilpin (1986:321) puts it: “I am noteven sure that progress exists in the moral and international spheres.” On theother, its belief in the power of reason, the value of problem-solving theory, andits undeniable “faith” in modern scientific methods is as optimistic as the visionsof Condorcet, Comte, or Saint Simon. Nowhere is this better expressed that inGilpin’s (198 1:226) statement that Scientific Realism is motivated by a faith that“a “science of international politics” will ultimately save mankind.”In my judgement, the tension between its “moral” pessimism and its“moral” optimism in science creates real difficulties for the cogency of thescientific realist project. However, I focus particularly on its scientific optimism.For it is here that post-positivist relativism gains its relevance.According to post-positivists, the optimism of Scientific Realism inscience is misplaced, or, at the very least, grossly overstated. Internationally, welive in an age in which scientific rationality has become the handmaiden ofpolitical and military barbarism on a scale never before dreamt of in humanhistory. Death camps, two world wars, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, rising poverty and80underdevelopment, human rights abuse, state terror, nuclear proliferation andthe continued threat of annihilation, ecological disasters, and the problem ofshrinking global resources, have cast a shadow over the ability of science to liveup to its lofty claims. The possibility that the very project which promisedliberation could lead to new forms of institutional oppression prompted TheodorAdorno (1973:321) to write late in his career that there was no universal historywhich led from savagery to humanitarianism, but there was one from theslingshot to the megaton bomb.3However, none of this is to suggest the scientific world-view is value-less,or solely responsible for these sorts of problems. Nor is it to suggest thatScientific Realism is implicated in these sorts of barbarisms. This would be silly.It is, however, to suggest that we should not reify science or its methods as ouronly possible theoretical possibility, or consider it our only legitimate andauthoritative intellectual voice.It is hard not to draw the conclusion that Scientific Realism is a form ofscientific idealism. In this sense, it is as excessive and as utopian a theory as thoseidealists whom E.H. Carr so soundly criticized in the inter-war years.The idealism of science inherent in Scientific Realism has importantconsequences for its political theory. For it also serves to enshrine and idealizethe role and function of the United States in global politics. We need not say agreat deal about this, except to say that it contains its own set of normativecommitments; commitments which are highly idealized. Thus, the politicalidealism of Scientific Realism is tied to its conception of the good life as theAmerican way of life.Recently, this idealism has been termed a complacent idealism.4 Yet, it isdifficult to see what is complacent about it. Indeed, its staunch anti-relativism,3.Horkheimer and Adorno (1972) argued that the Enlightenment Project, ofwhich Scientific Realism is heir, had a logic, not of liberation, but of oppression.4.Griffith (1992).81its commitment to positivist methods, the desire to transcend internationaltheory by making Scientific Realism synonymous both with “science” andinternational theory, and its black and white view of the world, make it a farmore politically active theory than is indicated by the term “complacency.”I think it is important to understand that Scientific Realism is not acomplacent form of idealism. If one wishes to call it anything it must beconsidered a vigilant idealism. This is not simply a question of semantics either.First, the term complacency is altogether too passive. It sanitizes the powerfullypolitical nature of Scientific Realism. And second, it cannot account for thoseaspects in its idealism which the post-positivists and relativists have rebelledagainst.Scientific Realism is a theory of international politics whose idealizedunderstanding of reality deprives the study of international politics of its capacityfor critical evaluation. This also means we have no basis for questioning thepolitical and moral practices of countries their politics, and their actions.The post-positivist response to this kind of theoretical cocktail is, in thefinal analysis, a form of Political Realism. By pointing to the inherent flaws, aswell as the inherent dangers to a field dominated by such an outlook, it aims atrestoring a sense of intellectual balance to the study of international politics.Ironically, Post-positivism as a realist critique of Scientific Realism has points incommon with E.H. Carr’s (1946) famous critique of idealism.5Carr tells us Political Realism enters the field far behind [idealism] andby way of reaction from it.”