Critical Theory and World Politics

By Richard Wyn Jones | Go to book overview

12
“OUR SIDE”? CRITICAL THEORY
AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Chris Brown

Critical Theory—see, Frankfurt School

—Oxford Companion to Philosophy (Honderich 1995)

Contemporary critical theory in English-language international relations may best be understood as today's manifestation of a long-standing democratic impulse in the academic study of international affairs.

—Craig N. Murphy in this volume

You ought to read Marx, he is the only completely scientific economist on our side.

—William Morris to a friend and comrade
(cited in Thompson 1977: 761)

As the other chapters in this volume make very clear, there is no general agreement as to the contribution that critical theory can make to the study of international relations (IR). None of the authors represented here can quite match the precision of the editor of the Oxford Companion—whose determination to restrict critical theory to a narrow meaning no doubt reflects accurately the predilections of a particular kind of analytical philosophy—but Andrew Linklater and Kenneth Baynes are certainly writing “in the shadow” of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt; and N. J. Rengger and Kimberly Hutchings are clearly influenced by the scholarly tradition that produced the Frankfurt School. In contrast, although even Craig Murphy himself would not wish to argue that all contemporary manifestations of the democratic impulse could be described as critical, his chapter, along with those of Robert Cox, Jeffrey Harrod, and Sandra Whitworth, is eclectic in its sources and influences. Mark Neufeld reviews three writers—Alexander Wendt, Justin Rosenberg, and Cynthia Weber— none of whom could be described as critical theorists in any narrow sense

-191-

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