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After Postpositivism?

The Promises of Critical Realism


Author(s): Heikki Patomaki and Colin Wight
Source: International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 213-237
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The International Studies Association
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International
StudiesQuarterly
(2000) 44, 213-237.

After Postpositivism?The Promises


of Critical Realism
HEIKKI PATOMAKI

NottinghamTrentUniversity
AND
COLIN WIGHT

Universityof Wales, Aberystwyth

This article argues that the currentself-understanding of IR theoryis


misconceivedand thatit is timeto move beyondthe stagnantpositivism/
postpositivismdebate. We argue that the attemptto occupy a middle
ground compromiseposition between positivismand postpositivismis
untenable because these two positions share much in common. In this
sense a middle ground positionbetweentwoproblematicpositionsdoes
not produce a less problematicposition.What is needed is a metatheo-
retical analysisof the two extremepositions.We attemptto show how
both positivismand postpositivismare embedded in a discourse of
philosophical anti-realism.This anti-realismoccurs as a resultof what
we call the post-Kantian-Humean"problem-field"of internationalrela-
tionsfromwhichmost contemporarypositivist,constructivist, and post-
IR approaches stem.We then tryto overcomethis"problem-
structuralist
field" by means of radicallyreclaimingrealitythrougha criticalrealist
philosophy.Once outlined we tryto show how this criticalrealistphi-
losophycan help transcendsome of the antinomiescurrentlyfaced by
IR scholars.

Introduction:Two WrongsDo Not Make a Right


For at least a decade now the positivist orthodoxy has been under a sustained
challenge from what are variously labelled reflectivist or postpositivist theories.
For many postpositivists, positivism is not only epistemologically and ontologi-
cally flawed; it is also co-responsible for many of the social ills and political
catastrophes of the modern world. Yet, for many positivists the postpositivist
assault amounts to advocating subjectivism, irresponsible relativism and lack of
standards, which work against conducting proper research and the effort to

Authors'note:This articlehas benefitedfromthe advice and commentsof manypeople, none of whom might
wishto agree withall or anyof the arguments.As such, ultimateresponsibility,
as always,restswiththe authors.The
articlehas been greatlyimprovedby the critical,yetencouraging,commentsfromthe editorsof International Studies
Quarterlyand the anonymous reviewers.Numerous individuals have also commented on the work. A few in
particularrequire mention (apologies for any omissions): Stephen Chan, Thomas Forsberg,Ronen Palan, Magnus
Ryner,Ian Clarke, Michael Williams,Steve Smith,and Tim Dunne. We should also thank the participantsof the
BISA panel "Afterthe State and Beyond Constructivism"on 15 December 1998, at the Universityof Sussex,
Brighton,UK, for a stimulatingdiscussionon the themes of the paper.

( 2000 International
StudiesAssociation.
PublishedbyBlackwellPublishers,
350 Main Street,Malden,MA 02148,USA,and 108 CowleyRoad, OxfordOX4 IJF,UK.
214 AfterPostpositivism?

make the human condition better.We thinkthat, at least in many cases, both
suspicionscarrysome weight.
The typicalsolution in this kind of situationis to tryto find a compromise
position,whichwould enable a constructivesynthesisof the main points of both
positions.Indeed, it seems that in IR "constructivism," in various guises, is rap-
idlyemergingas a kind of a new middle ground (Adler, 1997). We findWaever's
(1992:186; 1996:165-169; 1997:18-23) schemes, summarized(and slightlymodi-
fied) in Figure 1, particularlyhelpfulin understandingthe currentsituationand
mainstreamself-understanding in IR. The trianglein the middle is a variationof
the (already anachronistic)"inter-paradigmdebate."
In the 1980s the main movementsseemed to be towardsa synthesisof neo-
liberalismand neo-realism(the neo-neo debate spot in Figure 1) and the fading
awayof Marxismas the thirdposition. The main challenge that emerged in the
1980s, however,was that of the epistemological radicals (postpositivistsof all
sorts).If the new radicalswere radical enough (like Ashleyand Walker,1990a; b),
theyexceeded, according to Waver, the "boundaryof negativity"(dotted line on
the epistemologicalaxis); and if the neo-neo scholarswere too positivist(like the
work of mathematicalmodel builders or the Correlates of War project), they
exceeded the "boundaryof boredom" (the other dotted line on the epistemo-
logical axis). The happyface thathas seeminglyavoided all these pitfallsand has
found,by the late 1990s,a positionin the middle of everything, is constructivism
(cf. Adler, 1997).
As a story,illustratedby a nice picture,thismayaugur well forconstructivism,
and other middle ground positions,particularlyifwe take for grantedthe wide-
spread de facto aversion against followingstrictlypositivist,scientificmethods
("the boundaryof boredom") and againstbeing too "radical"eitherpoliticallyor
epistemologically("the boundaryof negativity")(S0rensen, 1998). The problem
is that, as it stands, this veryloose categoryof the "middle ground" does not
reallyresolve any of the underlyingproblems. The dilemma is that where the
"middle ground" is deemed to be is a functionof where one draws the bound-
aries. In thisrespect,the attractiveness of the middle ground forIR scholarsis a
directcorollaryof a particularunderstandingof the boundaries-an understand-
ing we intend to challenge.
With the boundaries as currentlyconceptualized the middle ground does
indeed appear attractive. Althoughprimafacie an appealing position,Max Weber
providesa damning indictmentof thiskind of "middle-groundism." Weber held
thatwe should "strugglerelentlesslyagainst the self-deceptionwhich assertsthat
through the synthesisof several party points of view ... practical norms of

Positivism

w X / ,S 1 Politic#realism
..........~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~................................
. Construc-
tiv-ism
S~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.
, ...........SE
g
\
,,
i,.,
..................
...........................
Ne,o-neo
debate
/m
.........................................
........

Liberalism Socialism Deconstructionism


(Leftist
radicalism)
/

FIG. 1. IR debates in the 1980s and l1990s


HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 215

scientificvaliditycan be arrivedat" (Weber,1904:58). Weber was here opposing


the naive idea that simplybecause positions differfrom one another, a "mid-
point" synthesisthat steersa line among them is somehow more objective and
less partisan.This is the positionwe fear thatthe currentattemptto occupy the
"middle ground" in IR is in danger of articulating.A synthesisbased on two
problematicmetaphysicalsystemsproduces only a synthesisof two problematic
metaphysicalpositions-not an improvedmetaphysicalposition.
The problem is how to move forward?How do we move beyond a sterileand
debilitatingdebate where one side chastises the other for its naive belief in a
world "out there,"while the other berates its mirrorimage formakingthe world
"all in here" and all the while a thirdposition claims legitimacyin termsof its
"middle-groundedness."Given that the debate, as currentlyframed,tends to be
primarilyepistemological perhaps a more ontological focus could facilitatea
move forward.This is not to say that ontological considerationsdo not play a
role in currentunderstandings,but we argue thatwhere theyhave played a role
these ontological issues have been based on epistemologicalconsiderations.In
this respect we want to reversea long-standingWesternphilosophical dogma;
thatof the privilegingof epistemologicalquestionsoverontologicalones. Indeed,
we thinkthatwhen viewed froman ontological perspectivecurrentunderstand-
ings of IR take on an altogetherdifferenthue.
Anyattemptto locate oneselfin the centreof currentepistemologicaldebates
withoutconsideringthe ontological problematic risksduplicating the worstof
both extremes.It is not simplya scientificontologywe mean here, as in theo-
retical disagreementsover whether states are the most importantactors, for
example. Whatwe mean by ontologyis a philosophical ontology;an inquiryinto
which is logicallyprior to the developmentof any scientificor social ontology
(Bunge, 1996).
It is here thatwe thinkthatthe philosophyknownas criticalrealismcan be of
benefit to IR scholars (for some of the key textssee Archer et al., 1998).1 We
suggestthat criticalrealismcan incorporatemanyof the recent epistemological
developmentsand at the same timemove the debate forwarddue to its focus on
ontological matters.Criticalrealismhighlightsthe conditionsof possibilityfora
resolutionof manyof the theoretical,methodological,and praxiological cul-de-
sacs internationalrelationstheorycurrentlyfindsitselfin. From a criticalrealist
perspectiveand contraryto the dominant understandingswithinIR theory,the
boundaries of negativityand boredom are not diametricallyopposed, but share
much in common.
The keyto any move forwardis not simplyto take the middle ground, but to
engage with and challenge the extremitiesthat constitutethe conditions of
possibilityfor a certain understandingof the middle ground. This can only be
achieved throughan examinationof the boundaries of boredom and negativity,
or better,the theory"problem-field"withinwhich theyare constituted.Here lies
one of the benefitsof metatheoreticalinquiryto IR. In this piece we wish to
engage injust such a metatheoreticalinvestigationin the hope of throwingsome
lighton some of the importantcontemporaryproblems facingIR scholars.
First,we locate a common structureto both the boundaryof boredom and the
boundaryof negativity.In this section we aim to show how both are embedded
upon a discourse of philosophical anti-realism.Second, we attempt to show,
through the philosophies of David Hume and Immanuel Kant, how this anti-
realismconstituteswhatwe call the "problem-field"of IR, a "problem-field"that,
we argue, servesto constructa particularunderstandingof IR theorywitha very
particularand restrictedunderstandingof itsown possibilities.Third,we develop

1Criticalrealism is a position withinthe philosophyof scien-cean-dsocial science. It has nlo relationshipto


political realism.In factwe will argue that political realism restsupon an implicitphilosophical anti-realism.
216 AfterPostpositivism?

a verybriefaccount of our proposed alternative,criticalrealism.And fourth,we


tryto show the differencethat criticalrealism mightmake to a more ontologi-
cally attuned IR. In thissection we argue against the incommensurabilitythesis
and in favor of epistemological pluralism and opportunism.We tryto revive
causal theorizingbyredefiningcausalityin realisttermsand byarguingthatboth
meaningfulreasons and social structuresare causallyefficacious.Drawingon this
analysiswe discussthe agent-structure problem and suggesthow the social world
can be decomposed into causal and ontological elements. We also challenge
what we consider to be the misleading manner in which IR theorycurrently
understandsthe levels of analysisproblem. Finally,we indicate how criticalreal-
ism has also normativeimplicationsfor the studyof IR.

