494327

2013
EJT19310.1177/1354066113494327European Journal of International RelationsGuzzini

EJIR
Article

European Journal of
International Relations
The ends of International 19(3) 521­–541
© The Author(s) 2013
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of reflexivity and modes of DOI: 10.1177/1354066113494327
ejt.sagepub.com
theorizing

Stefano Guzzini
Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark
Uppsala University, Sweden

Abstract
International Relations theory is being squeezed between two sides. On the one hand,
the world of practitioners and attached experts often perceive International Relations
theory as misleading if it does not correspond to practical knowledge, and redundant
when it does. The academic study of international relations can and should not be
anything beyond the capacity to provide political judgement which comes through
reflection on the historical experience of practitioners. On the other hand, and within
its disciplinary confines, International Relations theory is reduced to a particular type of
empirical theory with increasing resistance to further self-reflection. Instead, this article
argues that neither reduction is viable. Reducing theory to practical knowledge runs
into self-contradictions; reducing theorizing to its empirical mode underestimates the
constitutive function of theories, the role of concepts, and hence the variety of necessary
modes of theorizing. I present this twofold claim in steps of increasing reflexivity in
International Relations theory and propose four modes of theorizing: normative, meta-
theoretical, ontological/constitutive and empirical.

Keywords
conceptual analysis, intellectual history, methodological pluralism, nature of theory in
the social sciences, Norbert Elias, sociology of International Relations

Introduction
Scholars of International Relations (IR) theory find themselves in a paradoxical position.
On the one hand, being a theorist constitutes a core quality of the accomplished scholar,

Corresponding author:
Stefano Guzzini, Danish Institute for International Studies, Østbanegade 117, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark &
Dept of Government, Uppsala University, PO Box 514, 75120 Uppsala, Sweden.
Email: sgu@diis.dk

522 European Journal of International Relations 19(3)

at least to judge from our surveys. And yet, working with one of the isms has become
considered outmoded, ‘been there’, if not outright harmful (Lake, 2011). Whereas theo-
rists are tied to isms and their endless debates, research should move forward to get
things done. More fundamentally, whereas in the past great theoretical debates provided
the core of the discipline of IR, offering a common reference point in an otherwise ever-
expanding field of study, and a shared language with the world of practice (realism–
idealism), this has ceased to be the case; the continuous bickering and flag-waving
having in fact become an obstacle to it. The core comes now more by stealth through
complete absorption, some say ‘normalization’, into (US) Political Science, where IR is
simply the ‘external’ facet of public policy studies (for an early statement, see Milner,
1998). This article argues that this vision of theory is unwarranted and a consequence of
failing to see the multiple modes of theorizing IR. There is much more to theorizing than
isms. I will introduce four modes of theorizing: normative theorizing, meta-theorizing,
constitutive/ontological theorizing and empirical theorizing.
Those four modes of theorizing are neither unknown nor new. Yet, or so my argument
goes, they have been neglected, if not cut out by a scissor movement coming from two
opposite directions. First, it is common to hear that all the abstract language of academia
(whether meta-theory or formal modelling and mathematization) has alienated IR from
the world of practice. In its strongest version, this view claims that the ‘real’, or at least
only relevant, knowledge is what has come down to us over centuries of practical self-
reflection and political judgement. Being authorized to theorize world politics is some-
thing for which scholars have had to struggle by continuously challenging the allegedly
superior knowledge of the practitioner. Yet, showing the distinctiveness of scientific
knowledge from practical knowledge is constantly undermined by the sheer closeness to
the field of political practitioners in whose language the analysis of world politics is
authoritatively spoken, and by the socialization of analysts through (some) professional
schools, attracting students who, in the school’s rite of passage to become leaders in their
society, are often encouraged to belittle, if not de facto neglect, the ‘academic’ (i.e. use-
less) approach to knowledge.
Second, even within their field, theorists find themselves under attack — at least some
kinds of theorists. With the professionalization of the discipline, standard measures of
‘quality’ have produced a sometimes welcome, sometimes depressing, homogenization
of research. Ever-increasing numbers of graduate students are educated (better than:
‘trained’) according to a ‘quantitative-followed-up-by-qualitative’ (meaning small-n)
research design in which all there is to theory is reached when some robust empirical
generalizations can be made under specified scope conditions.
The article will address this dual challenge to IR theory, being squeezed out between
practical knowledge and a specific version of empirical theory. To make my point, I will
present the development of IR theory as historical steps of increasing reflexivity which
cannot be undone. In the first section, I will try to show that there is no return to mere
practical knowledge as all there is to theorizing IR, although I will later also insist on the
need to understand that very practical knowledge as part of successful theorizing. I will
present my argument by theorizing on the origins of the field of international expertise,
analysing the way practical knowledge, and a specific one informed by the raison d’état,
became the habitus of Court Aristocracy and later the diplomatic community. Western

