P. 1
Aplicacao Heuristica Das Teorias Explanatorias Em RI

Aplicacao Heuristica Das Teorias Explanatorias Em RI

|Views: 1|Likes:
Published by lcsramos

More info:

Published by: lcsramos on Jun 12, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





European Journal of International Relations http://ejt.sagepub.


The heuristic application of explanatory theories in International Relations
Adam R. C Humphreys European Journal of International Relations published online 22 February 2010 DOI: 10.1177/1354066109344008 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ejt.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/02/22/1354066109344008

Published by:

On behalf of:

Standing Group on International Relations of the ECPR

Additional services and information for European Journal of International Relations can be found at: Email Alerts: http://ejt.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://ejt.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

Downloaded from ejt.sagepub.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24, 2011

European Journal of International Relations OnlineFirst, published on February 22, 2010 as doi:10.1177/1354066109344008


The heuristic application of explanatory theories in International Relations
Adam R.C. Humphreys

European Journal of International Relations XX(X) 1–21 © The Author(s) 2010 Reprints and permissions: sagepub. co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1354066109344008 ejt.sagepub.com

University of Oxford and Nuffield College, UK

Abstract Explanatory theorists increasingly insist that their theories are useful even though they cannot be deductively applied. But if so, then how do such theories contribute to our understanding of international relations? I argue that explanatory theories are typically heuristically applied: theorists’ accounts of specific empirical episodes are shaped by their theories’ thematic content, but are not inferred from putative causal generalizations or covering laws. These accounts therefore gain no weight from their purely rhetorical association with theories’ quasi-deductive arguments: they must be judged on the plausibility of their empirical claims. Moreover, the quasi-deductive form in which explanatory theories are typically presented obscures their actual explanatory role, which is to indicate what sort of explanation may be required, to provide conceptual categories, and to suggest an empirical focus. This account of how theoretical explanations are constructed subverts the nomothetic–idiographic distinction that is often used to distinguish International Relations from History. Keywords explanation, explanatory theory, heuristic, International Relations theory, methodology

Theoretical debates in International Relations are typically concerned with the scope and content of general theoretical claims and with recurring questions of ontology, epistemology and method. There is comparatively little concern with how theories are applied. Yet if theoretical ideas influence how we think about international relations, then it is crucial to ask how they are translated into substantive claims about specific empirical episodes.1 We cannot properly evaluate theories or the explanations associated with them without a clear understanding of how those theories are applied and, therefore, of how they contribute to our understanding of international relations.
Corresponding author: Adam R.C. Humphreys, Department of Politics and IR, University of Oxford and Nuffield College, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UQ, UK. E-mail: adam.humphreys@politics.ox.ac.uk

Downloaded from ejt.sagepub.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24, 2011

Addressing such deficiencies offers a more promising way of improving such theories than seeking to elaborate quasi-deductive arguments that are not directly drawn upon. Rather than identifying covering laws. they do not offer any alternative account of how those theories are drawn upon. 2011 . Second. It begins with a puzzle: although many explanatory theorists accept that their theories are not deductively applied. What must be assessed is the plausibility of the substantive empirical accounts. First. or heuristic. not abstract qualities of the theories. others use the term ‘for anything that organises a field systematically. Third. it may seem self-evident that such theories are heuristically applied. I show that the first view is descriptively false: theories do not contribute to the development of substantive explanatory claims by providing testable causal generalizations. showing how recognizing that neorealism is heuristically applied influences our understanding of Waltz’s claims. application of such theories. good judgement is central to the construction and evaluation of substantive explanatory claims. I seek to fill this gap by arguing that explanatory theories in International Relations are typically heuristically applied: theorists’ accounts of specific empirical episodes are shaped by their theories’ thematic content but are not inferred from putative causal generalizations. For some. or could be. For others.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. the heuristic functions that theories perform may be rather limited: theories like neorealism offer little critical reflection upon the different sorts of questions that might be asked about particular episodes.sagepub. provide conceptual categories and suggest an empirical focus. the alternative conceptual categories that might be employed or the range of explanatory factors that might be examined. Hence this article aims both to reveal explanatory theorists’ actual practices and to show how thinking of theories as heuristic resources might influence our attempts to assess and improve theories and the explanations that draw on them. There has been little attempt to unpack what is involved in the non-deductive. the idea that theories are. My argument carries three main implications.2 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) This article examines how explanatory theories are applied. theories indicate what sort of explanation is required. deductively applied is part of what identifies them as explanatory theories. I argue that despite explanatory theorists’ focus on developing abstract arguments. This suggests that explanatory claims should not be privileged just because they are theoretically derived. I also argue that the implications of the second view have not been well worked out. I illustrate this by re-examining Waltz’s well-known explanation of the lack of direct military conflict between the superpowers during the Cold War. my account of how theories are applied undermines the nomothetic–idiographic distinction that is often used to distinguish social scientific and historical approaches to international relations. structures questions and establishes a coherent and rigorous set of interrelated concepts and categories’. Downloaded from ejt. This creates space for a deeper appreciation of the kinds of judgements that we rely upon in developing and assessing theoretical explanations. substantive explanatory claims that draw on theories heuristically gain no additional weight from what is a purely rhetorical association with the theories’ quasi-deductive arguments. Thus Buzan (2004: 24) notes that while some demand that a theory ‘contains — or is able to generate — testable hypotheses of a causal nature’.

e. Wendt. and. Posen (1984: 8) seeks to compare organization theory and neorealist balance of power theory ‘by deducing specific propositions’ about French. In other words. by positivist premises: explanatory theorists are committed to the view that ‘the social world is amenable to the same kinds of analysis as … the natural world’. This model is also implicit in the form in which most explanatory theories are presented. In fact. British and German military doctrine during the interwar period. while Moravcsik (1997: 514) argues that ‘any nontautological social scientific theory must be grounded in a set of positive assumptions from which arguments. 1986. If applied in accordance with the covering law model. 2011 . Some theorists have attempted to apply explanatory theories deductively. by showing that it occurred in accordance with those laws. 1984: 34–5). first. Downloaded from ejt. and mainstream constructivists seek to show how states’ interests and identities are socially constructed (see Finnemore. they might be expected. though he insists that they do indicate the ‘general origins’ of his hypotheses (Posen.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. i. neoliberalism and much of mainstream constructivism. For example. In such circumstances. neoliberals seek to show how institutions facilitate cooperation under anarchy (see Oye. The centrepiece of such theories is typically a sequence of quasi-deductive arguments culminating in a putative causal generalization: the theory’s findings are claimed to follow from a specified set of assumptions that approximate real-world conditions.2 Some explanatory theorists appear to endorse this model of theory application. Thus neorealists seek to show how balancing behaviour is driven by the anarchic structure of the international system (see Waltz. 383). under appropriate conditions. above all.sagepub. His problem is that neorealism does not specify balancing behaviour in sufficient detail that it is possible to deduce what sorts of military doctrines are required. and predictions can be derived’. second. 1979). to ‘uncovering patterns and regularities’ and to ‘empiricism as the arbiter of what counts as knowledge’ (Smith. Stein. Thus explanatory theorists might be expected to apply their theories in accordance with the covering law model of explanation. he has to pull the theory ‘in the direction of “political realism” or “Realpolitik”’ with which ‘it is closely identified. 1992). to deduce explanatory claims from those generalizations. explanatory theory includes neorealism. However. he is unable to make these deductions: in order to construct neorealist hypotheses about military doctrine. in which an episode ‘is explained by subsuming it under general laws. Waltz (1979: 17) argues that the theorist must ‘contrive explanations from which hypotheses can then be inferred and tested’. he accepts that his ‘use of the terms “organization theory” and “balance of power theory” may be somewhat misleading’. to a ‘separation between facts and values’. to develop theories in which causal generalizations are inferred from properly specified assumptions. the outcome could be deduced from the theory’s putative covering laws. It is characterized. Thus he describes the two ‘families of hypotheses’ that he tests not as propositions deduced from theoretical assumptions but as ‘representing two distinct perspectives on state behaviour’. these theories would be used to show that an outcome was to be expected because the specified antecedent conditions were fulfilled. For example. explanations. 2000: 380.Humphreys 3 Theories and perspectives According to Smith (2000). 1996. to test those claims against (what are said to be) the facts. third. 1965: 246). but not synonymous’. in virtue of the realization of certain specified antecedent conditions’ (Hempel. 1990).