Realism and Anti-Realism


Giventhewidespreadacceptanceoftheviewthatpositivism and postpositivism stand
as binaryoppositestheclaimthattheysharemuchin commonwilllikelystrikemany
IR scholarsas perverse.Withinthe philosophyof science and social science, how-
ever,such a claim would not appear at all controversial.LarryLaudan, forexam-
ple, has explored the common structureofassumptionstheyshare (Laudan, 1996).
Foucaultopenlyadmittedhis empiricismand PeterDews has even gone as faras to
label hima positivist(Dews, 1987:184; Foucault, 1988:106).2One could quite easily
point to manyof these shared assumptions;the fascinationwithlanguage, forex-
ample,whichis hardlyin doubt as faras postmodernismis concerned,but the fact
thatthemore radical of thelogical positivistsattemptedto reduce philosophy,and
to an extentalso science,to thesystematic analysisoflanguage,seen as logical state-
ments,seems to have been loston IR scholars(Feyerabend,1995; see also Carnap,
1972).
The attack on the Cartesian subject, again so energeticallypursued by post-
modern writers,was carried out in an equally vigorous manner by positivistsin
theirattemptto purge the residuesof subjectivity fromtheirepistemology(Kola-
kowski,1969; Copjec, 1994). Even in the relationshipbetween factsand values
one can find evidence of a common structure,withmany of those beyond the
boundaryof negativityechoing the positivistinjunctionthatone can nevermove
fromfactsto values; that value positions are simplydivorced fromfactual con-
siderations(Campbell, 1999). One could, as Laudan and others have done, pro-
vide additionalexamples such as these,but we thinkthereis a more fundamental
issue that unites these seeminglyopposed positions, that of their anti-realism;
whetherexplicitor implicit.
A common postpositivist critique of mainstreamIR (for thisread positivist)is
that of the supposed naive belief in a "worldout there" (George, 1994:11, 21).
Indeed, one could be forgivenfor thinkingthat for some postpositivists, Jim
George for example, positivismis nothing other than a belief in a "world out
there" (George, 1994). The paradox of George's position is that he sees only
too clearlythat positivism,as a philosophical position, is anti-realist.There is,
as George puts it, "no logical basis, even in positivism'sown terms,for the
proposition that knowledge of realityis directlyderived froman independent
world 'out there"' (George, 1994:53).3 Martin Hollis has likewiseclaimed that
empiricisttheories of knowledge (upon which positivismis based) are "anti-
realistat bottom"(Hollis, 1996:303-304). George notes that this issue has never
been raised in a serious wayanywherein IR (George, 1994:53). We raise it now,

2We thinkit is importanthere not to lapse into a facile rejectionof positivismwhere the functionof the term
is simplyto label a body of workone disagreeswith.Althoughwe fun-damentally disagree withpositivismwe view
it as an important,although flawed,body of thoughtwithinphilosophy.
3 The issue of a common anti-realismhas also been noted by Alexander Wendt. See Wendt, 1999.
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 217

but draw differentconclusions than those of George. Because having noted the
implicitanti-realismof positivismit is paradoxical that George adopts such a
position himself.
According to George (who might be considered by some to be beyond the
boundaryof negativity)the objects and subjectsof reality"are sociolinguistically
constructed"(George, 1994:156). Compare just how close thisposition comes to
that of Kenneth Waltz, considered by many postpositivistwritersto be beyond
the boundary of boredom. For Waltz, "whatwe think of as realityis itselfan
elaborate conception constructedand reconstructedthrough the ages. Reality
emerges fromour selection and organisationof materialsthat are available in
infinitequantity"(Waltz,1979:5).
From an ontologicallyorientatedperspectiveboth the positivistsand the post-
positivistsshare a common metaphysicalstructure.For positiviststhe real is
defined in termsof the experienced (esse estpercipi) and for manypostpositivists
in termsof language/discourse(esse est dictumesse). What can be considered real
alwaysbears the mark,or insignia,of some human attribute;in effect,an anthro-
pocentric philosophy(Bhaskar,1989:147). We argue that this anthropocentrism
is problematic,tying,as it does, existence to its being experienced or being
spoken. Yet "to be" means more than "to be experienced" or "to be spoken." A
world prior to the emergence of humanityis a condition of possibilityfor that
emergence. Even the term construction,employed by both George and Waltz,
implies a set of materials,whethersocial or natural,out of which this so-called
realityis constructedand which have to exist prior to the construction.
But does thislatent anti-realismmake any difference?Afterall, even though
many (though not all) postpositivistsclaim that "nothing exists outside of dis-
course" (Campbell, 1998:24-25), theycontinue to referto it (Wight,1999). And
positivists,despite dismissingtalk of an independentlyexistingrealityas meta-
physical,stillconstructtheoriesthat treatnonobservable theoreticalentities"as
if" theyexisted.We think,however,that an explicitcommitmentto ontological
realism has real consequences.
On the boundaryof negativity, in termsof epistemology,the denial of objects
existingindependentlyof the discourses that constructthem as objects seems
unable to differentiatebetween competing truthclaims (Norris, 1996). If dis-
courses constructthe objects to which the discourses refer,then the discourse
itselfcan neverbe wrongabout the existenceof its objects,in any meaningfulor
methodologicallyinterestingway.Nor can an alternativediscourse possiblycri-
tique another discourse, since the objects of a given discourse exist if the dis-
course says theyexist. External criticismof the existentialclaims of discourses
seems impossible. Ontologically,if discourses do constructtheir own objects,
thenwhatconstructedthe discoursesthemselves?There is, of course, a long and
venerable philosophical traditionof overtidealism that attemptsto answerjust
this question. For example, for Berkeleyit was God, for Hegel, Geist. We are
unconvinced by these arguments,but if IR scholars want to adopt idealist posi-
tions then let us at least have the argumentsin the open where theymightbe
assessed. Methodologically,and despite the rhetoricof the "new,"we see little
change in the manner of research practicesbeyond the boundaryof negativity.
Argumentsare stilladvanced and assessed, evidence offered,and independently
existingobjects,whethercreated in the discourse or not, are stillreferredto.
Those beyond the boundary of boredom fare littlebetter.Epistemologyand
ontologybecome tied together(whatBhaskar calls the epistemicfallacy);whatis
knownis whatcan be experienced and/orobserved and what "is" is what can be
known. Nonobservable theoreticalentitiesare treated instrumentally. They are
"merefictions,"usefulperhaps but in no sense can theybe considered real. Note
also that thisempiricistmetaphysicscan never achieve the flightfromsubjectiv-
ityand hence the objectivityit so desires. The tyingof existence to experience
218 AfterPostpositivism?

implies a subject capable of experiencing.There can be no experience without


someone to experience. The world "out there" is inextricablytied to the world
"in here." Methodologically,the usefullittlefictionsbecome notjust useful but
indispensable and even the arch-DadistPaul Feyerabend declared realism far
superior to instrumentalism (Feyerabend,1985).
There are twofurtherreasons whya more explicitacceptance of realismis de-
sirable.First,as noted above, and despitedenials to the contrary,the commitment
to realismis a conditionofpossibilityforscience and one thatall partiesadhere to;
forpositivists, sense-experienceis real; forpostpositivists,
discoursesor intersub-
jectivityis real. Hence the question becomes not whetherone should be a realist,
but of whatkind?But realismcomes in manyformsand the depth realismadvo-
cated by criticalrealismplaysa crucial role in defendingthe veryidea of inquiry
itself-in effectscience. For beyondthe boundaryof negativity, ifobjects are con-
structedin discoursesthen there is simplynothingmore to discover.Everything
thatis an object of discoursewould be said to exist,thatwhichis not an object of
discoursewould not exist. Science, at least as currentlypractised,would come to
an end. A recentexample of thiscomes fromSherryTurkle,who arguesthatin our
postmodernworld "the search fordepth and mechanismis futile,thatit is more
realisticto explore the world of shiftingsurfacesthan to embarkon a search for
originsand structure. .. the futuredoes not lie in this'really,really'question. It
lies in takingthingsat interfacevalue" (Turkle,1999).
Beyond the boundaryof boredom, on the other hand, if it workson the pre-
sumptionof "as if" theyexisted,thenwhycontinuean inquiryintowhetheror not
theyreallyexistand havewhateverform?There is simplyno need to go beyondthe
appearances and inquire into the natureof things,in effect,the same positionas
Turkleadvocates.Science would come to an end when we could "save the appear-
ances." David Hume providesa less contemporaryexample, but one thatgraphi-
callyilluminatesthe affinitiesbetweenthose beyond both boundaries:

tis still certain we cannot go beyond experience; and any hypothesis,that pre-
tends to discoverthe ultimateoriginal qualities of human nature,ought at first
to be rejected as presumptuousand chimerical.... When we see that we have
arrivedat the utmostextent of human reason, we sit down contented. (Hume,
1967:88-89)

The depth realism we advocate, on the other hand, challenges both of these
positions.We argue thatpart of the rationale forscience is the attemptto know
whetheror not thingsare reallyas described, and what it is that makes them
appear as such. Science on thisaccount nevercomes to an end. No claim is ever
immune from challenge. Discourses can be, and often are wrong about their
objects, and the assumptionof "as if" theyexist is at best a short-termsolution.
The world is real and science is dependent upon the making of existential
hypotheses.This is not, however,to advocate a blind allegiance to science, foras
Bhaskar puts it, science is not

a supreme or overridingvalue, but only one among others to be balanced (in a


balance that cannot be whollyjudged by science) in ergonic,emancipatoryand
eudaimonisticactivity.Nor do I thinkthe objects of science exhaust reality.On
the contrary,they affordonly particularangle or slant of reality,picked out
preciselyfor its explanatoryscope and power. (Bhaskar,1993:15)

In thismanner,scientificoutputs,understoodsimplyas knowledgethatattempts
to explain, still require social evaluation.4The above argumentsprovide com-

4 Examples of this process are the public debates over geneticallymodifiedfood an-dhuman clon-ing.
HEIKKIPATOMAKI
ANDCOLINWIGHT 219

pelling argumentsfor taking critical realism seriously.But before turningto


outline some of the differencescriticalrealism might make to IR, we want to
provide a sketchof how it is thatIR, in common withother social sciences,finds
itselfin the twoboundaries and middle ground position and thatthe manner in
which thislatentanti-realismhelps constructsuch an understanding.5Our main
targethere willbe the anti-realismand deep scepticismthatplaysa major role in
the constructionof the boundaries of both boredom and negativity.