(p.63) So too, Post-positivism enters the field behindthe idealism of Scientific Realism. The realism of Post-positivism is nothingmore than the bringing back to consciousness of aspects of thought lost as aconsequence of an excessive concern with scientific method. But perhaps the5.Carr writes: “Thought is not merely relative to the circumstances and interestsof the thinker: it is also pragmatic in the sense that it is directed to the fulfillmentof his purpose.”(p.71)82most interesting thing about thinking about Post-positivism as a form of PoliticalRealism is the diversity of the expressions of Realism it brings forth. Realismshould not be the distinct property of a single school. It is far too much a part ofthe human psyche for such a narrowing. But at the same time, the humancondition is richer than forms of Realism generally allow. The marginalization ofvalues is a case in point.How are we to understand post-positivist relativism in all this? Arguably,it should also be seen in this light. Its value lies in the fact that it is an extremedemonstration against Scientific Realism: a demonstration as excessive asScientific Realism. Extreme forms of thought engender equally extreme forms ofthought in response. What we can learn from relativism is that, as a form ofalienated consciousness, it becomes a sort of intellectual tribunal. Moreover, asan intellectual tribunal, its probing critique of Scientific Realism’s theoreticalweaknesses provides us with an opportunity to reconsider what it is thatconstitutes a sufficient theory of international politics. Thus, while it may be truewe cannot follow the prescriptive aspects of the relativism of Post-positivism, itscritique demonstrates that we should not take any theory for granted, no matterhow grandiose its intellectual credentials, without a thorough examination of itsassumptions and principles. This I take to be the hallmark of intellectual life, andis why relativism must be understood differently.So too, it seems particularly difficult to accept the charge of faddism withregard to the post-positivist movement as a whole.6 As I have argued above, notheory exists or is created in a vacuum. It is influenced, formed, and developedthrough a continual process of modification and interaction with other theoriesand with reality itself. Thus, “Poststructuralism’ exists as an extension ofstructuralism and Marxism. To label something a fad is to dismiss it as lacking inserious content; that it is somehow illegitimate. But it is to do more. It is to6.Especially Holsti (1989).83dictate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable as theory. One is remindedof the Paris Academy’s original attitude to impressionist art, or perhaps, theCatholic Church’s attitude to Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s eighth moon. Newtheories are generally a response to changing reality. Even if they fail to capturethat reality positively, they may well capture it negatively, as something thatshakes us out of our theoretical arrogance. If we too quickly dismiss an idea orperspective as a fad, we run the risk of not listening to what it has to tell us.It may well be that post-structural theories, for example, cannot stand thetest of time, but only time will tell. And as Pauline Rosenau (1990:103) puts it:“The international relations of tomorrow, already manifest today, may not bepostmodernist, but it will surely bear traces of the post-modernist perspective.”Thus, even if it fails it may inspire a more adequate theory. Theories cannot bejudged or derided simply on the basis of newness. It is only on the basis of opendialogue, and by taking them seriously, that theories can be judged acceptable orunacceptable, insightful or vacuous.Thus, far, I have argued for a somewhat different reading of Post-positivism. But the “cartesian anxiety” over the loss of foundations will still befelt, no matter what the credibility of this reading. The question for many willstill be: how are we to overcome relativism without foundations? Or, perhaps,more importantly, how do we overcome relativism without sacrificing values andhistoricity?This is, of course, a major project in itself, and certainly one beyond thescope of this thesis. I want to conclude this chapter by showing how we mightlook beyond both scientism and relativism while, at the same time, consideringvalues and historicity as central to theory-building and to our understanding ofour world.In the last chapter I argued that scientific realists conceived of theproblem of relativism in either/or terms. According to them, we must take thescientific realist path, or the danger exists that we will fall into relativism.84Relativism has always been equated with a form of thought which is anti-intellectual and anti-knowledge. Of course, if one pushes relativism to itsextreme it becomes self-referentially incoherent. As Hilary Putnam (1981:120)argues: “if all is relative then the relative is relative too.” In other words, theconcept cannot be stated without immediately undermining it. Thus, if therelative is itself relative, it can either be true or false. This inconsistency has ledRichard Rorty (1982:166) to argue there are no true relativists, and, therefore,relativism does not really exist. Similarly, Paul Feyerabend (1978:79) cynicallytells us relativism is a “frightful monster” and that when we discuss relativism“appeals to emotion count as arguments” and “arguments are of a touchingsimple-mindedness.”While it is doubtful whether Rorty is completely correct, the argument ofthis thesis does support Feyeraband’s conclusion. The scientific realistunderstanding of the problem of relativism is extremely crude. Like its divisionof facts and values, theory and practice, the objectivism/relativism split proves tobe intellectually one-sided, bearing little relation to the reality which it purportsto understand. Reality is far more complex than can be encompassed andunderstood with such simple intellectual formulae.Post-positivist relativism does make an intellectual claim upon us. Indeed,as I argued above, it can be considered a form of Political Realism. Ultimately,post-positivist relativism is motivated by an ethical concern for the well-being ofthe individual and community. Granted, it cannot articulate this commitmentadequately. But failure in this regard should not be considered evidence of itslack of relevance to contemporary issues. On the contrary, as an alienated formof consciousness, it speaks to international politics in a dramatic and importantway. In essence, once we move beyond the either/or dichotomy evident in allfoundationalist projects, relativism can be seen in a different light. First, it losesits reputation as a “taboo term,” and can take its place as a valuable, if negativevoice, in an on-going and open-ended historical process.85But what of the problem identified by Biersteker (1989:265). How are weto choose from a multitude of alternative explanations?” The answer to this canbe stated simply: by the strength of the superior argument. The model of rhetoric,then, would prove to be an important source of insight into a more dialogicalconception of political theory and practice. That we do not have anymethodological standard which is completely value-neutral and objectivist, doesnot mean we are deprived of our capacity for argument and for objectivity.7Thus, the concept of “critique” is essential to post-positivist thought. Byapproaching intellectual problems critically, and through a logic of question andanswer, we appeal to “the right and true.” Yet, this is not universal orfoundationalist “truth,” but one grounded in the historical traditions andproblems of its own age. It is a conception of “truth” which is in need of continualre-affirmation and correction in light of changing historical conditions andsituations.In the last section, I noted that E.H. Carr’s critique of idealism providedan important insight when looked at in regard to Scientific Realism. Yet, Carr’simportance goes beyond the relevance of his critique of idealism to ScientificRealism. One of the most important insights that Post-positivism provides is theneed to take historical diversity seriously. When we take diversity seriously, wemust also understand history:as an open-ended indeterminate eventuation-but not for thatreason devoid of rational logic or of determining pressures-inwhich categories are defined in particular contexts but arecontinuously undergoing historical redefinition and whosestructure is not pre-given, but protean, continually changing inform and in articulation.8Such an approach allows us to think of concepts and ideas in a fuller andmore flexible manner. Indeed, it is here that rhetoric and the Political Realism of7.To be sure, just because Post-positivism denies objectivism, does not mean itdenies objectivity. Conversely, to take the relativity of thought seriously does notnecessarily mean that one is a relativist.8.Thompson (1978:84-85).86E.H. Carr share something in common. The importance of Political Realism forCarr resided in the fact that it understood that history is continually changingand never static. But he too is aware that “we cannot ultimately find a restingplace in pure realism” because the relativity of thought “does not provide us withthe springs of action which are necessary even to the pursuit of thought.” Wemust, then, also seek the universal. But the important thing is the recognitionthat all universals are, in the final analysis, contingent. They are dependent upontime, space, place, culture, and tradition. It is precisely here that Carr’sunderstanding of Political Realism connects up with Post-positivism generally.But, perhaps, even more importantly, the model of rhetoric proves to be themodel upon which Carr based his understanding of Political Realism. Not onlydoes Carr argue that the cogency of Political Realism is gained because itappeals to what is “right and true,” but also because it has the power to be selfcritical and responsive to change. The essential ingredient for Carr is intellectualopenness, and this can only be gained by a willingness to learn, to discover and topersuade. To cut off this process is intellectually totalitarian. An open-endedrealism is an essential ingredient in this process. Post-positivism does no morethan simply remind study of international relations of its own contingency, andthe