THEORY AND PRAXIS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: HABERMAS, SELF-REFLECTION, RATIONAL ARGUMENTATION Jürgen Haacke.
This article argues that Critical International Theory has been side-lined in the post-positivist debate due to the largely unsuccessful efforts of its protagonists to bridge convincingly the theory-praxis divide. The author demonstrates that this gap may be closed if Critical International Theory more fully invokes Jürgen Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action, thereby shifting from self-reflection to rational argumentation as praxis. To this end, the author outlines Habermas' paradigm of understanding and, in particular, Habermas' discourse theory. After defending practical discourses against post-structuralist critiques, he discusses how Robert Cox, Mark Neufeld, Andrew Linklater, and Mark Hoffman have hitherto treated the theory-praxis issue in International Relations. The author offers possible explanations for the reliance of these Critical International Theorists on self-reflection as adequate praxis. In the concluding section, the author attempts to highlight the significance of Critical Theory for practitioners of IR, by identifying real-world analogues of practical discourses.
INCOMMENSURABILITY AND CROSS-PARADIGM COMMUNICATION: 'WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH?' Colin Wight.
This article (re)examines the incommensurability thesis within IR theory, and assesses the prospects and conditions of possibility for cross-paradigm communication among scholars of International Relations. Drawing on Roy Bhaskar's Critical Realist philosophy, the author problematises the manner in which the incommensurability thesis has now become an institutionalised assumption within IR theory, accepted and/or rejected more by appeal to a set of legitimating citations (Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend) and/or by an unswerving commitment to 'difference', than by serious engagement with the incommensurability thesis itself. Rejecting the twin errors of uncritical acceptance and outright rejection of the incommensurability thesis, as well as notions of 'incommensurable but comparable' paradigms, the article argues that much 'critical thinking' within IR theory, whilst having challenged the epistemological lens of the 'positivist orthodoxy', has failed to transcend its associated ontology. Without an examination of the ontological conditions of possibility for cross-paradigm communication, the only hope of avoiding 'communicative redundancy' is through a commitment to a universalist epistemology. This, the author rejects.
SOFT BODIES, HARD TARGETS, AND CHIC THEORIES: US BOMBING POLICY IN INDOCHINA Jennifer Milliken and David Sylvan.
Like many other practices, foreign policies are gendered; that gendering makes possible particular acts of violence. An argument to this effect is developed with reference to US bombing policy regarding Indochina. Analysis of archival materials reveals a sharp distinction. North Vietnam is en-gendered by US policy-makers as masculine, and thus is bombed as a male place (high explosives, 'hard' targets, 'tough' opponents, a 'harsh' landscape). South Vietnam, however, is en-gendered as feminine and thus dealt with as a female place (chemical weapons, 'soft' targets, 'squabbling' allies, 'disease-ridden swamps and jungles'). Many scholarly accounts of foreign policy-making employ these gender distinctions uncritically, even as they obscure and abstract from the violence of US bombing policy. In contrast, a satirical account enables a more critical understanding of foreign policy.
MAKING STATE ACTION POSSIBLE: THE UNITED STATES AND THE DISCURSIVE CONSTRUCTION OF 'THE CUBAN PROBLEM', 1960-1994 Jutta Weldes and Diana Saco.
Despite the 'end of the Cold War', the United States has persisted in its aggressive foreign policy towards Cuba. This observation prompts the authors to ask both how it is possible for aggressive US foreign policies towards Cuba to remain virtually unchanged in the face of dramatic upheaval, and what made it possible in the first place for the United States to pursue such policies towards as small a state as Cuba. Drawing on recent constructivist and discursive theory, the authors argue that extant approaches, such as realism, belief systems analysis, and the analysis of domestic politics, cannot explain this hostility. Instead, the authors argue, it is the discursive construct, 'the Cuban problem', that has enabled both the existence and the persistence of US hostility against Cuba. This discourse constructs identities and interests for the United States and Cuba, such that US aggression towards Cuba has been rendered both seemingly inevitable and legitimate.
SLEEPING BEAUTY AND THE DIALECTICAL AWAKENING: ON THE POTENTIAL OF DIALECTIC FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Christian Heine and Benno Teschke.
This discussion piece sets out to introduce Hegelian-Marxist dialectic, revolving around the wider concept of praxis, to the wider meta-theoretical debate in International Relations. A perusal of the peculiar historical trajectory of IR theory, culminating in the ambiguities of the current 'post-positivist' debate, establishes the case for the necessity of explicating the meta-theoretical foundations upon which scientific statements are predicated, in order to allow for meaningful inter-paradigm debate and critique to take place. An excursus into the philosophy of science exemplifies the potency, if not superiority of dialectical thinking over and against various forms of traditional science, which were gradually forced to modify their positions by drawing on dialectical insights. Against this background, the article then observes the almost complete lack of dialectical theory in the discipline of IR, before it constructively attempts to systematise the core tenets of dialectical thinking. It is argued that G.W.F. Hegel's difficult formal categorical apparatus was given the adequate social content by Karl Marx allowing for a critical and comprehensive grasp of social and international relations.
IMAGINING COMMUNITY: A METAPHYSICS OF BEING OR BECOMING? Christopher J. Ullock.
Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities contains two internally consistent but irreconcilable theoretical positions. In the first half of the book, Anderson's focus on the productivist and aesthetic experience of the transition from hierarchical religious empire to vertically segregated states is based upon a metaphysics of becoming sensitive to the way changes in production and the experience of time and space are related to the way people imagine political community. In the second half, Anderson forgoes this perspective in favour of a circulationist approach which assigns ontological primacy to the presence of the nationalist modular form based upon a metaphysics of being. This ontological privileging of the national modular form renders Anderson incapable of recognising how current changes in production and aesthetic experience are altering the manner in which people imagine political community.