‘when challenged most theorists readily admit that fact’. then how are they applied? This puzzle is expressed in.5 Kratochwil (1993: 66) argues that although ‘most political scientists pay lip service to … nomothetic/deductive explanation schemes. the rhetoric of deduction does not match the reality of how the theory is applied. ‘approach’ and ‘school of thought’ over the term ‘theory’. no deductions are derived. According to Ruggie (1998b: 861. by critics. 1999: 17). rather than from the deductive application of neorealist theory (Mearsheimer. it cannot be directly applied to questions of national security: it is therefore employed only as an ‘orienting framework’. However. 52. but these conclusions are derived from his reading of the Cold War. This suggests that explanatory theorists believe that their theories are useful even though they cannot be deductively applied. The implication is that the utility of explanatory theories does not reside solely in their ability to generate deductive explanations. 2011 . However. 18. 1995: 40).com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. The idea that explanatory theories are not in fact deductively applied is quite commonplace. no general social science laws have been discovered’. the emerging preference for terms such as ‘perspective’. Mearsheimer (1990) is said to have applied neorealism deductively in predicting the demise of NATO and the EC after the end of the Cold War: this is cited. He does surmise that NATO ‘may disintegrate’ and he is sceptical that ‘a more powerful EC’ will ensure peace. Katzenstein (1996: 26) argues that although ‘neorealism holds forth the promise of a tight. 48). but argues that their reasoning cannot be assimilated to ‘models of deductive proof or inductive generalization’. A similar view is implicit in Walt’s observation that the social sciences ‘are replete with inconsistent or incomplete but nonetheless highly useful theories’ (Walt. this idea has never been unpacked. Adler (1997: 328–9) observes that constructivists seek ‘to explain the social construction of reality’. see also Smith. Mearsheimer insists that theorists ‘should offer predictions’ and presents what he terms a ‘deductive case’ that ‘bipolarity is more stable than multipolarity’. For example. 1997: 515) argue that liberalism’s ‘propositions cannot be … deduced from its assumptions’.sagepub.4 The adequacy of the covering law model as a depiction of theorists’ explanatory practices has also been questioned. Zacher and Matthew (cited in Moravcsik. deductive theory’. institutionalism and organizational culture as ‘broad perspectives’ (he also employs the terms ‘school’ Downloaded from ejt. Stein (1990: 4) terms realism a ‘perspective’ in order to emphasize that it is ‘a large body of work that includes quite different and disparate strands’. that the demise of NATO and the EC may be deduced from neorealist premises.3 In such cases. He is also pessimistic about the prospects of continued institutional cooperation in Europe after the end of the Cold War.4 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) Under-specification is not the only problem. when they are applied. or even attempt to show. 2000: 383). Jervis (1999: 43) suggests that neorealism and neoliberalism ‘are better labelled schools of thought or approaches than theories’: neither ‘has the sort of integrity’ that would enable them to be falsified. 1990: 9. Some scholars employ such terms in order to highlight the variety of claims that may be categorized under a single theoretical heading. For example. but not resolved by. Legro (1995: 8) describes realism. ‘[v]irtually no theoretical account’ in International Relations fulfils the criteria of the covering law model and. as evidence of neorealism’s failings (see Keohane and Martin. It therefore creates a puzzle: if explanatory theories are not applied in accordance with the covering law model. moreover. Explanatory theories are often represented as deductive in form even though. nowhere does he explicitly show.

Because under-specification is a common feature of explanatory theories in International Relations. second. However. ‘orientations’. However. in the required sense. nevertheless. may be promising as a ‘framework for analysis’ but ‘does not constitute a theory with testable hypotheses’. none of these terms is clearly defined: they therefore provide no insight into how perspectives are drawn upon in substantive explanations. Nau (2007: 4) uses the term ‘perspective’ because he is interested in ‘what theories emphasize. that those theories are claimed to be nonetheless useful. Katzenstein employs a variety of terms for approaches that are not. including ‘perspectives’. To the extent that distinctions between theories and perspectives provide this impression. they obscure the deeper problem. Keohane (1989: 2) hints that perspectives provide ‘a set of distinctive questions and assumptions about the basic units and forces in world politics’. This claim involves an implicit distinction between theories and perspectives. The manner in which these theories actually contribute to our understanding of international relations therefore remains unelaborated. but insists that ‘no such theory exists in the field of national security studies’. rather than a ‘logically connected deductive theory’. This is. claimed to be useful. including neorealism. describe realism. not with all the variations of each theory’. some scholars distinguish between theories and perspectives. but avoids the term ‘theory’ because of ‘the plurality of views within each’.Humphreys 5 and ‘approach’). Milner (1997: 4) acknowledges that the notion of two-level games. first. third. ‘paradigms’. that existing explanatory theories are not deductively applied. or dependent variables’. A theory (or perspective) will encompass a variety of competing claims only if its terms are not uniquely defined. Some explanatory theorists use terms such as ‘perspective’ in recognition that their theories cannot be deductively applied. and. on which she draws. The issue here is not just that some theories are well specified while others are not. the theory cannot possibly be deductively applied: if it is. we need to establish how this is so.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. 2011 . For example.sagepub. where the former can and the latter cannot be deductively applied. while Nau (2007: xxiv) Downloaded from ejt. ‘approaches’ and ‘frameworks’. For example. Keohane (1989: 2) accepts that liberal institutionalism is ‘a school of thought that provides a perspective on world politics’. The former ‘provide heuristics — they suggest relevant variables and causal patterns that provide guidelines for developing specific research programs’. (1998: 646–7) differentiate two ‘meanings’ of theory in International Relations: ‘general theoretical orientations and specific research programs’. theories. a highly significant claim remains implicit and thus unelaborated: that their approaches offer explanatory value even though they cannot be deductively applied. Katzenstein et al. His point is that his approach is no less valuable because it has not been developed into a determinate theory: other approaches. In such cases. The latter ‘link explanatory variables to a set of outcomes. Katzenstein et al. the issue is not just whether theorists wish to avoid getting bogged down in the detail of competing claims. In both cases. Katzenstein (1996: 4–5) acknowledges that his ‘theoretical perspective of sociological institutionalism’ does not constitute ‘a theory of national security’. are equally incapable of being deductively applied. liberalism and constructivism as ‘general theoretical orientations’ but do not specify the ‘connection between generic orientations and specific research programs’. that we lack any alternative account of how they contribute to our understanding of international relations. if its assumptions are not clearly identified or if putative causal generalizations are disputed.