so was appeasement equally erroneous in the 1930s (for two clear analyses of this dual lesson. This move had the perni- cious effect of confusing description and explanation (Wendt. In the early days. Theory? No theorizing needed! Practical knowledge and the self-reflection of world politics Whether or not a debate between ‘realists’ and ‘idealists’ (or any equivalent labels) really constituted a great debate in the early days of the field of inquiry. 1976. and indeed a different language from the one in which world politics is spoken. subsuming domestic and comparative politics. 1995): when things turned violent. inside which a growing number of terms are in need of being continuously updated. in them- selves and in their relation to each other. This dichotomy structured much of the way international politics was to be under- stood. traded on a confusion of observational theories and foreign policy strategies. The lessons of the two world wars were paradigmatic in this regard. The discourse of world politics got locked into its central binary opposi- tion which. in the military and in diplomacy. as well as in the resources on which they relied. this constituted both a hawkish description and validating proof for realism. Were deter- rence and escalation the wrong strategy after Sarajevo. the discipline was not there to produce knowledge. importantly.Guzzini 523 IR1 as field of study emerged not as a response to societal changes. The classical isms may indeed no longer be the natural core of the discipline of IR. 1962). as did other fields of systematic inquiry. as my discussion of the early writings of Morgenthau which concludes the first section demonstrates. the present state of IR can also be reframed. but instead as writing unfinished dictionaries. the resulting attempt to square the circle of practical knowledge in a scientific environment did not work. the dichotomy has been constitutive for much of the self-understanding of its practitioners. . Wolfers. With these ends in mind. ‘hawks’ are the ‘realist’ defenders of deterrence or containment and ‘doves’ the ‘idealist’/liberal proponents of engagement. IR is con- ceived in terms of global politics. With this understanding of the different modes and ends of theorizing. namely. As Anna Leander (2011) so succinctly put it. I will then develop in the second section the need to further our understanding of different and equally important modes of theorizing which are not reducible to empirical generalizations. Although this argument supports the need to find a reflexive distance to the level of political action. But. The dichotomy reflected the two fields where expertise in IR could be grounded. even if this divide was never absolute. the study of history and ‘politics’ on the one hand. there is no end in sight for IR theory. Here. and of (international) law on the other. we have to think of theoriz- ing not as producing cookbooks. That is again no news to many scholars in International Political Sociology or International Political Economy (IPE). but that does not at all exclude the fact that theorizing can still be. already-existing (practical) knowledge produced its discipline. Rather than seeing IR increasingly absorbed into Political Science. see Jervis.

the field and epistemic habitus of that quite specific group which has come to define what European diplomacy talks and thinks: the ‘International’ of Court Aristocracy. its way of seeing and doing things. Its conduit is the classical debate between political realism and idealism. tradition fitted itself into its science. that is. it will introduce how observers have made this view their own. just as much as ‘hawks’ had ways to understand peaceful con- flict resolution. Its origin is in the discourse of world diplomacy. The confusion between theory and (foreign policy) strategy. and its shared practical knowledge. almost in distilled form — in the diplomatic or foreign services of the Court. Since my aim is to show the squeeze from practical knowledge in which IR theoriz- ing finds itself. although it is reproduced there. the already-existing practi- cal knowledge of its diplomatic and military elite. its being a community in the first place. it is rather the other way round: it is through recourse to the lessons of practice that science is constituted. For the sake of simplicity.3 Elias’s argument is relevant in two ways. Science did not turn against tradition. First. The discipline was not there to produce knowledge. Morgenthau. knowledge produced its discipline.524 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) whereas when diplomacy succeeded. In the second step. that Court Aristocracy is the bearer of a certain behavioural canon (what he calls a habitus) which survived stronger than anywhere else — indeed. I will concentrate the discussion on the diplomatic lineage in the spirit of the raison d’état. how they have put this practical knowledge into the service of defining the specificity of the human/social sciences. I will present this through the work of Norbert Elias and a critique of Hans J. But surely. respectively. passing quickly via Friedrich Meinecke. If the evolution of societies had made sci- ence necessary — for knowledge. and not on international law (although some legal positivists could easily join here). control and for the legitimacy of rule — then the late- coming discipline of IR was to become the necessary detour to convince the new and enlarged world diplomatic society about. Whereas most social sciences are born out of the attempt of societies to reflect on and act upon their increasing differentiation and the development of the state with all its emerging functions. That it regularly happens in the expert debate on international relations has a good reason: this binary simplification does not originate in the field of science. The remote origins of IR and the habitus of (absolutist) Court politics Norbert Elias has retraced the field and habitus of French Court Aristocracy in a way which sheds light on the identity of European diplomacy. is rarely found in other social sciences. Second. It will finally indicate how that first-order reflexivity has become a crucial part of the early definition of IR.2 In the first step. and its conception of the superiority of practical knowledge. there is something peculiar to the self-reflection that led to IR as a discipline. although it cannot overcome its internal tensions. between explanation from a distance and maxims for action. . even when the middle classes eventually took over those positions (by the early 20th century). and thus preserve. it is not with the distant view of science that social and politi- cal practice is improved. I show the sociological and ideational underpinnings. Here. This section will deal with the implications of this specific origin for theorizing in IR. ‘doves’ had ways to explain war. doves or idealism would score.

