Towards a Social-Relational Dialectic for World Politics
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Dialectics remains an underutilized methodology in contemporary IR theory, which represents a significant limitation to the study of world politics, particularly in under-standing processes of transformation and change - an oversight that this article intends to redress. This article has two primary goals. First, it aims to reconstruct and build upon the small but robust debate concerning the validity of dialectics in IR that has been championed previously by Alker and Biersteker, and Heine and Teschke, respectively. Second, it contrasts dialectical and deterministic approaches to IR, as exemplified in Coxian Critical Theory and neo-realism, as a means to showcase the merits of the former as an approach to the study of social change in world politics. The ultimate aim of the article is to offer the groundwork of a social-relational dialectical approach to world politics that is focused on the intersubjective engagements between human beings, which can be developed in future research. Through such an analytic, the dialectical processes in social life are shown to be open-ended and the article rejects any understanding of 'inevitable' progress/regress or teleological end point. On the one hand, this account of dialectics promises greater analytical potential for understanding processes of change in world politics but, on the other, indicates the potential for the irrational toleration of contradiction and antagonism as an accepted feature of social life. Ultimately, the article argues that the skilled dialectician should emphasize human agency and intersubjectivity within a social-relational dialectical approach to world politics.
European Journal of International Relations
© 2011 SAGE Publications. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.