Explanatory theorists increasingly insist that their theories are useful even though they cannot be deductively applied. But if so, then how do such theories contribute to our understanding of international relations? I argue that explanatory theories are typically heuristically applied: theorists’ accounts of specific empirical episodes are shaped by their theories’ thematic content, but are not inferred from putative causal generalizations or covering laws. These accounts therefore gain no weight from their purely rhetorical association with theories’ quasi-deductive arguments: they must be judged on the plausibility of their empirical claims. Moreover, the quasi-deductive form in which explanatory theories are typically presented obscures their actual explanatory role, which is to indicate what sort of explanation may be required, to provide conceptual categories, and to suggest an empirical focus. This account of how theoretical explanations are constructed subverts the nomothetic–idiographic distinction that is often used to distinguish International Relations from History.
argued thirty years ago that a commitment to the reality of 'unobservable generative structures' would open up new avenues of causal inquiry in International Relations [IR] (1987: 350). This view has since been further elaborated (see Wendt 1999; Patomäki and
In The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations, Patrick Jackson situates methodologies in International Relations in relation to their underlying philosophical assumptions. One of his aims is to map International Relations debates in a way that 'capture[s] current controversies' (p. 40). This ambition is overstated: whilst Jackson's typology is useful as a clarificatory tool, (re)classifying existing scholarship in International Relations is more problematic. One problem with Jackson's approach is that he tends to run together the philosophical assumptions which decisively differentiate his methodologies (by stipulating a distinctive warrant for knowledge claims) and the explanatory strategies that are employed to generate such knowledge claims, suggesting that the latter are entailed by the former. In fact, the explanatory strategies which Jackson associates with each methodology reflect conventional practice in International Relations just as much as they reflect philosophical assumptions. This makes it more difficult to identify each methodology at work than Jackson implies. I illustrate this point through a critical analysis of Jackson's controversial reclassification of Waltz as an analyticist, showing that whilst Jackson's typology helps to expose inconsistencies in Waltz's approach, it does not fully support the proposed reclassification. The conventional aspect of methodologies in International Relations also raises questions about the limits of Jackson's 'engaged pluralism'.
This article• Formulates an ideal-typical model for filling out the implicit content of claims about the national interest; • Applies a theoretical perspective on the national interest to New Labour's foreign policy discourse, focusing especially on its approach to global order; • Shows how Gordon Brown, especially, extended the content of the national interest well beyond its traditional association with national security, narrowly construed; • Provides tools for interrogating claims about the national interest and for holding politicians to account in respect of such claims.
Discussion of the national interest often focuses on how Britain's influence can be maximized, rather than on the goals that influence serves. Yet what gives content to claims about the national interest is the means-ends reasoning which links interests to deeper goals.In ideal-typical terms, this can take two forms. The first, and more common, approach is conservative: it infers national interests and the goals they advance from existing policies and commitments. The second is reformist: it starts by specifying national goals and then asks how they are best advanced under particular conditions. New Labour's foreign policy discourse is notable for its explicit use of a reformist approach. Indeed, Gordon Brown's vision of a 'new global society' not only identifies global reform as a key means of fulfilling national goals, but also thereby extends the concept of the national interest well beyond a narrow concern with national security.On 18 April 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2008a, 27) laid out a reformist vision of a 'new global society founded on revitalised international rules and institutions, and grounded in the great values we share in common'. He argued that the emergence of new, global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, poverty, and the recent financial crisis required genuinely global solutions, and that those solutions required sweeping reforms to the existing global order. He also claimed that the basic goals of British foreign policy could only be fulfilled if such challenges were met. This implied a striking extension of the content of the national interest beyond its conventional association with national bs_bs_banner
One of the most problematic aspects of the 'Harvard School' of liberal international theory is its failure to fulfil its own methodological ideals. Although Harvard School liberals subscribe to a nomothetic model of explanation, in practice they employ their theories as heuristic resources. Given this practice, we should expect them neither to develop candidate causal generalizations nor to be value-neutral: their explanatory insights are underpinned by valueladen choices about which questions to address and what concepts to employ. A key question for liberal theorists, therefore, is how a theory may be simultaneously explanatory and value-oriented. The difficulties inherent in resolving this problem are manifested in Ikenberry's writing: whilst his work on constitutionalism in international politics partially fulfils the requirements of a more satisfactory liberal explanatory theory, his recent attempts to develop prescriptions for US foreign policy reproduce, in a new form, key failings of Harvard School realism.In 1995, David Long called for the closure of what he termed the 'Harvard School of Liberal International Theory'. He coined this term to denote efforts by scholars such as Robert Keohane and Andrew Moravcsik, then based at Harvard, to develop a liberal theory that would subsume or supersede (neo)realism. 1 Long (1995: 489-91, 501) welcomed attempts to 'frame liberalism' as an 'explanatory theory', but criticized Harvard School liberals for borrowing 'a number of normative, ontological, and methodological premises' from realism. He argued that this stifled the prospects for a renewal of liberalism's
scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.