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International Relations' Last Synthesis?Decoupling Constructivist and Critical Approaches$
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J. Samuel Barkin and Laura Sjoberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190463427

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190463427.001.0001

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The Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis

The Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis

(p.19) 2 The Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis
International Relations' Last Synthesis?

J. Samuel Barkin

Laura Sjoberg

Oxford University Press

Is there a constructivist–critical theory synthesis? This chapter makes the case that such a synthesis can indeed be found, both in the practice and the politics of the discipline of International Relations. The chapter locates the synthesis both in broader social science debates about social construction and in disciplinary histories of International Relations that see both critical theory and constructivism on the same side of the so-called third debate. The chapter sees the synthesis being expressed implicitly, as a default category for work that does not fit into the realist/liberal synthesis or is outside the neopositivist mainstream. The chapter also sees the synthesis in explicit claims—of nonfoundationalism, of the rejection of metanarratives, or of the embrace of progressive politics. Finally, the chapter sees traces of a synthesis even when critical theory and constructivism are presented as paradigmatically distinct.

Keywords:   International Relations theory, constructivism, critical theory, synthesis, science wars, disciplinary history, nonfoundationalism, paradigms

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