Hume, Kant, and the Loss of the World


We will tryto show in thissection thatthe postpositivist reaction to positivismis
embedded withinthe same background discourse and is derived from a long
philosophical traditionof anti-realism/scepticism. We do not mean to suggest
that we identifyphilosophical irrealismas the single master-sourceof all con-
temporaryproblems in IR theory.But we do suggest that a more explicit and
attentiveexplication of the issue of realismis a necessarycondition in order for
IR to move beyond the twoboundaries given thatanti-realismis fundamentalto
both.
Everyproblem,whetherpractical-politicalor theoretical,has a set of in-built
presuppositions.Put together-to the extent that there is some consistency-
these presuppositionsformwhat Bhaskar calls a theory/problem solution field
(hencefortha "problem-field").Our argumentis that those beyond the bound-
aries of boredom and negativityshare the same "problem-field"despite the
surface rhetoricthat separates them.6
Leaving aside the cruciallyimportantsocioeconomic and political context of
the emergence of this"problem-field"(but see Toulmin,1990:13-22) it emanates
froma number of metaphysicalpresuppositions.Althoughmanyphilosophers-
such as Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke-were quite explicit about the atomism,
rationalism,dualisms and empiricismon which theywere groundingtheirpolit-
ical theories, it was the much more secular and anti-theologicaleighteenth
centuryphilosopher David Hume who most clearly articulatedand developed
the implicationsof this modern metaphysics.7
Hume's importance to the "problem-field"we identifyis multifaceted,but
given the limitationsof space we will focus on his influentialaccount of causa-
tion,whichis accepted by those beyond both boundaries,and which,crucially,is
derivedfromhis thoroughgoingscepticismand anti-realism.Hume was radically
sceptical about the persistenceand existenceof realityoutside the human mind
and perceptions.For Hume, thereare onlyperceptionsbased upon Impressions,
and Ideas, which, if theyare justified can only be legitimatedon the basis of
experience. That is, he claimed that there is nothing outside an individual's
perceptions/experience.In common with most formsof scepticismHume was
derivingontological argumentsfromepistemologicalones. Since we can never
know whetherthere is an external reality,the only realitywe can legitimately
refer to is that which can be experienced. Hume's scepticismconstitutedthe
ground upon which empiricisttheoriesof knowledge are based.
Since experience could not be divorced from a subject which experiences,
Hume concluded that the "science of man is the only solid foundationfor the
other sciences" (Hume, 1967/1739:88).And the basis of thisscience of man can
only be that of experience and observation(Hume, 1967/1739:88).

5On this issue see Wight,1998.


6
By a "theory/problemsolution field we mean the set of unchallenged theoretical assumptions and the
inevitable solutions such assumptionsgenerate" (Bhaskar, 1994:10). The followingargumentwill be outlined in
more detail in (forthcoming).
7 Our reading of Hume and Kant and their importanceis in manywaysinformedby Bhaskar, 1986:224-308.
220 AfterPostpositivism?

As with most sceptics,and despite his denial of reality,Hume, in practice,


adhered to a formof empiricalrealism.But in limitingwhatcan be meaningfully
said of the worldto whatcould be experienced,Hume faced a difficultproblem
vis-a-viscausation. Hume noted thata common-senseunderstandingof causality
involves the notion of force throughwhich the cause somehow produces the
effect;in essence a necessaryconnection. But, and as a resultof his scepticism,
Hume argued that since no such force or necessaryconnection can be empiri-
callyverified(experienced),such a common-senseunderstandingis in error.For
Hume, causationisjust one of the three"bonds thatunite our thoughtstogether"
(Hume, 1975/1777:50).All we ever observe,he argued, is the constantconjunc-
tion of events.This account of causation has been hugelyinfluentialand even
among those scholars who reject causal talk in termsof the social world, the
account of causation being rejected is generallythat of Hume (e.g., see Hollis
and Smith,1994).
But Hume's scepticismalso played a role in the formationof his political
thinking.His radical scepticismimplied the view that nothingcan ever change
and that although thingswere co-joined (in the human mind) theywere never
reallyconnected.8 It is therebyno surprisethat in his studyon the balance of
power,Hume concludes:

In short the maxim of preservingthe balance of power is founded so much on


common sense and obvious reasoning,that it is impossible it could altogether
have escaped antiquity,where we find, in other particulars,so many marks of
deep penetrationand discernment.(Hume, 1950/1825:107)

AlthoughHume presupposed the modern political theoreticalproblem of order


(see Hirschman,1977), he taughtthat there has alwaysbeen a balance of power
politics.This beliefis drivenby his metaphysicalconvictionthattherehave been
no real changes and thatthere can be none. Since "whenwe say thatone object
is connected withanother,we mean onlythattheyhave acquired a connexion in
our thought"(Hume, 1975/1777:76),the balance of power is itselfa constructof
the mind. Littlewonder thatHume thoughtthatit has alwaysexisted and always
will,at least insofaras there are minds. It is also tellinghow Hume argues that
the balance of power has no practical effect.In Hume's view statesmen are
driven by their passions, not by rational considerationsor the external world
(whichof course he denies); again a condition thatdoes not change and one at
least consistentwithhis radical scepticism.In termsof moralityHume's scepti-
cism served to ground a form of self-interestfar more radical than that of
Hobbes. Consistentwithhis scepticismHume famouslydeclared that "it is not
contraryto reason to preferthe destructionof the whole world to the scratching
of my finger"(quoted in Bhaskar, 1994:192). However, although Hume was a
seminal influence in the constructionof the "problem-field"of IR, it was Kant
who finallyput all the pieces togetherand gave the familiarshape IR confronts
today.
Awoken fromhis "dogmatic slumbers"by Hume's scepticism,Kant systemat-
ically collected the pieces of the "problem-field"together.Kant was concerned
to refuteHume's scepticismof an external realityand, in a widelyinfluential
solution, posited two worlds-that of phenomena/noumena. At the level of
phenomena-the worldwe experience-Kant's world is ultimatelyHumean. But
this phenomenal world we inhabit was not the real world for Kant. As a tran-
scendental idealist, Kant also introduced the noumenal world-the site of rea-
son and morality.Yes, there was a real world but we could know nothing of it.
The onlyworld we could meaningfullyspeak of was thatwhich we could know;

8
Again, this argumentwas also advanced by Hobbes (1909:19-21).
HEIKKI PATOMAKIAND COLIN WIGHT 221

the phenomenal world. If there is indubitable scientificknowledge of, and an


objectiveorder to, thisphenomenal world,argued Kant, then it emanates from
the universalcategories of understanding-not the nature of the world itself.
Time, space, form,content,meaning, and hence causation, in effectthe world
we confront,were all categories of the mind. Again, as with Hume, the prac-
tical effectof giving priorityto the epistemological question of what we can
know over the ontological question of what there is to know is an impoverished
ontology.Kant's answerto Hume's scepticismwas achieved throughthe cutting
of his ontological cloth to fit his epistemologicalgivens.
Kant's world is dualistic;thereis no waythat noumena (moral reasons) could
have any causal impact on phenomena (deterministcausal processes of the
world).For Kant, freedomwas defined as "spontaneity"and in no waycould an
act be considered free if it was in any way caused. Hence, the noumenal world
was cut offfromthe deterministworldof causal phenomena. Science could hope
to understand the phenomenal world where all events and processes can, in
principle,be subsumed under a causal order,but the noumenal world-the site
of reason-could not be explained causally. As Kant himselfputs it, "we are
dealing with two kinds of causality conceivable by us; causality according to
nature or that which arises fromfreedom" (Kant, 1934:253-268). And there is
simplyno wayto link these twoworlds,because freedomis defined "as a stateof
spontaneity... [s]uch causalitywill not, therefore,itselfstand under another
cause determiningit in time,as required by the law of nature" (Kant, 1934:253-
268). Nor can reason bringabout any change in the causal order of thingssince
"no action begins in this active being itself"(Kant, 1934:257).
Internationalrelationsdevelops under the shadow of this dualistic"problem-
field" and the followingis meant to be only suggestiveof this development(see
Patomaki, forthcoming).For Hegel, Kant's solution representedan act of cow-
ardice. It was cowardicebecause, at the end of the day,it had to turn to other-
worldlysolutions in its search for moralityand rationality.9Hegel wanted to
show that the existingworldis alreadyrationalby unitingKant's twoworldsinto
one through Geist; itself manifestedthrough the state-the Divine Idea on
Earth.10
It was in this intellectualcontext that the termRealpolitikwas coined in Ger-
manyafterthe unsuccessfulrevolutionary year of 1848. Generally,ideas of Real-
politikwere developed by the disillusionedliberalswho drew the conclusion that
liberal thinkersshould denounce theirambitiousprogramsof change (Palonen,
1987:99-102). Realpolitik can be understood as a reaction to Kant's idealist nou-
mena and the "rationalist"Enlightenmentthinking.Afterall, what use was a
world in whichwe could do nothingand know nothingof? Far better,is it not,
to deal onlywiththe phenomenal world which we inhabit?
The otherkeyfigurein the developmentof this"problem-field"is Max Weber
(about the centralityof Weber to the twentiethcenturyIR, see for instance
Smith, 1986). Weber was a syntheticthinkerwho combined ideas fromHume,
Kant, Hegel, romanticand hermeneuticalthinkers(themselvesdrawingon Kant)
such as Schleiermacher,Realpolitik pessimistssuch as Nietzsche,as well as turn-
of-the-century positivists.In domestic politics,Weber was a liberal, a sceptical
and sometimescriticalbeliever in modernization(and rationalizationand secu-
larization)as progress.Sometimeshe was simplyfatalisticand in termsof inter-
national relationshe articulateda vision that denied the possibilityof progress
and emancipation.Weber thoughtthatoutside of modern nations,there are no

