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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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A Case against the Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis

A Case against the Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis

(p.122) 7 A Case against the Constructivist–Critical Theory Synthesis
International Relations' Last Synthesis?

J. Samuel Barkin

Laura Sjoberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter builds on the understandings of constructivist and critical International Relations theories laid out in the book so far to make an argument that constructivisms and critical theories are not the same thing, naturally aligned, or necessarily productive bedfellows. Furthermore, there are both analytical and political downsides to the constructivist/critical theory nexus, which are evident in work in international relations that pairs the two unreflectively. In fact, many of the intersections between constructivisms and critical theories in the current International Relations theory literature are contrived at the expense of some or even most of the core tenets of either theory. This chapter suggests that the “end of International Relations” and the lost, confused nature of International Relations theory (particularly progressive International Relations theory) can find their origins in the underspecification and overreached application of pairings between constructivisms and critical theorizing in International Relations. These implications make it necessary to critically evaluate figurations of constructivist and critical International Relations.

Keywords:   International Relations theory, constructivism, critical theory, synthesis, science wars, disciplinary history, non-foundationalism, paradigms

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