noting that research programmes with ‘no unifying idea. explicitly contrasting formal (deductive) and non-formal (heuristic) reasoning: he argues that ‘[h]euristic reasoning is not regarded as final and strict but as provisional and plausible only. However. However. the question of how such theories are applied is not reducible to whether they are well specified. by definition. but are not inferred from any putative causal generalizations or covering laws. He insisted that it ‘should not be confused with scientific theory’: its value was ‘heuristic’. implying that explanatory power does not reside solely in a theory’s deductive implications. This suggests that employing ideas heuristically is not just a prelude to applying them formally but is itself a profitable means of investigating problems: it should be understood as a significant alternative to the search for deductive solutions. even indispensable cognitive processes for solving problems that cannot be handled by logic and probability theory’. on the whole. Almond (1970: 4) termed his work ‘heuristic theory’: its function was ‘to facilitate research. Abbott (2004) argues that methodological debates in the social sciences should not be construed as demanding determinate choices (between. Keohane (1989: 173) argues that rationalist approaches to international relations may be heuristically powerful even though they omit ‘important explanatory factors’.sagepub. Thus although heuristic theory application is. The idea that explanatory theories in International Relations are better termed ‘perspectives’ also implies a distinction between deductive reasoning and heuristic power. or realism and constructionism) but as opening up a body of heuristic resources. In this sense. He focuses on heuristic power because empirical tests cannot be decisive. Heuristic theory application The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993: 1228) defines ‘heuristic’ as ‘[s]erving to find out or discover something’: a heuristic is a ‘method for attempting the solution of problems’ or ‘a rule or item of information used in such a process’. positivism and interpretivism. Such distinctions are used by scholars from a variety of traditions. 176. there has been no attempt to ask what is involved in the heuristic application of explanatory theories or to consider what it implies for how the resulting explanatory claims should be evaluated. their accounts of specific empirical episodes are shaped by those theories’ thematic content. Kratochwil (1994: 250) distinguishes development of ‘a heuristically fruitful research agenda’ from pursuit of a ‘mistaken ideal of parsimony’. Heuristic ‘is not to be contrasted with “explanatory”: it describes one of the ways in which explanation works’ (Kaplan. However. non-deductive. Gigerenzer and Todd (1999: 25) argue that ‘heuristic’ refers to ‘useful.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Theories typically shape substantive explanatory claims without determining either their content or form. no heuristic power … are. whose purpose is to discover the solution of the present problem’. describing the application of an idea as ‘heuristic’ implies only that the idea helps us to understand that to which it is applied. When explanatory theorists apply their theories heuristically. This captures how explanatory theories in International Relations are typically applied: it is not just an occasional short cut. Downloaded from ejt. 2011 . to lay out variables and hypotheses about their relations. say. this does not make it second best. worthless’. Pólya (1990: 113) goes further. Lakatos (1970: 155.6 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) suggests that they serve as ‘disciplinary lenses’. 1964: 357–8). to suggest why a particular approach or method might be useful’. emphasis in original) argues that a research programme should be rejected only when it is superseded by a rival with greater ‘heuristic power’.

This account of how theoretical explanations are generated is consistent with Hoffmann’s plea for theory to be understood ‘as a set of interrelated questions capable of guiding research’: he argues that theory should ‘concentrate … research on the most important problems’. One key difference is that when this thematic material is conceived of as a heuristic resource. This exposes the limits of debates about whether explanatory theorists are really positivists (see Smith.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. it provides the conceptual categories that are used to navigate through and to organize empirical material. for example by suggesting a particular level of analysis or a causal rather than an interpretive approach. lie at the heart of the differences not only between competing interpretations of empirical episodes but also between rival theoretical approaches. These issues. Because we cannot simply investigate everything. First. it performs three main functions. chance factors and background conditions are worth examining (see Suganami. not a substitute for empirical research. Drawing Downloaded from ejt. actors and conditions involves implicit claims about what is (and is not) problematic. 2008). it also tells us what we are not looking for and where not to look for it. rather than as a determinate source of explanations.Humphreys 7 When a theory is employed as a heuristic resource. about what we already know. 1960: v. It also reveals that a theory’s heuristic resources cannot be determinately stated: we cannot say exactly what an individual researcher will draw from a theory in relation to a specific research question. but they are not sufficient. it indicates what sort of explanation is required. These functions strongly influence the kind of explanation that will be constructed.sagepub. to determine its form or content: its form will depend largely on the nature of the specific research question. This is apparent in applications of Keohane’s ‘functional theory of international regimes’. theory is more intimately involved in our understanding of the world than Hoffmann’s list implies. 2000). Thus the thematic material that is drawn upon when a theory is heuristically applied is related to but far from identical with the putative causal generalizations that would be drawn on as covering laws if the theory were deductively applied. 8). However. but also constitutive: unless we can say what we are examining. in and of themselves. Third. the role of theories in prioritizing certain mechanisms. The organizing role of conceptual categories is not only classificatory. we cannot relate anything to anything else. The single most important characteristic of the explanations generated when theories are heuristically applied is that the manner in which explanatory factors are combined is particular to individual episodes: it is not inferred from the theory being applied. Thus a theory tells us what we are looking for and where to look for it. A theory that is heuristically applied is therefore a tool that aids inquiry. including positivist and post-positivist approaches. while its content will depend largely on what is discovered when the question is investigated. actors. 2011 .6 This problem is particularly acute in relation to existing explanatory theories because they typically adopt a quasi-deductive form in which putative causal generalizations are presented as if they follow from a sequence of assumptions and arguments: the theories’ heuristic functions are thereby obscured. ‘help us order the data we have accumulated’ and ‘identify the main factors or variables in the field’ (Hoffmann. how it should be categorized and what can be treated as unproblematic. Second. Just as importantly. In indicating what kinds of explanation are required to answer particular research questions. it indicates what mechanisms. the theory’s implicit assumptions about what is and is not problematic are brought to the fore. theories embody claims about what we already know and about what we still need to learn.

7 However. the question of whether the theory is useful can only be answered in the particular: by assessing whether it in fact helps to generate a persuasive answer to a specific research question. but it is not ‘a testable theory’ (Keohane. One reason for the indeterminacy is that the theory ‘treats states as units. ideology. Moreover. 2005: x. xv). Keohane accepts that ‘[a]lthough regimes can facilitate cooperation among governments that seek to make agreements. xiii. whether it makes sense of the relevant empirical material. 213). 135.8 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) upon ‘[g]ame theory and discussions of collective action’. which he describes as ‘deductive theories based on assumptions of rationality’. This can only be the case when a theory is deductively applied. Yet Keohane believes that domestic political concerns were critical to postwar US decisions about whether and how to cooperate. 2005: 214. thereby justifying the claim that the outcome is explained by the putative covering law.sagepub. What is being evaluated when a theory is heuristically applied is the substance of particular empirical Downloaded from ejt. If it is heuristically applied. without taking into account variations in domestic politics or in the ideas prevailing within them’. This judgement turns on issues such as whether the account coheres with what we think we already know. He argues. 141. but that domestic politics ‘got in the way’. there can be no reason to privilege the theoretical explanation. The chief consequence of a theory being heuristically applied is that substantive explanatory claims gain no additional weight from what is a purely rhetorical association with the theory’s quasi-deductive arguments. bureaucratic battles and domestic oil interests. 65. Keohane develops a theory in which rational self-interested actors ‘value international regimes as a way of increasing their ability to make mutually beneficial agreements’ and hegemons ‘seek to institute international regimes on an intergovernmental basis as a way of helping to control the actions of other states’. 140. maintaining only that we can ‘improve our understanding’ of changes in regimes ‘by thinking about cooperation in ways suggested’ by the theory (Keohane.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. actors and outcomes seems plausible. Keohane applies the theory heuristically: he does not pretend that it is deductively adequate. whether we are disposed to trust the author and whether her characterization of situations. Thus he argues that the proposal for an Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement failed due to a combination of the structure of American government. This may require good judgement. 2011 . His theory ‘provides a framework for the analysis’ of these issues (it performs heuristic functions). This account of how explanatory factors combine to produce a specific outcome is particular to this case and cannot be inferred from Keohane’s theory. although his theory ignores domestic politics. In such cases. that the US government pursued an oil regime. they do not automatically produce it’. or to evaluate the claim that the episode fulfils the theory’s specified antecedent conditions. for example. Such evaluations rely on good judgement: on asking whether explanatory claims constitute persuasive accounts of relevant episodes. A theoretical explanation may be privileged vis-a-vis a competing account if there is reason to believe that a particular episode is an instance of a broader class that the theory is thought to be able to explain. when he turns to his empirical cases Keohane seeks to show how domestic and systemic factors interacted to produce specific outcomes. but what is being evaluated is the correspondence between aspects of a particular episode and the theory. This contrasts with how explanations are assessed when a theory is deductively applied: then it is necessary to compare the theory’s predictions to (what are said to be) the facts.

