Our metatheoretical assumptions thus determine the macro orientation of IR

Our metatheoretical assumptions thus determine the

This preview shows page 34 - 35 out of 156 pages.

‘ought’ questions to ‘is’ questions, or place them off the agenda altogether. 15 Our metatheoretical assumptions thus determine the macro-orientation of IR towards questions of practice, directly affecting the field’s practical relevance . Secondly, metatheoretical revolutions license new second-order theoretical and analytical possibilities while foreclosing others, directly affecting those forms of scholarship widely considered most practically relevant . The rise of analytical eclecticism illustrates this. As noted above, Katzenstein and Sil’s call for a pragmatic approach to the study of world politics, one that addresses real-world problematics by combining insights from diverse research traditions, resonates with the mood of much of the field, especially within the American mainstream. Epistemological and ontological debates are widely considered irresolvable dead ends , grand theorising is unfashionable, and gladiatorial contests between rival paradigms appear, increasingly, as unimaginative rituals. Boredom and fatigue are partly responsible for this new mood, but something deeper is at work. Twenty- five years ago, Sil and Katzenstein’s call would have fallen on deaf ears; the neo-neo debate that preoccupied the American mainstream occurred within a metatheoretical consensus , one that combined a neo-positivist epistemology with a rationalist ontology. This singular metatheoretical framework defined the rules of the game ; analytical eclecticism was unimaginable. The Third Debate of the 1980s and early 1990s destabilised all of this; not because American IR scholars converted in their droves to critical theory or poststructuralism (far from it), but because metatheoretical absolutism became less and less tenable. The anti- foundationalist critique of the idea that there is any single measure of truth did not produce a wave of relativism, but it did generate a widespread sense that battles on the terrain of epistemology were unwinnable. Similarly, the Third Debate emphasis on identity politics and cultural particularity, which later found expression in constructivism, did not vanquish rationalism. It did, however, establish a more pluralistic, if nevertheless heated, debate about ontology, a terrain on which many scholars felt more comfortable than that of epistemology. One can plausibly argue, therefore, that the metatheoretical struggles of the Third Debate created a space for – even made possible – the rise of analytical eclecticism and its aversion to metatheoretical absolutes , a principal benefit of which is said to be greater practical relevance. Lastly, most of us would agree that for our research to be practically relevant, it has to be good – it has to be the product of sound inquiry, and our conclusions have to be plausible. The pluralists among us would also agree that different research questions require different methods of inquiry and strategies of argument. Yet across this diversity there are several practices widely recognised as essential to good research . Among these are clarity of purpose, logical coherence, engagement with alternative arguments and the provision of good reasons (empirical evidence, corroborating arguments textual interpretations, etc.).
Image of page 34
Image of page 35

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture