A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 18
International Relations: Post-Positivist and Feminist Perspectives

J. Ann Tickner

In the Handbook of Political Science, published in 1975, Richard Smoke claimed that "the existing theory . . . of the field [is] probably not capable of coping with a world which is changing so rapidly and so dangerously, both in its military technology and in the patterns of its international politics" ( Greenstein and Polsby 1975: 339). In spite of these prescient warnings, it is doubtful whether any of the authors in the "International Politics" volume of the Handbook could have predicted the extent of the changes that have taken place since its publication both in the international system and in the discipline of international relations.1 As we grope toward a better understanding of this confusing and changing world, the optimism about the possibility of theoretical progress, which many of these authors expressed, has largely dissipated. After a brief outline of the contents of the Handbook, I will elaborate on the erosion of this theoretical consensus. Having reviewed some post-positivist critiques of mainstream theory, I will suggest some ways of facilitating conversations across epistemological and theoretical divides. In conclusion, I will examine how some recent feminist perspectives are making contributions to this reconstructive project. The intention of this paper is to highlight critical and feminist approaches rather than provide a comprehensive overview of the field.

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1
The naming of the volume, "International Politics" rather than "International Relations" is instructive and evidences the belief in the possibility of constructing political theories to explain international relations.

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