Theories in Contention
Chapter 1 aimed to provide a summary account of the challenges facing International Relations and of the difficulties it faces. In the face of these challenges the discipline of International Relations has, in recent years, been riven by a series of methodological debates the declared aim of which has been to resolve its underlying uncertainties and establish a more rigorous relationship with the real world beyond. Yet what resulted was, in too many cases, not a clarification of method nor a more measured interaction with history, but -- in the case of established approaches -- a restatement of verities or -- in the case of new theories -- a flight into confusion, a meandering compounded by academic introversion, and a denial of both the significance and the challenges of history. On one side, invocation of history as a cult of facts served to deny historicity, i.e. political and intellectual change or context; on the other 'Meta-theory', solemnly announced, i.e. debates on how to write theory, became detached from substantive analysis.
The point is not to argue against academic specialisation or theoretical development: both are, as already made clear, essential. But there is good specialisation and futile self-isolation; there is theoretical work that is rigorous, as clear as possible, and which has explanatory potential, and there is theory that is none of these, 'theoreticist' in the sense of theory for the sake of it, often covering old philosophic ground while pretending to say something new, pretentious where substance is lacking, and confused, even lazy, where alternative formulation is possible.
Two methodological guidelines above all are important in this respect. One is that while writing in IR needs to be methodologically aware and explicit, IR itself is not methodologically specific in the sense of raising issues of theory or method distinct from other