com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Of course. With more than two. He observes. a dynamic he associates with the build-up to World War II. Waltz on the Cold War: A heuristic application of neorealism Neorealism is often represented as generating covering law explanations (see Donnelly. 1998a: 7). Waltz also acknowledges the limits of explanatory approaches: he observes that ‘the first big difficulty lies in finding or stating theories with enough precision and plausibility to make testing worthwhile’ (Waltz. that the second strategy is only available in multipolar systems: ‘Where two powers contend. imbalances can be righted only by their internal efforts. 1979: 118. He distinguishes two balancing strategies: ‘internal efforts (moves to increase economic capability. one must discover some law-like regularities within it. Even should states refrain from free-riding. a dynamic Waltz associates with the outbreak of World War I. Waltz argues. ‘the timing and content of the actions required’ to balance against would-be aggressors ‘become more and more difficult to calculate’ as the number of great powers increases. however. and the conflict of present interests in order to add its weight to the side of the peaceful’. implying that neorealism may be useful even without being deductively applied. the pull of previous ties. 1997: 69.Humphreys 9 and historical claims. but also captures something of how our ‘minds deal with an uncertain world’ (Gigerenzer and Todd. shifts in alignment provide an additional means of adjustment. one must develop a way of explaining the observed regularities’. one must conceive of international politics as a bounded realm or domain. 1999: 5). to develop clever strategies) and external efforts (moves to strengthen and enlarge one’s own alliance or to weaken and shrink an opposing one)’. Further. it must enable states to change sides ‘in order to tilt the balance against the would-be aggressors’: at least one powerful state ‘must overcome the pressure of ideological preference. He adds that ‘when we have failed to predict. states may pass the buck. Waltz’s contention that bipolar systems are relatively stable (that is. If flexibility is to contribute to stability. 2000: 30–1. it might be claimed that even here our judgement feeds off putative covering laws. 14). However. 2011 . This reflects Waltz’s account of how to construct a theory of international politics: ‘first.sagepub. Mouritzen. theory still helps us to understand and explain some things about the behaviour of states’ (Waltz. peaceful) rests on their lack of flexibility: he overturned the conventional wisdom by arguing that the ‘inflexibility of a bipolar world … may promote a greater stability than flexible balances of power among a larger number of states’ (Waltz. amplifies unsettling Downloaded from ejt. and third. however. 1979: 116. flexibility of alignment may make allies appear unreliable: great powers that depend on their allies for survival may be dragged into conflicts to defend those allies. His point is that uncertainty. Waltz’s explanation of the absence of direct military confrontation between the superpowers during the Cold War draws on his account of how balancing differs in multipolar and bipolar systems. Waltz accepts that this may not reliably happen: in multipolar systems.8 My contention. 1986: 332). 1964: 899–900). is that good judgement does not rely on or refer to putative causal generalizations: the idea that theories are heuristically applied not only depicts the relationship between theories and substantive explanatory claims. Ruggie. adding flexibility to the system’ (Waltz. to increase military strength. 163). second. arising from flexibility of alignment.

This makes it easier to understand why he abstracts from non-structural factors in his theory but refers to them in substantive explanatory claims. 1986: 329. the theory provides organizing concepts: Waltz treats categories like superpower and polarity as unproblematic. 1990). 175). First. 1979: 164–70). Nevertheless. Prior to the two world wars. Second. he represents them as working against strategic rationality. but that the way in which structural and non-structural factors interact cannot be determinately stated: it will vary according to the specific problem being investigated. Bueno de Mesquita (2003: 172–3) argues that neorealist assumptions imply ‘nothing at all about … how uncertainty affects stability’: Waltz makes a ‘logical leap from the association of uncertainty with multipolarity to the association of multipolarity with instability and bipolarity with stability’. that states seeking to survive in anarchic systems engage in balancing behaviour. His account of the relationship between structural and non-structural factors in his discussion of the Cold War international system is specific Downloaded from ejt. uncertainty and miscalculation cause wars’.sagepub. as in his acknowledgement that an apparently stable system ‘can always be disrupted by the actions of a Hitler and the reactions of a Chamberlain’ (Waltz. conditions and actors.10 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) developments: ‘Rather than making states properly cautious and forwarding the chances of peace. 343). However. His implicit claim is that any good explanation will refer to the structure of the system. Moreover. is disproven by Waltz’s discussion of the dynamics of multipolar systems. in the absence of further arguments about the impact of flexibility. the argument is recognizably neorealist: the theory does perform important heuristic functions. the theory suggests a focus on alliance choices: Waltz emphasizes states’ strategic concerns.10 Only when neorealism is conceived of as a heuristic resource is it possible to reconcile Waltz’s insistence that it explains ‘a small number of big and important things’ with his acceptance that its explanations ‘are indeterminate because both unit-level and structural causes are in play’ (Waltz. If so. Waltz cannot be construed as applying a more specific covering law concerning when states do or do not balance.9 Because he fails to specify the circumstances under which states in multipolar systems pass the buck or get locked into chain gangs (see Christensen and Snyder. fails to problematize its central categories and ignores key mechanisms. Third. concepts and foci.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. but the development of a more critical understanding of the variety of possible explanatory forms. 2011 . This cannot plausibly be construed as a covering law account. Neorealism’s main candidate covering law. During the Cold War. then Waltz’s claim that bipolar systems are more stable than multipolar systems is not deductively derived. he argues. 1979: 79–80. ‘flexibility of alignment made for rigidity of strategy or the limitation of freedom of decision’. despite the fact that during the early Cold War the USSR was not a superpower and thus the international system was not bipolar (see Lebow. downplaying the importance of domestic structure. resolve the issue. rigidity of alignment made for ‘flexibility of strategy and the enlargement of freedom of decision’ (Waltz. it indicates that an explanation should be systemic in form: Waltz presents a structural argument even though this cannot. neorealism’s heuristic functions are limited: it offers no insight into alternative responses to the research question. When he considers factors such as ideology. Thus showing that neorealism is heuristically applied also indicates how it might be improved: what is required is not refinement of its quasi-deductive arguments. 1994).