9 To rescue his moral convictions,Kant resortedto a speculativetheoryof possible historicaldevelopment,and


ultimately,to his faithin Providence.AlthoughKant's theoryof possible historyis not withoutmerits,it does not
resolve the ontological problem. See Kant, 1983/1783,and 1983/1784.
10On the relationshipbetween Hegel and criticalrealismsee Bhaskar,1993.
222 AfterPostpositivism?

shared values, only the quasi-Nietzscheanstruggleof wills-to-powerof different


charismaticnational leaders.
Hans MorgenthaubroughtthisGerman Realpolitik discourse to the U.S. Here
in his mostNietzscheanmoment,contrastingidealizationsof "scientificman" to
the brute"realitiesof powerpolitics,"and throughhis appeal to Hume implicitly
invokingKant's dualisticworld view:

Aristotleanticipatedthismodern problem,as so manyothers,when he remarked


in the Nicomachean Ethics: "Intellect itself,however,moves nothing." When
rationalismwas reaping its philosophic triumph,Hume could say: "Reason is,
and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any
other officethan to serve and obey them." (Morgenthau,1946:154)

The Morgenthau of ScientificMan vs. PowerPoliticswas extremely sceptical about


findingany scientificknowledgeabout the world,because, ultimately,the world
is romanticallytragicand Nietzschean. Interestingly, Nietzsche also relied upon
theHumean account of the phenomenalworld;he believed thatHume's ("English
petit bourgeois") scepticism could be rewrittenin terms of the metaphysical
voluntarismof "will-to-power." Some postmodernistsare veryclose to repeating
this pattern(on the close links between the Humean notion of causality,scep-
ticism,Nietzsche, and many formsof deconstruction,see Culler, 1983:86-87).
And, finally,we have the Unhappy Consciousness of the Christian"realists"such
as Niebuhr, and earlyButterfieldand Wight,who saw the origin of world his-
torical tragedies to lie in the original sin of humankind,and thoughtthat the
salvationmustbe other-wordly, too. Manyof thesescepticaland anti-Enlightenment
IR thinkerstook for granted the Kantian dualism between the phenomenal
worldof Humean causalityand the noumenal worldof reason and meanings.On
the other hand, Humean and Nietzschean tenetsnotwithstanding, the founding
role of anti-realismand scepticismwas graduallyforgotten,particularlyin the
scientisticU.S. American discourse attemptingto deal with the world "as it is."
Note thatall the classical IR debates are withinthissame "problem-field."This
holds obviouslytrue for idealism vs. realism,but also for the "great" method-
ological debate of the 1960s, whichwas a dispute between the scientistsand the
advocates of a more hermeneuticallyorientated IR. And the so-called Third
debate betweenpositivismand postpositivismis withinthe same "problem-field,"
withmanyNietzschean deconstructionists and hermeneuticistsrelyingupon the
Kantian dichotomybetween reasons and causal phenomena. What typicallygoes
unnoticed is the role played by scepticismand anti-realismin structuringthese
debates.
And it is here that the importance of Hume, Kant, and the implicit anti-
realism of empiricisttheories of knowledge cannot be overstated.Kant, who
articulatedthe IR "problem-field,"relied upon a Humean ontology.The ontol-
ogy of Kant's phenomenal world is essentiallythat of Hume. The existence of
anotherworld (Kant's noumenal world) opens up the possibilityof transcending
Hume, but Kant closes offthispossibilityby divorcingthe world of reason from
thatof causation. In effect,Kant forcesa sharp separationbetween the material
and ideational. And what has been ripped apart in thismanner is verydifficult,
if not impossible,to reunite.Scholars operatingin the shadow of this "problem-
field"are now faced withtwoalternatives;eitheraccept the phenomenal worldas
it is and withit Hume's atomisticand deterministicindividualism,or divorcethe
worldof reason fromthatof physicalcausation and perhaps even causation itself.
Explanation vs. Understanding,Rationalismvs. Reflectivism,Positivismvs. Post-
positivismare all embedded withinthe same "problem-field."
We argue that a rethinkingof this "problem-field"requires a substantially
differentunderstandingof the ontological problematic,one that reversesthe
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 223

long-standingprioritisingof epistemologicalmattersover ontological ones. Crit-


ical realism, we argue, is suggestiveof potential solutions to these problems,
because of its radical break withboth Humean scepticismand Kantian transcen-
dental idealism. Critical realism provides an alternative"problem-field"which
embeds the social withinthe materialwithoutreducing one to the other.

CriticalRealism
Everytheoryof knowledgemust also logicallypresuppose a theoryof what the
worldis like (ontology)forknowledge(epistemology)to be possible.Or as Bhaskar,
invertinga Hegelian aphorism, puts it, "all philosophies, cognitivediscourses
and practicalactivitiespresuppose a realism-in the sense of some ontologyor
general account,of the world-of one kind or another" (Bhaskar, 1989:2). The
question is not of whetherto be a realist,but of what kind of realistto be. We
have attemptedto show how the boundaries of both negativityand boredom
share a common "problem-field,"which is structuredby various formsof anti-
realism/scepticism. We have also argued that those beyond the boundary of
boredom tend to be empiricalrealistsand those beyond the boundaryof nega-
tivitytend towardslinguisticrealism.We wantto now situatea different "problem-
field": one that takes the possibilityof a deeper realism to be a condition of
possibilityfor both empirical and linguisticrealism. The form of realism we
advocate can be called criticalrealism (for essential readings,see Archer et al.,
1998).
There are twodistinctwaysin whichcriticalrealismdiffersfromempiricaland
linguisticrealism.First,according to criticalrealism the world is composed not
onlyof events,statesof affairs,experiences,impressions,and discourses,but also
ofunderlyingstructures, powers,and tendenciesthatexist,whetheror not detected
or known throughexperience and/or discourse. For criticalrealiststhis under-
lyingrealityprovidesthe conditionsof possibilityforactual eventsand perceived
and/or experienced phenomena. According to critical realists,empirical and
linguisticrealistscollapse what are, in effect,differentlevels of realityinto one
(Bhaskar, 1975:56). For both the underlyingrealitythat makes experience pos-
sible and the course of events that is not experienced/spokenare reduced to
what can be experienced or become an object of discourse.
Second, forcriticalrealismthe differentlevels maybe out of phase witheach
other.What we mean is that although the underlyinglevel may possess certain
powersand tendencies,these are not alwaysmanifestin experience, or even for
thatmatterrealized. A nuclear arsenal has the power to bringabout vastdestruc-
tion and thispower existsirrespectiveof being actualized. Moreover,thispower
is itselfbased on more than thatwhich we directlyexperience. The conception
we are proposingis thatof a worldcomposed, in part,of complex things(includ-
ing systemsand complexlystructuredsituations)that, by virtue of their struc-
tures, possess certain powers, potentials,and capacities to act in certain ways
even ifthose capacitiesare not alwaysrealized. The worldon thisviewconsistsof
more than the actual course of eventsand experiences and/or discoursesabout
them.
Science, in this view, is not a deductive process that attemptsto seek out
constant event conjunctions,but one that aims at identifyingand illuminating
the structures,powers, and tendencies that structurethe course of events. A
significantpartof whatconstitutesscience is the attemptto identifythe relatively
enduringstructures,powers,and tendencies,and to understandtheircharacter-
isticwaysof acting.Explanation entailsprovidingan account of those structures,
powers and tendencies that have contributedto, or facilitated,some already
identifiedphenomenon of interest.It is importantto note that the mode of
inference implied by critical realism is neither deduction nor induction, but
224 AfterPostpositivism?