7).000 residents according to one source in Elias. only interests. so fundamental to the habitus and hence recognition within its class. Yet. far from being mere formal- ity. To start with the creation of an aristocratic norm-canon of diplomacy (‘the sociogen- esis of norms’). both continuous in time and finite in scope. Elias refers back to the establishment of a Court society. 1969: 179). in his case. rulers increasingly tried to rely on the lower classes for their armies. 2008: ch. with some adaptations due to the ‘nationalization’ of politics (see also the discussion in Lebow. This change was accelerated by the shift in military technologies. absolutist France. became the self-representation of the Court society in which any shifts — subtle favours. putting the King at the centre of a complex figuration of forces. a threat to their honour would strike their identity as members of that society (Elias. fed immediately back into the totality of relations (Elias. 1969: 181 and 185. In such a world. proud and autonomous from the Sovereign. it was an ‘inevitable’ field of social relations. At the Court. Worse. was understood as always pru- dent. And so etiquette. the habitus was what we now call . In the feudal bonds the aristocracy had to their rulers.4 which. respectively). any action. but adopted the existing pre-revolutionary aristocratic one. to employ a phrase used elsewhere. With no escape and high levels of interdepend- ence. The Court grew into a place where titles were sold. by being faithful to its own normative system. and/or to make public office available for money (Elias. and hence even a slight shift in attention might indicate a sudden weakness (Elias. This development drove the old aristocracy into a dilemma between independence and prestige. however. Prestige was crucial for the very self-definition of Court Aristocrats. the Court Aristocracy. A new class. the aristocracy would run into debt to uphold its prestige. Thoughts needed to be impenetrable. 1969: 164). its status was bound to decline. And so the Court society produced a habitus (and was reproduced by it) which was thor- oughly based on self-interested action. so Elias’s argument goes. one had no friends. as Elias stresses. only to further pre- cipitate impoverishment and loss of influence. since any act in this web of relations could be read in terms of status. so Elias writes. often duplicitous. its members need advance carefully. Lest one wished to forgo one’s status. possible slights — were registered (Elias. Nothing was ever really forgotten. This society taught an extreme control of personal feelings. A new field of power was created. If. in turn. with increasing financial needs. Part of the aristocracy moved to the Court and stayed there permanently — the Versailles Court having at its maximum 10. potentially ruthless — although the very finiteness of the Court and the repetition of relations also put a break on such ruthlessness. It also directed a total attention to things allegedly ‘external’. where the advent of gunpowder and guns made the (aristocratic) cavalry an often powerless form of arms. Consequently. and hence etiquette. Finally. they would become increasingly dependent on the King and his largesse. they wished to uphold status and some influence. honour and status. and favours offered. 1969: 190). the Crown was incited to raise taxes. its privileges increasingly eroded. The Court Aristocracy was obsessed with prestige. the Court.Guzzini 525 they did not import their own canon. If it kept going the old way. appeared. 1969: 265–272). Politics in such a Court society were of a special manner. 1969: 174). any word. their importance as knights and providers of armies guaranteed their autonomy. prudence was essential (Elias.

Only with that form of practical knowledge.526 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) ‘diplomatic’ and has survived mainly in the foreign service. we find the undiluted habitus of the Court Aristocrat. itself one of the chief reasons for its perpetuation (Elias. but increasingly also in the negotiation cultures of other (also private) international actors (Elias. the forms of knowledge considered relevant for the diplomatic service are to be found in memoirs. the sociological base for what scholars in IR have come to call ‘diplomatic culture’. had ‘left over a heritage of mistrust and fear from each other’ (Elias. although the noblesse de robe increasingly took over major state functions (as judges. Since the middle of the 18th century. and where the contradictions between their moral code and reigning realpolitik were greatest. 36 for the argument of this paragraph). 1969: 182. in their self. with deep roots not only in the emotions of the individuals. 1989: 184). As such. aphorisms and ‘maxims’ (like Rochefoucault’s). 1989: 202). They took over the existing aristocratic habitus (Verhaltenskanon) ‘which. personal letters and correspondence. that is. their moral canon — either more strictly utilitarian and less prestige-oriented or more idealist — clashed with the aristocratic one.and we- ideal’ (Elias. the middle classes ended up simply adopting the maxims of the previous ruling groups. fn. With that special diplomatic community and its predispositions established. In the 19th cen- tury. 1989: 185–189). Power politics was no longer applied to dynastic relations between single sovereigns loyal to the(ir) state. according to Elias. . Here.and we-image. And the special knowledge of this ‘Aristocratic International’. in everyone’s unbridled pursuit of personal interests. however. in particular in international affairs in which they had the least experience. for instance). In this way the diplomatic culture reproduced not only itself. the field can be consid- ered remarkably stable. But. 1989: 203). was a person considered suitable for the foreign service (Elias. All reflection needed was the ongoing conversation within the field. in which part of the old noblesse d’épée was able to secure a monopoly position that kept its status intact (Elias. the sec- ond step in Elias’s argument is about the reproduction of its habitus. also lead to one significant adaptation. as Morgenthau called it. for no better word. 1969: 325–326). but to relations in the name of sovereign collectives loyal to the(ir) nation (Elias.5 This turned the relatively flexible postulate that the self-interest of a state is the last and decisive reference for action in international relations into ‘a categorical imperative. their self. This middle classes’ adoption of the pre-existing maxims did. but also the international realm to which it suppos- edly was a practical answer. When the middle classes reached the leading positions in the state. was explicitly not reflexive or theoretical. and which. typical for the habitus of the Court Aristocrat. 1969: 187). The aristocratic habitus of Court society thus became ‘the diplo- matic culture’ characterized by self-interested prudence and nationalized power politics that was to socialize newcomers and rule international affairs at least until the early 20th century. one could call Machiavellian’. but also in their conscience. For. the Court society’s ‘ongoing conversation’. it did not touch the higher military and diplomatic services. according to Elias. social mobility put pressure on the relatively coherent social strata from which the diplomatic and military elite had conventionally been chosen. whose common idiom used to be French until the early 20th century. For it became a ‘self-perpetuating’ mechanism: the belief in the truth and inevitability of power politics is.