This contrasts with the approach adopted by those who contend that later emendations of neorealism reveal it to be a degenerating research programme (see Legro and Moravcsik. the persuasiveness of Waltz’s account of the lack of superpower conflict during the Cold War rests firmly on which way these judgements fall. 1993). he argues that great powers were dragged into war in 1914: ‘Because the defeat or the defection of a major ally would have shaken the balance. the validity of the theory’s arguments cannot be cited as reason to accept those claims. and could accommodate French withdrawal from NATO’s integrated military structure (Waltz.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. 1979: 165–71). Because Waltz’s substantive explanatory claims do not draw upon neorealism deductively. These are all plausible historical claims: it is not unreasonable to suggest that the dynamics of alliance politics contributed to the outbreak of World War I. Instead. When a theory is heuristically applied. international institutions and systemic norms.11 First. Russia and Germany would balance each other off or fight each other to the finish’. Despite neorealism’s status as one of the leading explanatory approaches to international relations. 1970). we must reach a judgement about whether the claims themselves are persuasive. could afford to dissociate itself from its allies over the Suez crisis in 1956.sagepub. This can be established only by evaluating the resulting explanations. that Britain and France might successfully have opposed Hitler prior to 1939. It makes clear that his claims gain no weight from what is their purely rhetorical association with neorealism’s quasi-deductive arguments: they stand or fall solely as interpretations of the nature of the Cold War system. 1999. they focus on how the assumptions and quasi-deductive arguments of realist theories evolved over time.Humphreys 11 to that case and is not derived from or captured in neorealism’s quasi-deductive reasoning. they downplay the importance of domestic politics. each state was constrained to adjust its strategy and the use of its forces to the aims and fears of its partners’. he argues that great powers passed the buck in the 1930s: British and French leaders hoped ‘that if their countries remained aloof. Third. asking if emendations were designed to explain away anomalies or if they also generated new insights (see Lakatos. This is what we would expect if a theory is employed as a tool that aids inquiry rather than as a source of deductive explanations. Downloaded from ejt. he contends that such problems were not present during the Cold War: the US could withstand the loss of China in 1949. However. Second. Thus Waltz (1997: 916) observes that ‘an explanation is not a theory’: what goes into an explanation is not identical with what goes into a theory. and that US survival during the Cold War did not depend upon allied support. The conceptual and descriptive inadequacies of Waltz’s approach to this subject are widely known (see Wagner. they are also open to dispute: as we might expect from claims that draw on neorealism heuristically. 1997). Waltz’s contention that the bipolar structure of the Cold War system contributed to the absence of direct conflict between the superpowers rests on a sequence of historical claims. the idea that Waltz applies neorealism heuristically generates distinctive implications for how Waltz’s substantive explanatory claims should be evaluated. However. Accepting that it is impossible to test theories definitively against the facts. the key question is whether it is in fact useful in relation to specific research questions. They assume that explanatory theories can and should be deductively applied. 2011 . Vasquez.

However. In International Relations. his view is subject to numerous objections (see Trachtenberg. their explanations still draw on general laws (see also Levy. According to Levy. like historians. 1997: 25). for example. 1997: 22). Hempel’s contention is that although historians tend to examine individual events rather than classes of events. The first is a theory that provides a clear understanding of the sort of explanation required. What distinguishes historians from political scientists who apply explanatory theories heuristically is not the explanatory activity each engages in. historians ‘describe. 2006: 1–11). 1965: 235). 2011 . guided by the theory’s heuristic resources. an explanatory theory’s putative causal generalizations are not typically deductively applied. useful conceptual categories and an appropriate empirical focus. and interpret individual events … whereas political scientists generalize about the relationship between variables and construct lawlike statements about social behaviour’ (Levy. not in the theory’s quasi-deductive arguments. Second. but also in their construction.12 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) The role of judgement in History and International Relations The idea that explanatory theories in International Relations are typically heuristically applied subverts the idiographic–nomothetic distinction that is often thought to distinguish History from International Relations. of which two are particularly pertinent. explain. political scientists often draw on theories’ heuristic resources in order to interpret individual events. when a theory is heuristically applied. In contrast. an empirical episode is represented as an instance of a class of such episodes. an explanation is generated through empirical or historical inquiry.sagepub. Some insight into the kind of judgement required is provided by historians’ understanding of the role of judgement in History. Such claims focus on the form in which theories are presented. Debates about the nature of historical explanation tend to revolve around Hempel’s claim that it follows the covering law model: that historical explanations demonstrate why events were ‘to be expected in view of certain antecedent or simultaneous conditions’ (Hempel. There are two prerequisites for developing such an account. but the form in which they present their sense of how things work. Trachtenberg’s defence of historians’ reliance on judgement involves the contention that the covering law model is unsatisfactory even as an account of scientific explanation. but explanatory power resides in the causal generalization under which the episode is subsumed. Mink (1987: 82) argues that historical understanding is achieved through a type of judgement ‘which cannot be replaced by any analytic technique’. Downloaded from ejt. There is no attempt to show that conditions specified prior to the inquiry are fulfilled: the focus is on developing an account of the episode that provides a persuasive answer to the research question.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. rather than on how they are actually drawn upon in substantive explanations. 2006: 30).12 It is therefore ironic that the form in which explanatory theories are typically presented (as quasi-deductive arguments that generate covering laws) tends to obscure the explanatory functions that those theories actually perform. First. An explanation is generated by showing that the empirical conditions specified in the theory are fulfilled. but historians also require ‘a certain sense for how things work’ (Trachtenberg. The second is good judgement as to what constitutes a plausible account: judgement plays a key role not only in assessment of competing explanatory claims. Such theories may be drawn upon as heuristic resources. Explanatory power resides in the ensuing account of the specific episode. When a theory is deductively applied. Moreover.

or the ability to comprehend an array of facts ‘in a single act of understanding’. they suggest that theory has a role to play in generating historical understanding. but what matters in each case is whether the theory contributes to persuasive accounts of specific empirical episodes: this is a matter of judgement. but in the sense that both rely on good judgement: ‘Historians exercise judgement.sagepub. in History. 27. However. but so do scientists’. Rather. but that our ability to understand consists in our ability to arrive at good judgements. 32. he describes theory not as a sequence of quasi-deductive arguments but as ‘an engine of analysis’. 1987: 81–4 [emphasis on original]. Theory ‘does not Downloaded from ejt. 2006: 6. 22. a ‘historical interpretation is the analogue of a physical theory’. However. 44). Moreover. one might add. but he insists that success ‘depends at least as much on the ability to make synoptic judgements as on the correctness of the theory’. as in science. Theory does not provide ‘ready-made answers’.13 He argues that historical explanations do not consist of propositions that can be detached from specific episodes (as covering laws can): historians do not first collect facts and later synthesize them into historical interpretations.Humphreys 13 Trachtenberg argues that ‘the historian’s goal is to make sense of the past’ and that in order to do this she endeavours ‘to see how things fit together. if it consists of putative causal generalizations that are liable to be refuted if drawn upon deductively). He observes that. This synoptic judgement. 43). 2011 . Mink (1987) distinguishes even more strongly between deductive explanation and the kind of understanding generated in historical interpretations. the ‘facts never just “speak for themselves”’: theory choice is never fully determined by the facts.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Trachtenberg accepts that all historical interpretations draw ‘on a kind of theory’. but instead ‘serves to generate a series of specific questions you can only answer by doing empirical research’. ‘historical understanding consists of comprehending a complex event by “seeing things together” in a total and synoptic judgement’. He also warns that the role of synoptic judgement may be obscured by the historian’s need to ‘set forth in sequence a narrative which … he understands or tries to understand as a whole’ (Mink. Trachtenberg also observes that when theories of international politics are applied. but draws ‘on the “mature sensibility” of the trained scholar’ (Trachtenberg. see also Schroeder. the fact that the choice between competing interpretations ‘is made by a scientific community — the fact that the decision is rooted in the mature judgement exercised by the members of that community — is the closest we can come to guaranteeing the rationality of the process’. In this sense. he suggests. the process of judgement is not governed by logical rules. The notion of a theory’s heuristic usefulness is preferable to that of its spirit. even in science. but understanding also consists in the ability to ‘see things together’. it ‘is really the spirit of a theory that is being assessed’ (Trachtenberg. forms both the process of historical understanding and its outcome: the historian relies on judgement in reaching understanding. Mink accepts that theory may help us to see things together. These accounts of the role of judgement in historical explanation illuminate the heuristic role of explanatory theories in International Relations in two ways. Thus Trachtenberg argues that historical and scientific explanations are analogous not in the sense that both rely on covering laws. 17. Moreover. 2006: 30. to understand the logic underlying the course of events’. First. Theory ‘is not a substitute for empirical analysis’ (especially. Trachtenberg doubts whether the covering law model provides an adequate account of how explanation proceeds in science. 1997: 68–70).

