Critical Theory and World Politics

Critical Theory and World Politics

Critical Theory and World Politics

Critical Theory and World Politics


This text brings together leading critical theorists of world politics to discuss both the promise and the pitfalls of their work. The contributors range broadly across the terrain of world politics, engaging with both theory and emancipatory practice. Critiques by two scholars from other IR traditions are also included. The result is a seminal statement of the critical theory approach to understanding world politics.


Critical Theory and World Politics is a book about the dialectical engagement of critical theory and the study of world politics. It also represents a moment—one hopes a significant one—in that engagement.

A critical theory–inspired strand of thinking has been apparent within international relations since the early 1980s. It has formed a key part of a wider tendency—now known under the rubric of postpositivism—that has sought to challenge the metatheoretical assumptions of traditional international relations thinking and attempted to articulate and operationalize other principles and precepts in their place. But despite its many links, both intellectual and disciplinary, to other postpositivist strands of international relations thought such as poststructuralism and constructivism, critical international relations theory is seen by both proponents and opponents as representing a distinct and distinctive set of views and concerns.

Simultaneously, and strikingly mirroring developments within international relations, critical theorists working within their more traditional domains of social theory and sociology have become increasingly aware of and engaged with the sphere of the international. This direction, in turn, has led to a significant break with the state-bound, and almost invariably Eurocentric, patterns of thought associated with traditional critical theory— a break whose radical implications are still being worked through.

This book represents the first attempt to bring together key figures in these parallel moves to discuss the implications of their work both for the study of world politics and for critical theory. That this is the first such attempt despite almost twenty years of intellectual activity is a somewhat curious anomaly. Nevertheless, it remains the case that proponents of critical theory seem to be better at engaging with those who hold to very different intellectual viewpoints than with those with whom they share, ostensibly at least, common ground. This noninteraction, in turn, may well reflect the intractability of both inter- and intradisciplinary boundaries, even . . .

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