Meinecke (1957 [1924/1929]: 245) says that by its very nature. that is. because it was both a foreign policy practice and the first-order reflection on that practice. (Meinecke. profited also from the reason of state. which is the way Meinecke defined the reason of state. 1957 [1924/1929]: 188). He ridicules the attempt to understand politics like ‘clock mechanics’ — and reads Hobbes in this tradition (Meinecke. In proposing this tradition in the interwar period. Meinecke (1957 [1924/1929]: 174–175) is very explicit that a purely empir- ical and utilitarian study of the reason of state is necessarily limited. Modern historical cognition. its practice was explicitly reflected upon. The tradition of the reason of state could form an important link. Statesmen and modern historians blend into each other in the quest to understand states and their interests in the motion of world history. and general catalogues for the ideal behaviour of states are not possible. an understanding acquired by looking through the eyes of the practitioner. these two discourses are of the same kind. my translation) Making the reason of state hence the privileged partner for establishing an empirical methodology for the history of ideas. Power politics à la Machiavelli was surely not something new to his age. And since the emergence of modern diplomacy evolved in parallel with the dis- course of the reason of state during the Renaissance (Meinecke. departing from the spell of natural law and its concern with the ideal state. Nor is a calculus of the real interests of states always possible. a reflection from within the field itself. from the attraction that emanated from the teaching of the interests of states. such history also becomes the essence of and sedi- mented knowledge for the art of government. The result is not universal knowledge. The basis would be a particular conception of historiography. it is first and fore- most that practical knowledge. Meinecke attempts to ground practi- cal knowledge as politics and vice versa. since the dilemmas of political necessity escape a clear assessment and the interests are often . Yet. in which previous social practices in foreign policy are explicitly framed. 179). in turn. 1989: 155. codified and in the process also to some extent erected as a model (or anti-model) (Elias. but practical ‘maxims’. and thinking Staatskunst and History in direct parallel: Acting according to the reason of state reached relatively early a way of seeing and understanding which was akin to modern historical cognition. Meinecke (1957 [1924/1929]: 100) sees in the teachings (Lehre) of the European balance of power nothing other than a detail of the general teachings (Lehre) of the reason of state. Indeed. 1969: 408–409. 1957 [1924/1929]: 22–23.Guzzini 527 Interlude: Practical knowledge as an attempt to fuse political thought and history ‘wie es wirklich gewesen’ Friedrich Meinecke’s resurrection of the reason of state can serve as my bridge to con- textualize the defence of practical knowledge even within a science. and precisely not yet an attempt to turn it into a social science. which was used as auxiliary practical science for the ‘art of government’ since the 17th century by those involved in the latter. but with the secularization of politics. 1957 [1924/1929]: 176). a clear definition of the concept of reason of state is not possible. It corresponds to the first wave of reflection which sets in during the Renaissance.