Downloaded from ejt. summarizes it in abstract terms and seeks to illustrate it in relation to key stages in NATO’s evolution (see Risse-Kappen. The central role of judgement when explanatory theories are heuristically applied is revealed in Keohane and Nye’s introduction to a collection of studies on the impact of institutions in Europe immediately after the Cold War. The resulting accounts inevitably reflect their authors’ judgements about the roles played by international institutions. The contributors are therefore asked to ‘examine in detail processes of policy-making and bargaining. Keohane and Nye argue that ‘institutionalist arguments have value only insofar as they facilitate more sophisticated empirical investigations’. the interaction patterns in. The importance of good judgement may be obscured by the rhetorical structure of theorists’ arguments. but what is tested is the theory’s heuristic usefulness in relation to that episode. He starts by criticizing the realist ‘conventional wisdom’. 364. how one thing followed from another “as a matter of course”’ (Trachtenberg. 2006: 185). they treat institutionalist theory as a heuristic resource. Mink warns that the form in which historians present their interpretations may obscure the nature of their understanding. 1996: 365–71). judgements that cannot be reduced to the application of covering laws. Explaining why they adopted this approach. In other words. Keohane and Nye (1993: 7) acknowledge that institutionalist theory is not ‘sufficiently precisely formulated to permit rigorous testing of hypotheses’. This critique implies that good theories should be deductively applied: that realism is flawed because it fails to generate determinate explanations. rather than on the theory’s abstract qualities. as Trachtenberg observes. The test of such a theory is whether it helps to generate a plausible account of a particular episode. and the endurance of NATO … almost every single choice of states can be accommodated somehow by realist thinking’ (RisseKappen. In other words. arguing that realism is indeterminate ‘with regard to the origins of. This illuminates the disjunction between the covering law model of explanation and theorists’ actual explanatory practices. 2011 . our attempts to communicate why we understand a substantive episode in a particular way may obscure the manner in which theory contributed to that understanding.sagepub. but it can ‘bring questions into focus’ (Trachtenberg. Risse-Kappen (1996) seeks to explain NATO’s origins and endurance after the Cold War through a ‘social constructivist interpretation of republican liberalism’ which emphasizes ‘collective identities and norms of appropriate behaviour’ and links ‘domestic politics systematically to the foreign policy of states’. For example. which often imply that their theories are in fact deductively applied. Risse-Kappen’s next moves are also consistent with the idea that theories should be deductively applied: he outlines the core assumptions of liberal theories of international relations.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. 1996: 358–9. for. specifies his constructivist interpretation of republican liberalism. in trying to explain something we try to show ‘how one thing led to another. 2006: 33).14 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) provide answers’. not its abstract arguments. Second. to determine the roles that international institutions have played in affecting state strategies and the outcomes of interstate negotiations’. Any assessment of those accounts must also involve judgements of their individual plausibility: abstract analysis of institutionalist arguments will not suffice. placing the explanatory burden on the substance of the individual explanatory accounts that are generated when it is heuristically applied. emphasis in original).

Similarly. Yet none of the historical reasons he offers for why NATO was in fact chosen is prominent in his abstract presentation of his theory (see Risse-Kappen. The only way of assessing his substantive explanatory claims is therefore to reach a judgement about whether he tells a persuasive story about his subject matter: this will turn on substantive interpretive issues. First. His substantive arguments do revolve around this theme. such as whether a transatlantic security community already existed in 1949. the particular heuristic resources offered by each individual Downloaded from ejt.sagepub. This holds some resonance for today’s explanatory theorists. that when faced with complex problems advocates of scientific approaches ‘resort suddenly and without acknowledging that this is what they are doing to the methods of the classical approach’ (Bull. Second. 1996: 371–2). moreover. For example. the resulting accounts do not gain any weight from their purely rhetorical association with their theories’ quasi-deductive arguments. Risse-Kappen’s application of his constructivist approach to NATO shares important characteristics with Waltz’s application of neorealism to the Cold War and Keohane’s application of liberal institutionalism to the international oil regime. He argued. but they largely consist of specific historical claims. he argues that NATO institutionalized the transatlantic security community in response to the Soviet threat. 1996: 372–7). even while acknowledging that those theories (or perspectives) cannot in fact be deductively applied. Thus the theories’ quasideductive form obscures the manner in which they contribute to our understanding of international relations. instead satisfying himself with the interpretive judgement that the Soviet threat ‘did not create the community in the first place’ (Risse-Kappen. Risse-Kappen does not apply his approach deductively (see Dessler. His abstract presentation of his theory incorporates a general account of why democracies ‘form pluralistic security communities of shared values’. which draw on his theoretical approach heuristically. each of these theories is employed as a heuristic resource: accounts of specific episodes are shaped by the theories’ thematic content. he acknowledges that NATO was only one of several possible US choices. Conclusion Bull (1969) described the ‘classical approach to theorizing’ as being ‘characterized above all by explicit reliance on the exercise of judgement’. but he does not attempt to show how that played out in this particular case. 28). They typically present their theories in a quasi-deductive form. 2011 . while outlining how US attitudes towards the USSR changed during the 1940s. This makes it difficult accurately to assess each theory’s usefulness and to recognize how the heuristic resources offered by each theory might be enhanced.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Moreover. 1969: 20. His basic position is that NATO’s origins and evolution are best understood if we think of NATO as institutionalizing a community of states united by a collective democratic identity. but are not inferred from any putative causal generalizations. the way in which the theories are drawn upon and the nature of the resulting accounts are obscured by the quasi-deductive form in which these theories are presented. Third. they typically apply their theories heuristically and hence rely on the exercise of judgement whatever the problems they face. 1999: 134–5). They must be assessed on the basis of their substantive empirical claims and this requires good judgement.Humphreys 15 However. complex or not.