retroduction.This consistsin the movement,on the basis of analogy and meta-


phor amongstother things,froma conception of some phenomenon of interest
to the developmentof a model of some totallydifferenttypeof thing,structure,
or condition that,at least in part, is responsiblefor the given phenomenon.
From thisperspectivethere can be no a priori assumptionthat the scientific
endeavour could ever come to an end. For as one phenomenon is explained by
a deeper level,thatdeeper level itselfbecomes a new phenomenon thatrequires
explanation. Equally, as deeper layersare revealed and understood, the knowl-
edge we gain of them may necessitatethatwe revise our understandingsof the
original phenomenon. Science is seen to proceed througha constantspiral of
discoveryand understanding,furtherdiscovery,and revision,and hopefullymore
adequate, understanding.Note also thatin thisview there can be no such thing
as "the scientificmethod." Such an ontologicallyoriented perspectiveimplies,
given the commitmentto a structuredand differentiated reality,that each sci-
ence willrequireitsown methodsof inquiry.But equally,each science, insofaras
it attemptsto explain, will stillbe a science.
Criticalrealism,then, differsfromempiricaland linguisticrealismin viewing
the world as, in part, composed of objects, including causal laws which are
structuredand, to adopt Bhaskar's term,are "intransitive"to those that would
wish to come to know them. This intransitivedimension to the world is irreduc-
ible to eventsand theirpatternsand it is these structures, powers,and tendencies
that are designated in causal laws, not Humean constantconjunctions.
This intransitive dimension to science, however,is, of course, only one side of
the equation. As is alreadyimplied in the rejection of the idea that thisdeeper
level of realityis immediatelygivenin experience, another dimension to science
is necessaryin order to make sense of knowledgeproduction.Rejecting,for the
sake of intelligibility,that knowledgeof these underlyingstructuresemerges ex
nihilo,it would seem that it must come about through a transformationof
pre-existingknowledge;a set of antecedent materials,what Bhaskar calls transi-
tiveobjects-theories, paradigms,models, facts,speculations,linguisticconven-
tions, beliefs, hunches, hypotheses, guesses, symbolic gestures, and so on.
Knowledge,then, is a social product, activelyproduced by means of antecedent
social products-albeit on the basis of a continual engagement,or interaction,
withits (intransitive)object. That is, widelydifferenttheories can interpretthe
same, unchangingworldin radicallydifferent ways.However,because it is knowl-
edge of an independentlyexistingreality,knowledgeis not totallyarbitraryand
some claims about the nature of this realitymay provide betteraccounts than
others.
In summary,the criticalrealist"problem-field"we advocate can be said to be
committedto ontological realism(that there is a reality,which is differentiated,
structured,and layered, and independent of mind), epistemologicalrelativism
(that all beliefs are sociallyproduced and hence potentiallyfallible),and judg-
mental rationalism(that despite epistemologicalrelativism,it is stillpossible, in
principle,to providejustifiablegroundsforpreferringone theoryover another).
But can thisnew "problem-field"be applied to the studyof the social world?
In the social world,are thingsnot radicallydifferent, because the specificmate-
rial structureof the social world-its institutions,
social relations,and practices-
are dependent upon social meanings in numerous ways?Thus, as part of the
object, the ideas, beliefs,concepts, and knowledge held by people in societies
must be understood. In studyingsocial objects, such as war, nationality,and
gender,we mustinterpretwhat these and other relevantsocial objects mean for
the subjectswhose practicesconstitutethese objects. In a sense the studyof the
social world requires thatthe subject become part of its object. This necessitates
an essentialcriticalcomponent to all properlyconceived social sciences. For any
given social object will necessarilybe constitutedby, interalia, a set of practices
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 225

(themselvesconcept dependent) and a number of ideas about those practices.


Insofaras some of the ideas and beliefscirculatingwithinsocial groups about a
given set of practices may be incorrect,a social scientistwho identifiesthese
incorrectbeliefs must necessarilybe critical of them. And if this sociological
account contradictsthe participants'understandingof the situationit mustnec-
essarilybe criticalof these understandings.
This constitutesa radical differencebetweenthe studyof the social world and
the naturalworld,but it does not, in our opinion, violate the intransitive nature
of social phenomena in relation to those minds or persons who would wish to
come to knowit. The social world certainlydepends upon the concepts thatthe
agents acting in it possess, but it cannot be the case that any given social phe-
nomenon requires the existence of a social scientistto conceptualise it before it
can come into being. Equally, the deep ontologysuggested by critical realism
also foregroundsa starkcontrastto positivistand postpositivist ontologies deeply
embedded withthe "problem-field"of IR. On a criticalrealistreading,the social
world cannot be reduced eitherto its experientialmoment or to its intersubjec-
tiveelements.That the social world consistsof more than can be experienced is
self-evidentfromthe importanceof ideas, beliefs,concepts, and knowledge to
the social world.
Some of those beyond the boundaries of boredom, behavioralists,for exam-
ple, attemptto deny the validityof this notion of depth to the social world by
takingonly observable behaviors as worthyof inquiryand it should be obvious
how impoverishedthis ontologyis. But as one would expect fromapproaches
derivingfroma common "problem-field,"many of those beyond the boundary
of negativityand even some attemptingto occupy the middle ground tend to
define societysolelyin termsof intersubjectivity or practices(Doty, 1997). Alex-
ander Wendt,for example, seems to view the differencebetween the individual
and society as that between the subjective and the intersubjective,hence his
claim that the social world is "ideas all the way down" (Wendt, 1992).? Society,
forWendt, is intersubjectivity. But what is lost withthis definition?
To critical realism the intersubjectivemerelyrepresentsone importantand
necessary part of the social. Yet, importantas intersubjectivemeanings and
relationsare, theydo not exhaustthesocialworld.Accordingto Bhaskar(1979:152-
205) intersubjectiverelationstypicallyrepresentonly the immediateappearance
of the social relationsthat constitutesociety,even if theyare also necessaryfor
the (re)production of all social relations.Thus for Bhaskar,the surface appear-
ance of intersubjectivity,although possessing causal power, is typicallydistinct
from its underlying-and potentiallyhidden, reified, or mystified-essential
relations.

PuttingCriticalRealism to Workin IR

TheIncommensurability
Thesis
Criticalrealismshares withpostpositivistapproaches a commitmentto method-
ological and epistemologicalpluralism.Yet the incommensurabilitythesisthreat-
ens any nascent multi-paradigmaticapproach.12 If incommensurabilityentails
that meaningfulcommunication across paradigms is, in principle, impossible,
then any formof multi-paradigmatic inquirywould seem to be futile.In effect,
although incommensurability seems to provide the rationale to keep the con-

" Althoughit should be noted thatWendt has recentlyadded a question markto thisassertion(Wendt, 1999).
However, according to critical realism the social world can no more be ideas all the way down than it can be
materialityall the waydown.
12
For a more detailed refutationof the incommensurability thesisand its attendantproblemssee Wight,1996.
226 AfterPostpositivism?

versationgoing, no "real" conversationtakes place. Within internationalrela-


tions the argumentfor incommensurabilityis generallyattributedto Thomas
Kuhn (1970a). Althoughsuperficiallya liberatingposition,Kuhn's thesisquickly
legitimatesa stagnantconservatism(Guzzini, 1993:446; Wight,1996). For Kuhn,
normal science representsthatphase when problems are solved, but crucially,it
also describesa situationin which one paradigm dominates.
Given the complexityand open nature of the social world, however,it is
hardlypossible thatone paradigmcould ever dominate. Takinga complex social
ontologyseriouslyrequiresa commitmentto a multi-paradigmatic approach. But
if the incommensurability thesis holds then any attempt to put a multi-
paradigmaticapproach into practice is doomed to failure.The incommensura-
bilitythesislegitimatesapartheidforparadigmswhere proponentsof competing
paradigms assume that they alone know (epistemological incommensurability)
the truthof theworldtheyhave created (ontologicalincommensurability). Incom-
mensurabilitybuttressescompeting approaches fromcriticismfrom alternative
approaches-a situationwe find deplorable since we consider all claims should,
at least potentially,be open to challenge. But whatare the argumentsforincom-
mensurability?
Incommensurability signifiesthe idea thatthereis no common measureamong
paradigms of inquiry.13It can take either an ontological or epistemological
form.The ontological argumentis actuallya non sequitur. For if two theories/
paradigms have differentobjects, then theycannot be said to clash. In order
for theoriesto clash theymust clash over something.Einstein's theoryof rela-
tivitydoes not clash with Darwin's theoryof evolution. Strictlyspeaking, the
idea that theoriesof differentparts of realityare incommensurableis true,but
uninteresting.Of course, theories can clash and posit differentontologies in
theirattemptto explain some phenomenon. Note, however,thatin order to be
interesting,and to be said to clash, some aspects of the phenomenon remain
constant and what changes/clashesare the explanations of the phenomenon.
All theories that attempt to explain the end of the Cold War accept that
certainimportantepisodes and changes took place, which require explanation.
It is obvious that theories understand the Cold War and its end in different
ways-and manyof them misidentify both badly (see Patomaki,1992a). But they
accept thattheyare referringto at least partiallysame real phenomenon. If they
did not we could not knowthattheywere clashing.Admittedly, in the attemptto
explain, some eventswill be privilegedover others,and it may be the case that
some eventsundergo a comprehensiveredescriptionsuch that theyare no lon-
ger recognizableunder the old descriptions.But even in these situationsit is rare
for there to be no overlap among phenomena. For if therewere no ontological
overlap in what sense could we say the accounts clashed? In this sense, critical
realism's refocusingof ontological questions escapes the "problem-field"of IR
and directsour attentionto the question of "ontological overlap" between theo-
ries.14Put simply,if there is no ontological overlap then there is littlepoint in
tryingto compare theories,or bemoaning the fact thatwe can't.
The epistemologicalargumentforincommensurability is altogethermore inter-
esting,although,we think,no more convincing.This epistemologicalargument
suggeststhat since differenttheories/paradigmshave differentepistemological