This produced a strong tension. but ultimately cannot (and should not) be anything but practical. in the end. Meinecke (1957 [1924/1929]: 165) sees the field of statesmanship like the classical world of tragedy: only with the sense of history and the experience of politics given by the reason of state can statesmen hope to acquire the art/craft of statesmanship (Staatskunst). A nascent Western disci- pline of IR could then have followed the way of other social sciences. Durkheim. And so Morgenthau ended up making the central move: where Meinecke was still arguing against the very need for a ‘theory’ when claiming the superiority of practical knowledge (for both the historian and the practitioner). But in IR. 1957 [1924/1929]: 275). The impossibility of squaring the circle: Practical knowledge in a time of second-order reflection If Machiavelli stands for the self-awareness of a habitus. then the resurgence of the reason of state in the interwar period stands for the attempt to freeze both scientific knowledge and political practice at that level. rather than with what it actually was. a first-order reflection. Marx or Weber. Morgenthau was exposed to three different traditions of theorization. nicely exemplified by Weber’s two famous lectures on ‘Politics as a Science and as a Vocation’ But whereas Weber ultimately saw a clear priority for sociol- ogy as a science. who offered several matrixes for a scientific turn. Yet the changing criteria for validity claims undermined the status of political judge- ment based on the sole appeal to experience and the lessons of history. two more positive. even if an interpretive one. Morgenthau could declare that although Martin Wight’s (1966) ‘Why is there no international theory?’ was wrong (for Morgenthau. they acknowledged the role of both the practical and ‘sci- entific’ tradition. It is a reflective knowledge. Just like Weber. Morgenthau moved to ‘no new theory needed’. In the positive tradition. If international relations had been conceived as an international society. an appeal to ‘historical experience’ is no strong argu- ment. there is theory): . Morgenthau was stuck with a priority for the practical tradition. Here. Morgenthau’s Scientific Man vs Power Politics could do so only with quali- fications. It was alive in the habitus of practitioners and now revived by the early epigones of the discipline. the call for the superior knowledge embedded in the practical tradition of the raison d’état was still alive. one more normative.6 They both rejected the classical normative tra- dition. But despite all his respect. well illustrated by the early writings of Morgenthau.528 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) ambivalent themselves (Meinecke. A first-order reflection gave way to a second-order reflection on that very core of knowledge that had been assembled and canonized beforehand. Morgenthau could not follow Weber’s route to science. Looking at politics ‘as it really is’. With the development of the social sciences as disciplines. Weber could move to scientific justifications for his knowledge. Morgenthau (1946) showed himself in an uncomfortable legacy of Max Weber. From ‘no theory needed’. one could have mobilized the scientific canons of Comte. Theorizing as practical knowledge got stuck in a dilemma. This produces a certain dilemma. Morgenthau was trying to show that the maxims of practical knowledge are a scientific theory. too much concerned with what politics should be.

1970 [1964]: 254). respectively). that lends itself to theo- retical systematisation’ (1970 [1964]: 251).Guzzini 529 Its fourteen pages contain more insights into the intellectual issues posed by theoretical concern with international relations than a whole shelf of books and articles that. To make this work. he wished to defend the possibility of an international theory. 1970 [1964]: 251. But then why would he oppose the attempt to systematically test those regularities in con- trolled and often quantitative studies? He did see that any historical explanation neces- sarily relies upon theoretical assumptions which need to be made explicit. the raison d’état is not only in historical experience. understood as the objectivist component of realist theorizing. to conclude on a comfortably ambivalent position. 1970 [1967]: 247) and ultimately only serves the nar- row interests and psychological self-satisfaction of scholars who do not dare to make statements whose closer contact with ‘political reality’ could disconfirm them (Morgenthau. the configurations of the balance of power. Indeed. wrote Morgenthau. Theory meets geopolitics here. whereas. but also in the nature of things. 1970 [1964]: 257). mistake ‘politics’ for something fully amenable to reason and measurement. (Morgenthau. Hence. Morgenthau’s aim was twofold. in a suddenly arch-positivist answer to Wight’s critique that whereas domestic theory is about progress (and hence amenable to theory). he wished to define its necessarily limited character. its contingent element ‘obviates the possibility of theoretical understanding’ (Morgenthau. which seems to include also theorizing in meta-theoretical terms (what he calls ‘theory-making’). it is a theory which goes beyond a philoso- phy of history. Hence. IR is the realm of recurrence and repetition. 1970 [1967]: 242. Morgenthau looked for regularities that can be empirically established and historically demonstrated and found them in the classical balance of power politics. that is. utopianism). By not talking truth to power in any relevant way. if redefined. 243 and 246. liberalism. a theory of international relations performs the function any theory performs. Since politics is both con- tingent and rational. that is. to bring order and meaning into a mass of unconnected material and to increase knowledge through the logical develop- ment of certain propositions empirically established’ (Morgenthau. and then uses history to ‘demonstrate’ their validity (Morgenthau. But then why . Against behaviouralism (which he connected pêle-mêle with economic approaches. The latter contradicts ‘the objective character of international relations’ and produces ‘dogmas’. the limited ‘rational element in political action makes politics sus- ceptible to theoretical analysis’. Morgenthau wrote that it is precisely ‘this repetitive character of interna- tional politics. But when Morgenthau sketches the nature of possible IR theory. following the fashion of the day. 1970 [1964]: 248) This quote clearly shows his two theoretical targets: the attempt to fashion theory in terms of testable models and the tendency to discuss methodology. in that it makes explicit the theoretical assumptions upon which philo- sophically inclined historians (he refers to Thucydides and Ranke) have made their analysis. Those misconceived ‘theories’. For Morgenthau. 1970 [1964]: 261). Against Wight. such theoretical research only serves to bolster the status quo (Morgenthau. a ‘kind of metaphysics. the argument becomes ultimately circular. ‘Within these limits. referring to the same body of inspiration as Meinecke). spin out theories of international relations and embark upon esoteric methodological studies on how to approach such theory-making. regardless in what empirical or mathe- matical garb it is clothed’ (Morgenthau.