One advantage of thinking of theories as being heuristically applied is that it also helps us to think about how they may be improved. This would be a mistake not only because theories are typically heuristically. then there is a risk that weight may be attributed to an explanation of some episode because it draws on a theory that claims to identify causal generalizations. emphasis in original). Existing explanatory theories are unlikely to be improved through refinement of their quasi-deductive arguments given that those arguments are not actually drawn upon in a deductive fashion. when allied to good judgement. but also because when they are heuristically applied their utility resides in their ability to guide empirical inquiry: the resulting explanations cannot be detached from their empirical content. too. but with what sorts of behaviour are consistent with.sagepub. theorists rely on the judgement of an expert community. the utility of a theory cannot be established in the abstract: if theories are heuristically applied. A useful theory is one that provides a clear understanding of the sort of explanation required. 1994: 111–12. but ‘in conformity with what “seems reasonable” to a community of scholars’. Turner (1987: 158) argues that much apparently deductive reasoning in scientific theories is really ‘folk-reasoning’: theories are not applied according to a strict calculus. the Downloaded from ejt. This provides further reason to think that theory should be understood as an aid to empirical inquiry rather than as a source of determinate explanations. It is helpful to think of the quasi-deductive arguments that underpin most explanatory theories in this way: they are not really concerned with what follows deductively from certain assumptions. but with the qualification that the theory is tested not by comparing inferred predictions with reality. An associated risk is that intellectual energy is focused on developing quasi-deductive arguments at the expense of. Lebow (2000: 106) worries that theory may confer ‘an aura of scientific legitimacy on subjective political beliefs and prejudices’. However. empirical inquiry. Such a problem will be particularly acute if explanatory claims are granted credence simply because they are said to be deductively derived. Thus. applied. helpful conceptual categories and an appropriate empirical focus. but by employing it heuristically. If it is presumed that good explanations draw on covering laws. However. not deductively. Thus a theory can be said to be useful in general only if it is in fact found to be useful across a range of cases or if it is shown to be particularly useful in certain cases. It also suggests that even when constructing abstract arguments theorists encounter questions of plausibility analogous to those that arise when we attempt to evaluate substantive explanatory claims: here. facilitates the development of persuasive explanations.14 There is a consequent risk that quasi-deductive argument is inappropriately privileged in International Relations. or might constitute a reasonable response to.16 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) theory and the extent to which we rely on a community of experts to judge what constitutes a persuasive account of particular episodes. for example. regardless of whether those generalizations are actually applied to the episode in question. This indicates that the traditional emphasis on subjecting theories to hard tests is still relevant when theories are heuristically applied. Such a theory.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. the conditions specified in those assumptions. then we can evaluate their utility only by applying them to specific empirical problems and asking whether they in fact help us to develop persuasive explanations of those problems. or even as a substitute for. Schroeder’s aim is ‘not to test neo-realist theory with historical evidence’ but to establish whether it ‘provides a sound model or paradigm for understanding the general nature of international politics’ (Schroeder. 2011 .

it is not anti-theory and does not entail scepticism about the possibility of developing causal explanations. 2011 . Notes   1 I use the term ‘episode’ to encompass any event.   2 Covering laws may in fact be inductively derived. Moreover.   3 A similar case may be made in relation to Waltz (1993). explanatory theorists should think more about the different kinds of questions we might wish to have answered and about how explanatory narratives combine mechanisms. 1996). Suganami. However. chance factors and background conditions (see Suganami. for comments on earlier drafts. something that would be facilitated by a reduced emphasis on the importance of defining terms in a manner that permits the construction of deductive arguments.   4 There is disagreement about whether constructivism should be treated as an explanatory theory. but Ruggie (1998b: 856) insists that it is ‘a philosophically and theoretically informed perspective on and approach to the empirical study of international relations’ rather than a ‘fully fledged theory’.sagepub. action or state of affairs in international relations. whether historical or contemporary. The author is also grateful to Andrew Hurrell. My contention is that the idea that explanatory theories are deductively applied obscures the actual contribution that they make to our understanding of international relations.Humphreys 17 heuristic resources they provide are very limited. They offer little insight into the different kinds of questions we may wish to ask about similar cases. It also invites scepticism about the nomothetic–idiographic distinction as an account of the distinction between historical and theoretical approaches to international relations. This account of how explanatory theories are applied carries strong implications for how theoretical explanations should be assessed. are largely uncritical about the conceptual categories they employ and offer a restricted empirical focus.   5 It is doubtful whether a covering law explanation in fact explains an episode. PDF/2007/76. 1959. 2008: 331). actors. Acknowledgement This research was partly funded by a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship. for how theories should be assessed and for how existing theories might be improved. and Dessler (1999) treats constructivism as a positivist approach. as distinct from showing that it was to be expected because that is what always happens (see Scriven. but when used in an explanatory capacity they are deductively applied: outcomes may be deduced from the (inductively derived) covering law when the specified antecedent conditions are fulfilled. Downloaded from ejt.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. for which a theoretical explanation is sought. This indicates that theories could be improved if their authors adopted a more critical approach to these issues. Wendt (1999) seeks to develop a positivist constructivism. In particular. which is gratefully acknowledged. the idea that they should be deductively applied points us in the wrong direction when thinking about the qualities of good theories and of good explanations.15 What it does entail is scepticism about whether the ideal of deductive explanation is itself heuristically useful: about whether it identifies appropriate standards for theorists to aspire to. University of Oxford. Lucas Kello and participants at an International Relations Faculty Seminar in the Department of Politics and International Relations. I am concerned only with whether the model accurately captures explanatory theorists’ practices. However.

MA: Little. 1996). 2008). Schweller. 10 Nevertheless. NJ: Prentice Hall. Buzan B (2004) From International to World Society? English School Theory and the Social Structure of Globalization.sagepub. 2000: 224).com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. vol 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Christensen TL. but is the kind of understanding that enables one to explain something (see Suganami. Adler E (1997) Seizing the middle ground: Constructivism in world politics. as a corollary. 2006. 12 Historians and political scientists also have distinct disciplinary identities (see Levy. 1997: 23). Snyder JL (1990) Chain gangs and passed bucks: Predicting alliance patterns in multipolarity. For a fuller discussion of the relationship between History and International Relations see Elman and Elman (2001). 2011 . Upper Saddle River.) (1993) The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. In: Knorr K and Rosenau JN (eds) Contending Approaches to International Politics. Suganami. Boston. European Journal of International Relations 3(3): 319–363. 13 This understanding is not to be contrasted with explanation. later realists have focused on neorealism’s deductive adequacy. most prominently in the debate about what follows from anarchy (see. London: W. Oxford: Clarendon Press. as in Dray’s claim that historians try to understand actors’ reasons for their actions (see Dray. Bull H (1969) International theory: The case for a classical approach. Almond G (1970) Political Development: Essays in Heuristic Theory.W. This is more plausible than the idea that judgement feeds off putative covering laws. 14 The claim that we rely on a community of experts is comparable to the critical realist contention that although knowledge is a social product we are capable of adjudicating between rival accounts (see Patomaki and Wight. Downloaded from ejt. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1996). for example. 166–199. 11 These claims constitute evidence for the specific case Waltz is making.   9 Waltz (2000: 38) acknowledges that neorealism does ‘not lead one to expect that states will always or even usually engage in balancing behaviour’. Bueno de Mesquita B (2003) Neorealism’s logic and evidence: When is a theory falsified? In: Vasquez JA and Elman C (eds) Realism and the Balancing of Power: A New Debate. References Abbott A (2004) Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. Brown L (ed. 15 It does imply that causal explanations do not derive from the development and application of covering laws (see Kurki.   8 Scriven (1959) suggests that judgement feeds off normic statements: claims about what is normal and.18 European Journal of International Relations XX(X)   6 This may partly explain why so many competing claims are sometimes categorized under a single theoretical heading. rather than for any putative causal generalization that may lie at the heart of neorealist theory.   7 Keohane (2005: 69) also describes game theory and the theory of collective action as having ‘great heuristic value’. Princeton. International Organization 44(2): 137–168. 1974). 20–38. Norton. Brown. what does and does not need explaining.

