All Academic, Inc. Research Logo

Info/CitationFAQResearchAll Academic Inc.
Document

Debates about the Possible as a Central Concern in International Relations Theory
Unformatted Document Text:  20 alternatives which are feasible transformations of the existing world. A principal objective of critical theory, therefore, is to clarify this range of possible alternatives. 28 Cox does not try to predict the future course of events, which he deems to be impossible, but instead stresses investigation of whether there are conditions and agents that could promote social change: Critical awareness of the potentiality for change must be distinguished from utopian planning, i.e., the laying out of the design of a future society that is to be the end goal of change. Critical understanding focuses on the process of change rather than on its ends; it concentrates on the possibilities of launching a social movement rather than on what that movement might achieve. 29 The words possible, impossible, and possibility appear repeatedly in works of grand theory in IR, and they are frequently associated with pronouncements on whether or not the future might be different (and better) than the past. If something is debated so often, at some length, in such explicit terms, it must be important to the theorists who write these passages. Debates about the possible are thus a central concern in IR theory. They should be taken seriously in their own right, and appreciated and evaluated as propositions about possibility, and not be treated as a sideshow or reduced to a mere derivative of other aspects of theory. One Reason Why This Matters: When Theorists Confuse Explanation and Envisionation Possibilistic assessments are one of the fault lines that distinguish realist and non-realist paradigms. This has the potential to clarify some issues in inter-paradigm debates. Conversely, failure to see that possibilistic arguments are partially distinct from probabilistic causal claims can lead to confusion. In reading IR theory debates, one often gets the sense the two sides are talking past each other. This can sometimes be due to paradigm incommensurability, in which the two sides find it hard even to talk the same language. But sometimes the reason is less 28 Ibid., p. 210. 29 Robert W. Cox, Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of World History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 393, cited in Mearsheimer, “False Promise of International Institutions,” p. 38.

Authors: Knopf, Jeffrey.
first   previous   Page 22 of 43   next   last



background image
20
alternatives which are feasible transformations of the existing world. A principal
objective of critical theory, therefore, is to clarify this range of possible
alternatives.
28
Cox does not try to predict the future course of events, which he deems to be impossible, but
instead stresses investigation of whether there are conditions and agents that could promote
social change:
Critical awareness of the potentiality for change must be distinguished from
utopian planning, i.e., the laying out of the design of a future society that is to be
the end goal of change. Critical understanding focuses on the process of change
rather than on its ends; it concentrates on the possibilities of launching a social
movement rather than on what that movement might achieve.
29
The words possible, impossible, and possibility appear repeatedly in works of grand theory in IR,
and they are frequently associated with pronouncements on whether or not the future might be
different (and better) than the past. If something is debated so often, at some length, in such
explicit terms, it must be important to the theorists who write these passages. Debates about the
possible are thus a central concern in IR theory. They should be taken seriously in their own
right, and appreciated and evaluated as propositions about possibility, and not be treated as a
sideshow or reduced to a mere derivative of other aspects of theory.
One Reason Why This Matters: When Theorists Confuse Explanation and Envisionation
Possibilistic assessments are one of the fault lines that distinguish realist and non-realist
paradigms. This has the potential to clarify some issues in inter-paradigm debates. Conversely,
failure to see that possibilistic arguments are partially distinct from probabilistic causal claims
can lead to confusion. In reading IR theory debates, one often gets the sense the two sides are
talking past each other. This can sometimes be due to paradigm incommensurability, in which
the two sides find it hard even to talk the same language. But sometimes the reason is less
28
Ibid., p. 210.
29
Robert W. Cox, Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of World History (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 393, cited in Mearsheimer, “False Promise of International Institutions,” p. 38.


Convention
Need a solution for abstract management? All Academic can help! Contact us today to find out how our system can help your annual meeting.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.
Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!
Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!
Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

first   previous   Page 22 of 43   next   last

©2012 All Academic, Inc.