then it is an unavoidable and fundamental part of IR theory. Which theory? Which theorizing? Scientific knowledge and the self-reflection of world political observation The role of IR theory can only be appreciated if we rid ourselves of two reductionisms. of the alleged regularities is then at stake. making theoretical assumptions explicit is the work of theorizing. This position always comes back to say that. when it is practical knowledge that constructs this logic of reality in the first place without allowing a reflective distance to its own construction.530 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) would he believe theoretical critiques of other theories to be useless. In this circular move. his approach falls back on positivist posi- tions malgré lui and cannot defend itself well against the behaviouralist attack. and theme of this section. is tenable. practical knowledge at this level of reflexivity has no choice but to engage the scientific canon of the day. as Wight said. systematic manner’ (Morgenthau. as exemplified by the different devel- opments of balance of power theory. some amendments and systematization of the existing first-level reflection of the reason of state will do. 546–548). and so they must be according to theory as geopolitics. It is a remarkable logical circle: since international relations are all recurrence and repetition. on the other hand. If. the end(s) of theorizing are also the end of it. that is. so are our theories. by not going the whole Weberian way. any further debate about ‘theory-making’ only irresponsible scholastic narcissism. mentioned above. prac- tical knowledge when moving from a first. practi- cal knowledge does not. As a result. In this view. since the nature. so named after Kissinger’s (1957: ch. which it had left to others to define. because so is ‘reality’. The logic of reality is said to impose practical knowledge. concerns the confusion between practical and scientific knowledge. any theory beyond is but the personification of the liberal rationalist hubris. 2004: 534–535. 1970 [1967]: 254). But if it then defends itself in a ‘theoretical. By denying a stronger role to theory. however. although theory is needed. 1998. when they perform precisely that exposition and discussion of underlying assumptions? If empirical regu- larities cannot be established in a quantitative way because no historical case is really like any other. not idle self-centred talk. it should avoid a scientific defence. there is really nothing new under the sun.to a second-order reflexivity remains caught in the ‘conservative’ or justification/tradition dilemma. an objective. then also his own theory be established or justified. as asserted by Morgenthau. by attempting that scientific defence in positive and positivistic language (‘as it is’). it ends up in a no-win situation: being con- sistent with itself. But however well this still resonates in policy circles within and outside academia. is the reduction of scientific knowledge to a narrow version of empirical theory. stay consistent with itself. since no knowl- edge which goes beyond and against the nature of international politics. XI) analysis of Metternich. Its classical defence no longer applies: it cannot just refer to the world ‘as it is’ and rely on its practical understanding by the responsible elites. The first. the existence. This section will argue that both . Not redefining the core of theorizing itself. nay. and as shown elsewhere (Guzzini. it gives no good reason to halt further theorizing. The second. but that will no longer do.

Taking these modes of theorizing seriously asks. Theorizing in IR had reached a dead- lock. Indeed. First. But theory is not there only before or after — it never leaves us. I will try to rescue an understanding of the Inter-Paradigm Debate (IPD) which. and the fact that not all knowledge is empirically determined. But in my understanding. but for its self-reflection and theoretical control by probing the assumptions of such world political observations. Theory is not only the result of knowledge. 1985. Reminding us of that space opened by the IPD. the more fenced the turf. In many contemporary research designs. This move to reduce paradigms to ideologies is. When reason could not decide. a plurality of equally jus- tifiable theories is not easy to accept. eventually resolved by having a winner. In this understanding. this is not at all how the IPD (Banks. because the existing ways to conceive world politics — both the nature of politics . idealism and whatever other ism. although shared by its proponents in the 1980s and later. field in the social sciences. it had to be the fault of values — and the longer the pluralism of theories lasted. that we conceive of our core scientific communication as organized around concepts used for updating our knowledge in ever ‘unfinished dictionaries’ of the international. I propose four modes of theorizing which characterize our. Yet. telling. at least in parts of our field. 1989a. but also the condition for the possibility of knowledge. between realism. seems to have been forgotten or reinterpreted. the IPD has been shelved and is relegated to standard textbook presentations. In a scientific field attuned to the idea that there can ultimately be only one truth. as seen also by positivist philosophers of science. Quite understandably. some scholars had to be either of inferior intellect or possibly dogmatic due to some normative commitment. They saw in it a liberating movement and an invitation to a healthy pluralism. the isms have been at times read in terms of ideologies. Holsti. but unpacking the bundled paradigms. however. the IPD does not necessarily have to stand for stale debates. It opened a stage not only for a second-order reflection on world politics at the level of the observer.8 If it dragged on. Theory. where IR theories would have to fit into conservatism. could only be a passing moment. wherever it occurred. The argument proceeds in three steps. an IPD. 1985) or also the ‘Third Debate’ (Lapid.Guzzini 531 movements together crowd out most of what theorizing is all about. in turn. and I guess any. scholars would ask for a kind of truce in the form of eclecticism (Sil and Katzenstein. Worse. Revisiting the ‘Third Debate’7 In many corners of the discipline. Theorizing must cover both aspects. liberalism and whatever stood for radicalism. is external to research design and divorced from methodology. thus. theory is either the result of the study (the empirical generalization) or its given and external starting point (if that generalization informs a proposition put to a test). 2010) to move beyond such theory wars. the more bitter the fight. this follows from a narrow and impov- erished form of the debate in which we simply throw isms at each other. this section argues that it is better to confront and analyse the ubiquity of theo- retical presuppositions than to exogenize them. or for increasingly bitter turf wars. In fact. 1989b) was seen by its proponents.