and Jones C. 1965. New York: Columbia University Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Downloaded from ejt. Keohane RO. 91–195. and the Study of International Relations. Elman MF (eds) (2001) Bridges and Boundaries: Historians. Elman C. NY: Cornell University Press. and Krasner SD (1998) International Organization and the study of world politics. Hempel CG (1965) Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. 3–34. Katzenstein PJ (1996) Introduction: Alternative perspectives on national security. New York: The Free Press. Keohane RO. Katzenstein PJ. Englewood Cliffs. London: MIT Press. London: Westview Press.) (1960) Contemporary Theory in International Relations. 66–89. Kaplan A (1964) The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioural Science. Donnelly J (2000) Realism and International Relations.Humphreys 19 Dessler D (1999) Constructivism within a positivist social science. International Security 20(1): 39–51. Kurki M (2006) Causes of a divided discipline: Rethinking the concept of cause in international relations theory. Jervis R (1999) Realism. Lakatos I (1970) Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes. Proceedings of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science. London: Oxford University Press. American Political Science Review 88(1): 249–251. Hoffmann S (ed.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Kratochwil F (1993) The embarrassment of changes: Neo-realism as the science of realpolitik without politics. Keohane RO. In: Gigerenzer G. 1989–1991. Political Scientists. International Organization 52(4): 645–685. Gigerenzer G. Nye JS (1993) Introduction: The end of the Cold War in Europe. In: Gardiner P (ed. Todd PM (1999) Fast and frugal heuristics: The adaptive toolbox. In: Keohane RO. In: Lakatos I. 1–19. Todd PM (eds) Simple Heuristics that Make Us Smart. NJ: Princeton University Press. Ithaca. Musgrave A (eds) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. NJ: Prentice-Hall.sagepub. neoliberalism and cooperation: Understanding the debate. 1–32. International Security 24(1): 42–63. Kratochwil F (1994) Review of The Logic of Anarchy: Neorealism to Structural Realism by Buzan B. Review of International Studies 25(1): 123–137. 4. Review of International Studies 19(1): 63–80. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) The Philosophy of History. Review of International Studies 32(2): 189–216. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Keohane RO (1989) International Institutions and State Power: Essays in International Relations Theory. 2011 . Keohane RO (2005) After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Nye JS (eds) After the Cold War: International Institutions and State Strategies in Europe. London: Harvard University Press. In: Katzenstein PJ (ed. Princeton. Dray W (1974) The historical explanation of actions reconsidered. London. Little R. Martin LL (1995) The promise of institutionalist theory. Aylesbury: Intertext Books. vol.) The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics. Finnemore M (1996) National Interests in International Society.

Legro JW (1995) Cooperation under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint during World War II. Princeton. IL: The Free Press. London: Frank Cass. Lebow RN (2000) Social science. 443–475. Theory. Moravcsik A (1999) Is anybody still a realist? International Security 24(2): 5–55. Levy JS (1997) Too important to leave to the other: History and political science in the study of international relations. International Studies Quarterly 44(2): 213–237. International Security 15(1): 5–56. London: Penguin. Ithaca. In: Katzenstein PJ (ed. DC: CQ Press. and Ideas. Institutions. Scriven M (1959) Truisms as the grounds for historical explanations. International Organization 48(2): 249–277.) Reviewing the Cold War: Approaches. International Security 19(1): 108–148. International Organization 51(4): 513–553. In: Gardiner P (ed. Britain. International Organization 52(4): 855–885. Nau HR (2007) Perspectives on International Relations: Power.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24. Mearsheimer JJ (1990) Back to the future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War. Oye KA (ed. Wight C (2000) After postpositivism? The promises of critical realism. and Germany between the World Wars. 66–89. Schroeder PW (1997) History and international relations theory: Not use or abuse. Washington. Legro JW. Milner HV (1997) Interests. history. NJ: Princeton University Press. International Security 22(1): 64–74. Mouritzen H (1997) Kenneth Waltz: A critical rationalist between international politics and foreign policy. Interpretations. Mink LO (1987) Historical Understanding (ed. and the Cold War: Pushing the conceptual envelope.) (1986) Cooperation under Anarchy.20 European Journal of International Relations XX(X) Lebow RN (1994) The long peace. Pólya G (1990) How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method. but fit or misfit.sagepub. Princeton. Fay B. In: Neumann IB and Wæver O (eds) The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Making? London: Routledge. Moravcsik A (1997) Taking preferences seriously: A liberal theory of international politics. London: Cornell University Press. NY: Cornell University Press. London: Routledge. and the failure of realism. and Vann RT). Schweller RL (1996) Neorealism’s status-quo bias: What security dilemma? Security Studies 5(3): 90–121. Risse-Kappen T (1996) Collective identity in a democratic community: The case of NATO. 103–125. Ruggie JG (1998a) Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization. 2011 . International Security 22(1): 22–33. neo-realist theory. Institutions. and Information: Domestic Politics and International Relations. Patomaki H.) Theories of History. Ruggie JG (1998b) What makes the world hang together? Neo-utilitarianism and the social constructivist challenge. New York: Columbia University Press. Glencoe. Posen B (1984) The Sources of Military Doctrine: France. In: Westad OA (ed. the end of the Cold War. Golob EO. London: Cornell University Press.) The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics. NJ: Princeton University Press. Schroeder P (1994) Historical reality vs. 357–399. Downloaded from ejt.

The American Political Science Review 91(4): 913–917.Humphreys 21 Smith S (2000) The discipline of international relations: Still an american social science? British Journal of Politics and International Relations 2(3): 374–402. Waltz KN (1993) The emerging structure of international politics. Ithaca. Cambridge: Polity Press. Trachtenberg M (2006) The Craft of International History: A Guide to Method. Suganami H (1996) On the Causes of War. Wendt A (1999) Social Theory of International Politics. Walt SM (1999) Rigor or rigor mortis? Rational choice and security studies. Daedalus 93(3): 881–909. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Biographical note Adam R. In: Keohane RO (ed. Wendt A (1992) Anarchy is what states make of it: The social construction of power politics. 2011 . Turner JH (eds) Social Theory Today. Waltz KN (1964) The stability of a bipolar world. the work of Kenneth Waltz and the relationship between History and International Relations.com at PONTIFICIA UNIV CATOLICA on April 24.sagepub. New York: McGraw-Hill. the nature of explanation.C. 91(4): 899–912. Oxford University and a Research Fellow at Nuffield College. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 37(2): 327–356. International Security 25(1): 5–41. International Security 23(4): 5–48. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Suganami H (2008) Narrative explanation and international relations: Back to basics. His research interests are in International Relations theory.) Neorealism and its Critics. Waltz KN (1997) Evaluating theories. Turner JH (1987) Analytical theorizing. New York: Columbia University Press. Oxford. International Security 18(2): 44–79. 156–194. Wagner RH (1993) What was bipolarity? International Organization 47(1): 77–106. NY: Cornell University Press. Oxford: Princeton University Press. Stein AA (1990) Why Nations Cooperate: Circumstance and Choice in International Relations. The American Political Science Review. In: Giddens A. Waltz KN (1979) Theory of International Politics. 322–345. Humphreys is a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations. International Organization 46(2): 391–425. Vasquez JA (1997) The realist paradigm and degenerative versus progressive research programs: An appraisal of neotraditional research on Waltz’s balancing proposition. Waltz KN (2000) Structural realism after the Cold War. Waltz KN (1986) Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A response to my critics. Downloaded from ejt.

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->