Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World

Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World

Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World

Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World

Synopsis

Think theory is thoroughly removed from explaining international crises such as Bosnia, Rwanda, and Korea? Think again! James Rosenau and Mary Durfee have teamed up to show how the same events take on different coloration depending on the theory used to explain them. In order to better understand world politics, the authors maintain, theory does make a difference. Thinking Theory Thoroughly is a primer for all kinds of readers who want to begin theorizing about international relations (IR). In this second edition, realism (the dominant theoretical perspective in IR), postinternationalism (Rosenau's famed turbulence paradigm), and liberalism are treated together in a chapter that compares them along various analytic dimensions, which makes the book even more useful. In this new edition, the order and content of case chapters have been changed to better reflect the ways theory can be used to organize empirical material. The chapter on crises, which is now at the beginning, shows how systemic theories might cope with problems and evidence of a more local and temporally constrained nature. A chapter on the U. N. illustrates how systemic theories can cope with institutions, and the last chapter, on Antarctica, delineates how systemic theories can be used to generate hypotheses that then demand different kinds of evidence.

Excerpt

Since our concern here is to elaborate on the uses and virtues of abstract theorizing that can be applied at any time, it might be wondered why we have revised the original version. The answer is twofold. First, a limitation of the first edition was that it presented only two theories. At the time a comparison of two major theories seemed sufficient to demonstrate our central reason for writing the book, namely, that how one understands world affairs is crucially dependent on the theoretical lenses through which one interprets the course of events. But several colleagues expressed regret that we had limited our theoretical scope, and so the addition of a third theory, liberalism, seemed worthy of a revised edition. Second, persuaded that in a fast-moving, dynamic world seemingly significant developments quickly become obsolete, we believe it made sense to replace the crisis cases that were included in the original edition to illustrate how situations are subject to varying interpretations if assessed from different theoretical perspectives. Accordingly, Chapter 6 is now composed of new cases based on crises that marked the late 1990s.

Yet, four of the chapters in the first edition are presented here essentially unchanged, thus preserving our initial intent to stress the desirability of thinking theoretically. At the same time, we remain as proud of the origins of the first edition as we were at the time we wrote it. Indeed, the origins are a story worth telling. The idea of writing the book was inspired by undergraduates who were taking an introductory international relations (IR) course taught by Mary Durfee at the University of Dayton in fall 1991. Their insights in coping with the challenges of abstract theorizing about world politics motivated us to refine our thinking about IR theory.

The story began when Durfee offered the students an option of no term paper in exchange for separate weekly meetings and short papers devoted to a systematic, chapter-by-chapter reading of Rosenau's Turbulence in World Politics: A Theory of Change and Continuity.

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