although the isms debates may no longer constitute the core debates of the discipline. understood. 1997). by having unleashed debates on all possible types of assumptions — ontological. 1996.. but their ready-made packaging and superimpositions. but to the fact that our theories are potentially underdetermined by evidence. 10. for its conservative bias in the use of ‘incommensurability’ or for the risk of a shallow eclecticism picking out of ‘menus for choice’ without control for meta-theoretical consistency (Guzzini. for instance. Hence. the IPD is not over. 8. materialism. diplomacy. inter- vention and other matters of International Relations but about human psychology. IPE (Cox. when Jeff Checkel recently assessed pluralism in the discipline and admonished that ‘bridge-building’ had mainly produced middle-range theorizing which disregarded meta-theory and epistemology. the impossibil- ity of finding a single winning theory was not due to the dogmatic ill-will of scholars. in turn. If applied correctly. naturalism. 1996). Hence. as. namely. about methodology and epistemology’ (Bull. rather than those isms as such (and they remain in the foreground in the discourse shared by practitioners and surrounding experts). the problem is not the awareness and the theorization of these different levels of assump- tions. that is. 1987. For.g. as can be imagined.. More importantly. The central contribution of that debate was to take the constitutive function of theories seriously. Moreover. there is nothing wrong with comparing three different approaches even on a level of assump- tions. This does not mean that the IPD was or is unproblematic for reasons already exposed in the 1990s.). about irony and tragedy. as long as a narrow theoretical focus is used (see. just like the earlier English School formulation. In this context. Gilpin. packaged too much into this. Wæver. the ‘Third Debate’ argued that the deadlock could only be managed and made fruitful for research if IR started a second-order theorizing on the underlying assumptions of theo- ries and how they structure the understanding of the research subject. 1987. the IPD. e. epistemological and normative — and by trying to tie them together in triads that would be recognizable to political debates. let alone being its most important aspect. oddly. the focus on isms as testable explanatory theories was not all that the IPD was about. Strange. For instance. But that historical critique of the IPD concentrated not on the need to reflect on theoretical assumptions. but. 1998: ch. 1988). there had been attempts to subsume IR within a larger subject matter. In Hedley Bull’s critique. peace. It therefore moved beyond the first behaviouralist attempt to turn practical knowledge into a science by proposing . 2013: 234ff. Hasenclever et al. then. rationalism. and how the relation between those packages was. And. of course. 1976: 111). probing those assumptions opens up the field to a plethora of other isms (e. looking at theo- ries as conditions for the possibility of knowledge. Wight. he writes that Wight was ‘too ambitious in attributing to the Machiavellians. in some parts of our field at least. It aimed at the ways those assumptions were bundled.532 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) and what counts as the world — needed to ‘come to terms’ with social and historical changes. as well as ‘the macro-level where material power and social discourse — say — fundamentally shape and predetermine the mechanisms playing out at lower levels’ (Checkel. 1993. which it easily agreed with.g. they are always there in the background even if we may now concentrate on the discussion of specific problematiques. problematiques and techniques. 1992: ch. idealism) and ologies that are probably fundamental to all (social) sciences and humanities. Hence. the Grotians and the Kantians distinctive views not only about war. constructivism. has yet to begin.

Guzzini 533 a self-reflection of world political observation. As such. the IPD requires both a search for coherence. meta-theoretical. Wendt. episte- mology. Such meta-theoret- ical checks can show where assumptions clash. This includes: ontology. Meta-theoretical theorizing provides the building blocks and fundaments upon which all theories are built. Our research problems need to be or are informed ultimately by major ethical and/or political value issues. Besides this usual meta-theoretical triad. this includes also assumptions about the nature of time (lin- ear or layered) or the understanding of history. For instance. that one may see a decline in IR theory or plead for getting rid of all isms only because one. but one which is done according to the rules of philosophical argument. namely. I will suggest ways to unpack the different modes of theorizing that informed the IPD. despite all the interest Alexander Wendt may have in the meta-theoretical level as such. but keeping the requirement of wider theoretical coherence and open reflexivity. the assumptions of what we can know. which. again. auto-critique and tolerance. Four modes of theorizing This section introduces four modes of theorizing: normative. Normative theorizing consists in applying the scientific criteria of moral and political philosophy to issues of international relations. 1999) is better understood as driven by an attempt to . limiting the reinvention of wheels. and where theory formation is consequently incoherent (see in IR. Kratochwil and Ruggie. That does not imply that normative questions can be answered philosophically in this sense. In the following section. this unpacking of the IPD in modes of theorizing allows us to see more combinations and possibilities for cross-paradigmatic collaboration and mutual learning. I think that his work (in particular. and methodology. ontologi- cal/constitutive and empirical. This ensures that the accumulated knowledge on ethical (and ideological) issues is taken into account. The IPD’s plea for reflexive theorizing is needed now just as much as then. 1986). since they are connected and their connections are significant for each form of theoriz- ing. since such a context renders the debate almost inevitably dogmatic. Well understood. Throwing the isms out of the core is understandable in the one-truth gladiatorial world. however. While presenting these traditions of theorizing in turn. therefore rejoining the spirit of Sil and Katzenstein’s (2010) plea for eclecticism. But meta-theorizing is also used in a positive form when scholars need to formulate their theories in the first place. misconstrues the very nature of theory. Meta-theorizing usually takes a critical form when it checks out the con- sistency of those assumptions upon which existing theories are built. it is not just an analysis of ethical issues in world politics. in turn can have implications for methodology. for ontological theorizing (see below). but it imposes some discipline in the way substantive moral argument is conducted. the basic thrust of my argument is that no science can afford to leave one of them out. Moreover. the assumptions of how the former constitutive components of theories can meet the empirical. in particular. the assumptions of what ‘there is’. thereby neglecting many types of theorizing.9 The significance of nor- mative theorizing is self-evident for political analysis (since all politics is about values). The following distinctions are crucial for the second main claim of the article.