13
It seems to us that the argumentthat there is no "neutral"metalanguagewithwhich to compare competing
theoriesis basicallysound. However,thisdoes not mean thatcommunication/translation across theories/paradigms
is impossible.If one is translatingfromone language into another one does not firsthave to learn a neutral third
language in order to communicate.Interestingly, Kuhn was keen to distance himselffromsome of the more radical
interpretationsof the incommensurability thesis that have emerged (see Kuhn, 1970b, 1982, 1990).
14 For how this kind of analysisis done in the contextof explaining the Economic and MonetaryUnion, see

Patomaki, 1997.
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 227

criteriathen there is simplyno wayto compare them; the evidence accepted by


one may be rejected by the other.Yet the epistemologicalargumentrestsupon
the fallacious assumptionthat paradigms are embedded in one, and only one,
epistemologicaloutlook, and are hermeticallysealed. We find this assumption
whollyimplausible.
For example,MartinHollis and SteveSmithsuggestthat"explanatory"accounts
and "interpretive" accountsnecessitatedifferentepistemologies(Hollis and Smith,
1991, 1994). It seems to us that Hollis and Smith are confusingepistemologies
withmethodologies. Given that the social world constitutesa differentkind of
object compared to atoms,for example, it is hardlysurprisingthat its studywill
require a differentset of methods, but methods are not epistemologies.This
Explanationvs. Understandingcontroversy is embedded withinthe IR "problem-
field."Yet what can it mean to talk of an "interpretative epistemology"?Or an
explanatoryepistemology?The reductionof Explanation and Understandingto
one and only one epistemologydoes violence to the many disputes that have
shaped and formeddebates withinthese traditions.Explanations (taken to mean
a commitmentto scientificmethods) can be empiricist,rationalist,pragmatist,
and/or conventionalistin epistemologicaloutlook. And of course, these episte-
mologies should not be viewed as mutuallyexclusive.
The more appropriate epistemological stance is one of "epistemological
opportunism":anythinggoes, as far as there are good reasons for it and it
givesthe promiseof advancingour knowledge(cf.Feyerabend,1995:123).Equally,
epistemological speculation in an ontological vacuum is at best arbitraryand
invariably leads to debilitating disputes over epistemological "turf." Obvi-
ously, these good reasons are contested and should be discussed also in the
context of concrete research puzzles. Criticalrealism nonetheless suggeststhat
the plausibilityof existentialhypothesesand the explanatorypower and origi-
nality of models are crucial. But so is the capability to incorporate different
perspectives.
The rejection of ontological and epistemological incommensurability, how-
ever, does not demonstratehow communicationbetween differentapproaches
mightbe achieved in practice.What it does demonstrateis thatsuch communi-
cation is, in principle,possible.
Ontologicallythe social world is composed of a fragmentedinterplayof prac-
ticesbased on variouspartial,relationalperspectives,and a more comprehensive
perspectiveis achieved by transcendingand adapting these partial perspectives
and synthesising theminto a broader,non-reductiveperspectivecapable of incor-
poratingthe strengthsof all. Note, however,thatthisdoes not implythe destruc-
tion of competing perspectives.The synthesiswe advocate does not imply a
grand theoryof everything. This, we think,is the real methodologicalimportof
Nietzschean perspectivism(Nietzsche, 1989:119). What is importantto realize is
thatthisprocess is continual.No synthesiscan ever be absolute and final: reality
is constantlychanging, and so there can only be a "dynamic"synthesisthat is
constantlybeing reformulated.
The dynamicsynthesisthatwe advocate can be achieved only if the relativity
and the partial nature of all perspectivesis recognized, appreciated, and incor-
porated into a more comprehensiveaccount, and ifwe challenge the unnoticed
assumptionsof the "problem-field"into which these problems are embedded.
This will require a rethinkingof these partial perspectives;a rethinkingthat
fundamentallychallenges them and reformulatesthem.

Causality
Outside the strictlypositivistcamp there has been verylittletalk about causality
in IR. In general thisis because those thatreject the applicabilityof causal talk
228 AfterPostpositivism?

in the social still presume the Humean account of it. When based on this
positivist-Humean account of cause, scientificexplanationsare essentiallydeduc-
tivein form.Accordingto thisview the explanandum (the eventto be explained)
is the logical conclusion of a general law and the occurrence of a set of initial
conditions,whichtogetherconstitutethe explanans (thatwhichdoes the explain-
ing). This model of explanation is generallyknownas the D-N, or "coveringlaw"
model. To get a clearer pictureof what thismodel entails,suppose thateventsA
and B are related by the general law, "if event A occurs then event B must
occur."15 The followingschema exemplifiesthe D-N model:

If eventA occurs,theneventB mustoccur. (the coveringlaw)


EventA has occurred
ThereforeeventB must(had to) occur

The D-N model implies that the role of an empirical science is to uncover
general laws (coveringlaws) that can then be used as the premisesof deductive
arguments.This model implies the symmetry of explanation and prediction:if
one has knowledgeto explain B, one could have also predictedit. It also implies
the parityof explanation,prediction,and falsification, in thata failed prediction
falsifies(Bhaskar,1994:20). But what are the keyproblems withthis model?
Firstand foremost,based as it is solelyat the level of co-joined events,it does
not really constitutean explanation at all. To say that "this acid turns litmus
paper red, or thismetal conductselectricitybecause all do is hardlyexplanatory"
(Bhaskar,1994:20). Moreover,the model cannot sustain the distinctionbetween
a necessaryand an accidental sequence of events.There maywell be a correla-
tion between democracies and peace, but is there a connection? The Humean
model also cannot account for the fundamentalcommon-sense experience of
tryingto do somethingwe are unable to do, and failing (Gerwin, 1987). The
world resistsall attemptsto reduce it to our ideas.
The question thatcriticalrealistspose for thismodel is: Is the noted constant
conjunction,i.e., the principle of empirical invariance,either necessary,or suf-
ficientfor explanation?The answeris no. For constantconjunctions (empirical
regularities)in general only obtain under experimentallycontrolledconditions.
That is, under closure. Given that the social world is open not closed, then it is
hardly surprisingthat no laws have yet been discovered. Both the ontology
(perception or sense-realismand the implicitassumptionthatsocial systemsare
closed) and the related theoryof causalityare false and misleading.
Among the recent and most systematicattemptsto tackle the problem of
causalityin IR is that of Suganami's On theCauses of War(1996). With a simple
analysisof causes as necessaryand/or sufficientconditions,Suganami (1996:48-
53) is able to demonstratethe implausibilityof the Waltzian notion of inter-
national anarchyas an explanation of war. He also shows how the claim that
liberal states have not fought against each other is also withoutan adequate
account of the historical mechanisms that would explain this alleged statistical
invariance. In general, as admitted even by the main advocates of the thesis,
dyadic liberalism is neither a necessary nor a sufficientcondition for peace
(Suganami,1996:70-74 and also Chapter3, particularly 101-112). This is explained
by Suganami:

15 Note thatthisis a simplificationto the extreme.The "coveringlaw" model does not, in general, presuppose
that there is a unique A, which is a sufficientcondition for B. Moreover,even withinpositivistapproaches, causal
relationscan be conditional,multistage,and allow foralternativecausation of the same phenomena, thus allowing
for more appropriateconstructionof "models of some fragmentsof 'historicalreality"'(see Nowak, 1960).
HEIKKI PATOMXKI AND COLIN WIGHT 229

A number of differentexplanations can coexist for the phenomenon of inter-


liberal peace as a whole, but this point seems mostlyunnoticed by Doyle, his
supporters,and his critics.... [T]here is no guarantee thatonlyone of the above
theses[about the causes forpeace] will hold true consistently withrespect to all
instances of inter-liberalpeace. Indeed, there is no guarantee even that the
cause of peace between any two liberal states remains the same throughout
differenthistoricalperiods. (Suganami, 1996:104, 107)

This explanationpoints in the rightdirection.In open systems,outcomes might


be the resultof manydifferent causes and the same cause mightlead to different
outcomes. Moreover,Suganami correctlypays attentionto the ambivalentfor-
mulationsHempel employed-are the alleged laws knownor are theyexistingin
the world,whetherknown or not? He nonetheless only wants to "considerably
dilute," at least in the firstphase of his argument, the Humean account of
causality(see Suganami, 1996:119-128).
Yet because of his ontological coyness Suganami assumes that furtherelabo-
rationon the notion of causalitywould not lead us anywhere,and thatthe basic
ambivalencesand ambiguitiesof the deductive-hypothetical model of explana-
tion would remain. Yet in rejecting a strictpositivismSuganami moves to an
ontological idealism similar to many formsof postpositivism,and gives up the
idea of an independent-ontological-notion of causalityentirelyand argues for
a narrative as the fundamental basis for explanation. This is a paradigmatic
example of the manner in whichthe "problem-field"of IR limitsthe possibilities
of theoreticaladvance.