value of flexibility.NOISIYIJNOJL888One of the primary aims of this thesis has been to present a moreinsightful reading of post-positivist relativism, and of post-positivism generally. Ihave argued relativism should be seen as intellectually valuable from two mainperspectives. First, it is the result of a discipline which has marginalized valueand ethical questions. Furthermore, it has value because of the drastic nature ofits response to the idealism of the structural realists. The crux of my argumenthas been that post-positivism is actually a form of political realism. By attackingthe idealism inherent in structural realism it proves to be a more realisticinterpretation of how we can go about the business of understandinginternational politics.As to the question of whether Post-positivism is relativist or revivalist, then,I think it is clear that it is both. In other words, the revivalist potential of Post-positivism is partly a consequence of its relativism. Yet, the fact of relativismimmediately pushes us to theorize beyond it. It is in moving beyond relativismand Scientific Realism that we encounter a different mode of theorizing whichplaces values at the core of theory. This realization is the most importantinnovation to arise from Post-positivism.The study of international politics has always utilized ideals from otherfields of study. Both the Positivism and Structuralism, and Post-positivism havetheir roots outside of international theory. So too, the conception of rationalitywhich underpins all of those whom I have called scientific realists has beentransplanted directly from Neoclassical economic theory. As Fred Halliday(1985:408) has noted, the field of international theory has always been “anabsorber and importer, not a producer in its own right.” What he fails to note isthat international theory has also been highly selective in what it absorbs andimports. It is inadequate, however to respond to this by arguing that the concernsof international theorists are limited to relations between states, or to say asMartin Wight (1969:33) does, that there is “a kind of recalcitrance of89international politics to being theorised about”. 1 This is a patent non sequitur.Questions of peace and war, security, national existence, democratic anddespotic regimes, poverty, international justice, life and death, cannot adequatelybe understood except in relation to the human beings these concepts effect andare about. The problem with international theory is that it has detached itselffrom theoretical concerns (political philosophy) proper, and lost sight of theultimate goal of theory.This thesis began by asking whether the study of international politics hada future. The future of the field does not lie in the direction structural realistswould take the discipline. This can only lead to more alienated forms ofrelativism, and narrower and more useless forms of theory. If our goal is todevelop truly “global” theories of international politics, we need to close the gapbetween international theory and political theory.Here we can take our lead from thinkers such as Kant and Hegel. Bothrealized the importance of the “international” to political theory. For Kant, noadequate and purposeful political theory could be attained without anunderstanding of international politics. Ultimately, the international arenathreatened a politics of “right.” Similarly, for Hegel the issue of war and foreignrelations appeared at the end of his theorizing about the “political,” and wasintegral to it. International theorists and political theorists alike have forgottenthis insight. Both are essential aspects to the study of politics and cannot beseparated. Yet political theorists seem largely uninterested in internationalmatters. So too, many international theorists seem less than comfortable withissues of the human condition, preferring the abstracted air of data sets,statistics, equations, and the like. While quantitative studies have their place, itshould not be forgotten that the human condition is the reason why we theorizethe “political” in the first place. International theory’s self-imposed isolationismand its “will to science” have been purchased at the expense of qualitative1.For a good critique of this view see Jackson (1990).political concerns. 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London: George Allen & Unwin.101BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATIONNAME: Terry O’CallaghanMAILING ADDRESS: Faculty of Social SciencesFlinders University of South AustraliaGPO Box 2100Adelaide 5001, AustraliaPLACE AND DATE OF BIRTH: Australia, March 7, 1956EDUCATION (Colleges and Universities attended, dates, and degrees>:Flinders University, 1984-7, B.A.1988, B.A. HoncursPOSITIONS HELD:Lecturer, Dept. of Rlitics, Flinders University, 1992—PUBLICATIONS (if necessary, use a second sheet):AWARDS:Australian Fost-Graduate Research Grant, 1989Complete one biographical form for each copy of a thesis presentedto the Special Collections Division, University Library.D€-5


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