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Type author

Dunne, Kurkinames
& Smith:
hereInternational Relations Theories 4e

Introduction
Diversity and Disciplinarity in
International Relations
Learning outcomes

After this lecture you should be able to:


Appreciate the importance of theory in
understanding world politics
Have a basic understanding of the key
theoretical positions in IR
Recognise the importance of pluralistic
understandings of the theoretical field in IR

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e


Importance of theory

It is difficult to know what really motivates


decision-makers or what brought about
certain world political events or ?
processes. In evaluating possible
motivations and explanations we are
inevitably led into the realm of theory.
Different theoretical systems can lead us to
focus on different aspects of world political
problems and to see different worlds, which
we take as starting points for the analysis of
world politics.
Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e
Key positions in IR: Inter-paradigm
debate
Classical theoretical positions in IR:
Realism and liberalism
Neorealism and neoliberalism
Marxism
However, classical representations of central IR
theories can be problematic in that:
1) they can provide a narrow view of the realm of
international relations (equating it with inter-state
relations)
2) they tend to assume that different theoretical
points of views see the same world of
international politics

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e


Rationalism vs. Reflectivism: The fourth
great debate
The so-called rationalists and reflectivists
disagree on epistemological and methodological
terms of how best to gain knowledge about world
politics

Rationalism vs. Reflectivism

Rationalists tend to be foundationalist and


positivist. They may marginalize reflectivist, non-
positivist approaches to world politics
However, students of the discipline need to
appreciate that there are many theories outside
of the mainstream approaches that need to be
reckoned with
Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e
Pluralism in IR

Recognizing theoretical pluralism in IR is


important for:

-opening up debates in the discipline

-legitimizing new approaches

-bringing IR closer to other social science


disciplines

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e


Shared elements

Despite their disagreements, the


theories in IR share certain things, for
example:
1) Belief in the centrality of theory
2) Appreciation of different historical
background of theories
3) Each holds a position on the
theory-practice relationship

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e


Consequences of pluralism

Plurality of theories presents two problems:


1) Whether there can be said to be a discipline
of IR at all
2) How one should choose between the
theories

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e


Conclusion

While the editors and contributors value this


plurality in that the different views and angles
allow us to see different worlds as starting
points for analyses, readers must come to
their own judgements.
In making informed and reflective judgements
on questions such as these, it is important
that students work with as pluralistic a view of
the discipline as is possible.

Dunne, Kurki & Smith: International Relations Theories 4e

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