A narrativeaccount rendersthe outbreakof the war more intelligibleto us than


before,thesequenceofeventsthusnarratedconstitutingthe cause of the war. (Sug-
anami, 1996:140; italicsin original)

Obviously,Suganami has an importantpoint here, but its nature is epistemolog-


ical, not ontological. Social scientistsdo tell storiesabout temporalsequences of
eventsand processes. However,the ontological statusof the sequence of events
is unclear in his account. Are these narrativesequences projectionsof the nar-
rativethemselves,or are theyreal causal complexes whichbroughtabout the war
independent of the narrative?
Explanationsare indeed interpretative (narrative)attemptsto make explanan-
dum intelligibleto us (whoeverthe "we" are), but theymust include existential
and causal hypothesesabout the real world. Events, episodes, and processual
tendenciesare caused by the causal powers existingin the world (withinwhich
we dwell as a verysmall part of it and possiblyincapable of understandinglarge
partsof it), not by our storiesand scientifictexts.For instance,howeverwe tell
the storyabout the three World Wars of this century,we cannot change their
existenceor causes any more than we can change the geo-historicalprocesses of
the formationof the planet Earth and the evolution of the life-formson it.
Storiesabout worldpoliticspresuppose and containexistentialand causal hypoth-
eses about the tensed, processual real world,which-to the extent that we are
talkingabout the past, and to a large extent also if we are talkingabout the
present and the future-exists, existed, and to a contingentextent will exist,
quite independentlyof our stories about it, whoever the "we" are (given that
there are alwaysmultiple,structurally positioned actors playinga role in world
history).
In order to provide causal explanation we need theoriesabout what it is that
bringsabout changes in the world outside of the textswe are writingourselves;
thatis, an account of causal powers of differentstructuredmechanismsor com-
plexes at differentlayersof the world.Positivistsand postpositivistsalike, embed-
230 AfterPostpositivism?

ded in the"problem-field" of IR, have difficulties


in explaininganythinghappening
outside theirown sense perceptionsand texts.
According to criticalrealism,there are differentlayersof world, each being
able to influenceeach other causally.These layersinclude ecological, biological,
and social worlds.Now, it is a centralcriticalrealistargumentthat,at the social
layer,reasonsfor actions by social beings are among the causally powerfulele-
mentsof the real world.For instance,the Cold War ended because a multiplicity
of actors contributedto it in a causally efficaciousmanner in the context of
worldwidestatediplomacybetween1985 and 1991. These actorsincluded amongst
others,the Reagan administration, Westernpeace movements,parties,and gov-
ernments,Soviet thinkstanks,Gorbachevhimself,nationalistsof differentSoviet
states,and Soviet and Eastern European dissidents.Many of these participants
were also constituted(in part) bythe concepts and politicaltheoriescirculatedin
and disseminatedfromthe West (some of them articulatedfor instance in the
CSCE Final Act, even if onlyin a compromiseform).These kindsof existential-
and related causal-hypotheses presuppose, in turn,the pre-existence(the real-
ity) of a differentiated,layered, and structuredworld with real causal powers,
upon which these agents draw.

Agency/Structure
The fundamentalissue in the agent-structure problem (ASP) is enshrinedby the
pithyyetcompellingtruismarticulatedby Marx. Men (sic) do indeed make their
own historybut not in circumstancesof theirown choosing. Withinthe commu-
nity of internationalrelations scholars the ASP has tended to be subsumed
under the guise of the level-of-analysis problem. Explicit recognition of the
agent-structure problem came withAlexander Wendt's influential1987 article,
althoughAshley(1984) had alreadydiscussed it. Followingthis,interventionsby
David Dessler (1989), Martin Hollis and Steve Smith (1990, 1992, 1994), and
Walter Carlsnaes (1992), to name but a few,have served to highlightthe impor-
tance of this debate to IR scholars and have separated this problem from the
"level-of-analysis"problem.
At heart the agent-structure problem is an ontological problem concerning
the constitutiveelements of the social world and theirinterrelationships. From
this ontological problem epistemological and methodological problems arise.
The approach we advocate rejects both individualism(however the individuals
are defined-generally states)and holism.We argue thateverysocial act, event,
or phenomenon is onlypossible insofaras the conditionsforaction exist as well
as the agents which act; conditionswhich,we argue, are real and not reducible
to the discourses and/or experiences of the agents. Ontologically,the social
world can onlybe understood as a processual flow thatis intrinsically open and
subject to multipleand at timescontradictorycausal processes. In thisview,the
issue is not how to integrateagents and structuresinto one account, but how
theycould ever be separated. Even when such a separation becomes necessary
on analyticalgrounds,as in the abstractingof agencyfromstructurein order to
studystructure,it is vital to rememberthat this is only an analyticalseparation
and not an ontological one.
Agents cannot be separated fromstructuresfor at least three reasons. First,
agents cannot easily be separated from the social situationsin which theyare
routinelyembedded. This should not be taken to implya denial of an individu-
al's sense of identity,personality,and perception of the social world as these
things are experienced and/or influenced by her, or his, social experience.
Individual selves, however,are rhythmically developing,stratifiedbeings, and a
criticalrealist account would necessarilyreject extreme psychologicalexplana-
tions thatview the individualas a separate unit possessinga fixed inner core or
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 231

essence. In this sense criticalrealism puts the realm of individual deliberation


(Kant's noumenal realm) firmlyin the realm of phenomena.
Second is the fact that all social activityis, as Derek Layder has called it,
situated activity(Layder,1993:80-89). This highlightsthe dynamicnature of the
social world and draws attentionto the dynamicsof interactionitself.Social
activitygenerallyoccurs in gatheringsof, or encounters between,several indi-
viduals and can tend to produce outcomes and propertiesthatare a resultof the
interchangeof communicationbetween the group as a whole rather than the
behaviourof the individualsviewed singly.That is to say,situated activitydisplays
emergentpropertiesthat are the resultof the way in which individualsinteract
and coalesce and whichcould neverhave been understoodor explained through
an analysisof the individualsthemselves.
And third,all social activityis dependent upon antecedentstructuralmaterials
and takes place in a context.Selves and situatedactivityexistwithina wider and
deeper relational context. All social reproductionand/or transformation takes
place under conditionsand relationsinheritedfromthe past. These conditions
and relations representthe already established character of social forms that
have been reproduced and/or transformedin the past and which confrontnew
generationsof individualsas obdurate structuralcontextswhich constituteactors
and action-possibilities as well as inspire,encourage, and rewardcertainformsof
behaviour and dishearten,discourage, and punish others.As such, these struc-
tural contextsentail relationsof power and authority,which constituteand influ-
ence social activityin these settingsand the wider contextswithinwhich these
settingsare embedded.
Context,however,has to be viewed as a complex concept, thus there are many
contextualcircles. The gendered nature of state occupations, such as the army,
for example, has to be seen in the wider contextof gender social relationsthat
locate women in certainkindsof occupation. It is onlyin thiscontext,and in the
even wider one of the power and control implicated in patriarchalrelationsin
society in general, that we can begin to understand,for instance, phenomena
such as mass rape in war (Stiglmayer,1989).
As thisparticularexample makes clear, the question becomes not one of how
to integrateagentsand structuresinto one coherentaccount, but of how it could
ever be possible to consider methodological individualismor methodological
structuralism as viable alternatives.That is, it is alwaysdifficult,ifnot impossible,
to separate out the relations and effectsof the immediate setting of (often
face-to-face)interactionfromthe wider and deeper relationssuch as patriarchal
power relations,or class relations.Similarly,it is impossible to understand the
wayin which these wider and deeper structuresare reproduced over timeunless
we understand how they are reproduced and sometimes transformedin the
course of face-to-face(or, nowadays,more and more oftentechnologicallymedi-
ated) spatio-temporalepisodes between individual selves.
The example of gender relationsand a state occupation such as soldieringis
a good one since it highlightsthe manner in which the immediate settingsof
activity(the barracks,or the battleground)are firmlyconnected to increasingly
remote and mediated relations of domination and subordinationin the wider
social fabric(Enloe, 1989). In thissense, global processes feed into local activity
"here and now" and in some waymake it possible,while the situatedactivityitself
reproduces these wider social relationsand co-constitutethe related processes.
To summarise:In the social world,thereare beings thatpossess causal powers
that can make a differenceby changing the course of the flow of events that
would have otherwisetaken place. Equally, the existence and exercise of these
causal powerspresuppose the intentionality of agency.Intentions("I am about to
do X") are reasoned (". . . in order to"; and also, at another level, ". . . because"),
and in general reasons are causally efficacious,even if the actors themselves
232 AfterPostpositivism?

mightbe confused about the role, nature,and origin of their reasons for,and
rationalisationof, actions. By doing thingsagents bring about changes of states
of affairseven when those actions amount to the mere reproductionof already
existingsocial relationsand positioned practices (there are statesof affairsthat
would be otherwisewithoutagents' actions).
Equally,everysocial act, event,or phenomenon is onlypossible insofaras the
conditionsfor activityexist. Agents,their intentions,and the reasons for these
intentions,however,are not enough to account for social causality.Although
reasonsare causes for actions, social structuresare real conditions(in differentsenses,
but also alwaysnecessaryconditions) for both these reasons and their causal
efficaciousness.The real question is thus: how should we decompose the inter-
nally and externallyrelated elements of social settingsand contexts?And our
general,even if (always)tentativeansweris: there are (i) historicallyconstructed,
yetalso idiosyncraticcorporeal (bodily)actors,who are both internallyand exter-
nally related to each other; (ii) intentionalaction, the meanings of which are
socio-historicallystructured;(iii) regulativeand constitutiverules implicated in
everyaction and constitutionof actors; (iv) resources as competencies and facil-
ities, bringingabout also productiveand destructivecapabilities; and (v) rela-
tional and positioned practices, which might be organised in a manner of
accomplishingcollectiveidentitiesand actors,and whichare often-also in other
cases-(inter) dependent.
Moreover, social systemsare open systems,that is, susceptible to external
influences and internal,qualitativechange and emergence. Spaces and times
intersectand overlap and overlapping,elongated, truncated,spatio-temporalities
may and do coalesce. Differenttendential causes can bring about similar epi-
sodes and trends and the same (kinds of) tendential causes can bring about
different(kinds of) events,episodes, and trends,depending on the totalityof
relevant(open-systemic)causal complexes and processes.

LevelsofAnalysis
BeforeWendt's (1987) article,individualismand holism were discussed in IR in
termsof "levels of analysis."Even afterthat article, there seems to have been
confusionabout the relationshipbetweenASP and the levels-of-analysis problem
(cf. Hollis and Smith,1991, 1992; Wendt, 1991, 1992). It is our contentionthat
the disciplineof IR should fundamentallyrethinkitsunderstandingof the levels-
of-analysisproblem. As presentlyformulatedit confuses and misleads much
more than illuminates(Walker,1993:131-140; Patomaiki,1996; Wight,2000).
In general, the metaphorof level is widelyused in realisttheoriesof science,
and forgood reasons (Bunge, 1963:36-48). There are different ontological layers
in the world,and the social world is itselfa causally efficaciousemergentlevel.
Given the empiricalrealismand linguisticrealismadhered to by those of either
boundary,then the best that can be said of levels is that we treat them "as if"
theyexisted (beyond the boundary of boredom), or deny the notion of depth
altogether(beyond the boundary of negativity).Contraryto these positionswe
suggest that it is a question of building substantialtheories and models that
attemptto resolveexactlywhere the layersare to be located and theirinterrela-
tionships.Moreover,we would also wish to talk about levels and depth within
social worlds.We suggestat least two directionsof depth, that is, of movements
towardsdeeper levels.
First is the ontological stratificationof agency and discourses, which are
closely interrelated,but not reducible to each other. Language and discourse,
for example, are closely connected to, but not reducible to the unconscious
level. And in both of these levels there can be interrelatedmechanisms that
could co-explain reasoning for,and rationalisationof, actions. Here the image
HEIKKI PATOMAKI AND COLIN WIGHT 233

is of two levels interactingto produce outcomes, not one level determinatein


the last instance.
Second, there are also ontological layersconceived in termsof emergence in
time. In this sense, the institutionalisedmeanings and practicessedimented in
the longuedur&eof world history-such as the institutionsof diplomacy; inter-
national law; sovereignty (all of whichare embedded in potentiallycontradictory
discourses)-form a deeper layerof social realities.
In both cases, however,we can make no a prioriassumptionsabout the deeper
strataor layersbeing causally more "powerful"(whateverthat would mean) or
less susceptibleto change in the future.Nor can we assume thatinstitutions such
as diplomacyand internationallaw would have a context-independentidentity
that has remained unchanged throughoutcenturies of the history.More con-
crete, relational identificationsand locations of these deeper elements would
most likelyshow theirmanifoldtransformations as well.
Now, even if we can find-in addition to analytical depth in our own
explanations-ontological depth in the real social worlds, there is little sense
talkingabout individual/sub-state, state,and internationallevelsof analysis.Again,
the criticalrealist focus on ontology plays a role here. The causal powers of
relational social phenomena cannot be grouped in differentartificial"factors"
which are then located at "differentlevels" "as if" thingswere as described. As
the above discussionof the agent-structure problem demonstrates,ontologically
speaking, state activitiesoccur in the course of, and due to, gatheringsof, or
encountersbetween,several individual actors and manifoldstructuralcontexts.
These gatheringsand encountersproduce outcomes and propertiesthat are a
result of the interchangeof communicationbetween the group of actors posi-
tioned in foreignpolicy-makingpracticesof a state.
The point about decomposing social worlds-both situated activityand its
wider and deeper context-into elements of causal complexes is that whatever
the contextual and tendentialphenomenon we want to explain, we should be
lookingforthe same kindsof elementsat all levels:actors,actions,rules,resources,
and practices,all formingtogethera spatio-temporally situatedrelationalwhole,
or totality.It makes no sense, and thisis the keyerror,to treatthe levels of the
state and the internationalsystemas related as agents to structures.
There is also a furthersense whythe levels-of-analysistalkis so misleading:it re-
ifiescollectiveactors and social relations.Social research,given the hermeneuti-
callysaturatednatureofthesocialworld,should proceed bottom-up.The firststage
is to hermeneutically understand,and familiarizeoneselfwiththe meaningsheld
by the concrete actors in spatio-temporally and contextuallysituatedactivities.16
That is to understandhow the social phenomena under scrutinyare constituted.
We need to discoverwhathappened beforewe can ask why.The second stage is to
proceed to reconstructing interactiveactionepisodes on thatbasis.Buildingiconic
models of thewiderand deeper relationalcontextsand theirinherent,real causal
tendenciesshould followthis(Patomaki,1992b: chap. 4).

Fact and Values


We think that in this respect critical realism seems the most radical of all
approaches. A reconsiderationof the theory/problemfield of IR can demon-
stratethispoint. To positivistsfactsare distinctfromvalues. The genesis of this
distinctioncomes from Hume, but is filtered through Kant's dualistic world
outlook. This distinctionhas been vigorouslychallenged by postpositivists, yet

such as Winch (1958) have been on the right


16 In this ratherlimited methodologicalsense, hermeneuticists

track.But the price of the Kantian dichotomybetween phenomena and noumena has been the disappearance of
causes and, ultimately,social structures.
234 AfterPostpositivism?

devoid of the metaphysicalmeans to unite Kant's two worlds, postpositivism


treatsfactsas nothingother than disguisedvalues. This situationmirrorsthatof
the interwardispute between idealistsand realists,withthe realistsaccusing the
idealists of speculativeidealism and the idealists accusing the realistsof moral
vacuity.This debate resonates through current exchanges with many of the
postpositivistsclaiming the moral high ground, but in line withpositivistsalso
rejectingthe idea thatepistemologicalissues have anybearing on ethico-political
ones (Campbell, 1999). Outside of thisrepetitioustheory/problem solution field
criticalrealismis suggestiveof a radical insight.
For criticalrealism,realityis differentiatedyet interconnected.So, although
factsare not merelyvalues and vice versa, theyare mutuallyimplicating.Facts
are alwaysvalue-laden, because at the transitivedimension of science truthis a
positivevalueand truthas correspondence to the world is a regulativemetaphor
guidingscientificand otherpractices.But thisis the radical move. For iffactsare
alwaysin thissense value-laden,then values mustin a sense be factuallyembed-
ded. Nietzsche captures nicelywhat is at stake here arguing,"Let us articulate
thisnew demand: we need a critique of moral values. The value of these values
themselvesmust firstbe called into question-and for that there is needed a
knowledgeof the conditions and circumstancesunder which theygrew,under
which theyevolved and changed" (Nietzsche, 1989:6).
The implication of this point is clear. We can move from facts to values.
Indeed, we must in order to explain those values themselves.No doubt thiswill
appall both positivists
and manypostpositivists. thismove is inadmis-
For positivists
sible, and for many postpositivistsunnecessary(values simplybeing contingent
preferences).Critical realism, on the other hand, situates a genuinely critical
moment at the heart of analysis;a moment that depends at once upon values
being factuallyexplained and factsbeing subject to evaluation. The implication
is an account of emancipatorypractice embedded withina general account of
knowledge constructionable to identifythe possibilityof a transitionfrom an
unwanted,unnecessary,and oppressivesituationto a wanted and/orneeded and
empoweringor more flourishingsituation(see Bhaskar, 1994: chaps. 6 and 7).
And this because criticalrealism rejects the "problem-field"of IR and locates
agency,and the knowledgeupon which such agency is based, in thisworld not
another.

Conclusion
We have argued for an approach that makes its commitmentto realism explicit
as opposed to secretingan implicitrealism.Through such a recoveryof realism
the "problem-field"of IR may be transcended. The positivism/postpositivism
dichotomythatreplaced the interparadigmdebate seems so naturalnow. It is as
if we have alwaysthoughtin this way and alwayswill.Yet this debate itselfis a
constructof those engaged in it and is a product of the "problem-field"of IR.
Mapped onto the "problem-field"of IR thisdivide mirrorsKant's dualisticworld
view.The positivistsconcern themselveswithKant's phenomenal realm and the
postpositivistswith the noumenal. Critical realism suggestsa differenttheory/
problem solution field. One, no doubt, that will contain the seeds of its own
destruction,forwe make no claims to finitudeor ahistoricalknowledge.
The "problem-field"of IR constitutesthe present-dayconditionsof possibility
forthinkingabout, hence actingin, the realm of internationalrelations.And as
such it blocks the developmentof a more ethicallyand politicallyaware body of
scholarshiporiented towardsemancipation. For, as MargaretArcher has put it,

we would betrayourselves,as well as our readers,by offeringany formof social


scientismwith"laws"which are held to be unaffectedby the uses and abuses we
HEIKKI PATOMXKI AND COLIN WIGHT 235

make of our freedoms,for this renders moral responsibilitymeaningless and


political action worthlessand self-reflectionpointless. Equally, we delude one
another by the pretence that societyis simplywhat we choose to make it and
make of it. (Archer,1995:2)

Criticalrealismprovidesa potential(and partial)wayout of this"problem-field."


Criticalrealismhighlightsthe disconnected nature of Kant's two-worldoutlook
and the manner in which this dichotomyprovides the ground for all the key
debatesand categorydistinctionsthatconstituteinternationalrelations;in thought
and deed. Criticalrealism sees societyas an emergententitywithmaterialand
ideational aspects and hence makes any attemptat an easy separation problem-
atic. Criticalrealismsuggeststhat the materialand ideational have to be viewed
as a whole. A whole that it is necessaryto investigateas an integralsystemwith
all its necessaryinterconnections,not as isolated fragmentstorn out of context.
Things,even social things,have to be seen in theirmovementand interconnec-
tions. The parts cannot be correctlyunderstood apart from their relationship
withthe whole. Criticalrealismalso reconnectsthe world of ethical deliberation
withthe world of real causal processes and highlightsthe manner in which we
act in thisworld as a resultof the knowledgewe possess of thatwhich we value
and that which we can do. And what we can do is much more than reject this
reality,accept this reality,or retreatfromthis reality.It is in this emancipatory
sense thatwe need to reclaimrealityfromwhereit has been lost in the "problem-
field" of IR.

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