Adler- Nissen and Gammeltoft-Hansen. 1980 [1921–1922]: 1–30). A third type of theorizing I call ‘ontological’ for lack of a better word. state. It conceives of the relationship to the empirics in a different manner though. Krasner. 2006: 5). The term ontological theorizing is inspired by the way some of our major theoretical texts are constructed. e. the ‘fundamental sociological concepts’ with which the book opens are the very possibility of the sociological analysis which follows in the later chapters.. 2006: 27. see. The content and relationship of these concepts to each other is then checked by meta-theorizing for their consistency. 1993) or. 200. community and so forth. As in Max Weber’s Economy and Society (Weber. For Goertz. Its focus on central concepts. more positivist concept analysts takes account of the ‘ontological view of concepts’ ‘because it focuses on what constitutes a phenomenon’ (Goertz. and contrary to Goertz’s use. as well as fundamental and secondary institutions. Ontological theorizing is (as all theorizing) in some sense normative but differs from normative theorizing in its mode. Hedley Bull’s Anarchical Society: A Study of Order [sic!] in World Politics is a relentless analysis of ‘What “is” …?’ (Bull. we decide on this basic ontological level of concepts in view of the ‘causal powers’ of its constituents. and assessed. The actual purpose of theorizing is not to establish theories of the common good. leave philosophy and history out of thinking the empirics. 2006: 62). In that regard. etc. sovereignty. 127. with all the concepts around anarchy. Ontological theorizing is at another level. the state. in ontological theorizing. In fact. for which he has no choice but to engage with the philosophy of science and social theorizing. as in Bull. as well as constituting the conceptual results of the empirical analyses he has been conduct- ing (and all the others on which he relied) for much of his career and which defined the terms within which empirical theorizing can take place. in empirical analyses of identity formation. In fact. 2008. society. This would cru- cially involve the very understanding of the ‘international’. ‘Concepts are about ontology. nor is it necessarily connected to the study of values. it is part of the positive turn that is typical of (Western) social sciences. original emphasis). . This leads him to think of ontological theorizing as something akin to Wendt’s (1998) constitutive (instead of causal) relations (Goertz. 1977: 3. and cannot. Walker. One could call it also ‘constitutive’ since it is mainly about theorizing the central phenomena that constitute the field of inquiry (power. indeed. it constitutes exactly that type of theorizing which saw the day when social theories shed moral philosophy. 184.g. 1999. It just does not. recent. for instance. both for their historical and conceptual congruence and according to the research findings they are able to conceive of.). To develop a concept is more than providing a definition: it is deciding what is important about an entity’ (Goertz. Also. such as sovereignty (for the variety of takes. respectively). Theorizing such building blocks of more general understanding is obviously con- nected to empirical analysis. For instance. 1995.534 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) construct a coherent theory of IR. But that mixes the levels of observation. hierarchy. 101. ontological theorizing is not reducible to the empirical level. heteronomy. is typical because they stand for the greater issues for which we do science in the first place. Bartelson. 162. Constitutive relations are on the level of empirical theorizing when factors do not relate to each other in a causal but constitu- tive way (‘by reference to the structures in virtue of which they exist’) as.

2010). or to the ways certain categories (such as ‘pariah’). Finally. if applied by the international commu- nity. our theories or basic concepts become themselves the object of empirical analysis. Such a view implies a wider understanding of ‘conceptual analysis’ than usually offered. social/causal mechanisms. see MacKenzie. the role of conceptual analysis has been more widely acknowledged (Gerring. Just as terms are co-constitutive of language. they are the words in which. 2006). they can also be used outside a positivist framework. 2006). to analytical models and their interaction with social reality (for financial models and financial markets. Although causal mechanisms are often conceived as the causal link to explain an estab- lished correlation. 2007) and others’ lead to think of such mechanisms outside a correla- tional logic. in a renewed reception of the work of Giovanni Sartori (Collier and Gerring (2009) includes some of Sartori’s main statements on the matter). but theorizing is also a means to redefine our concepts. so to speak. This ‘performative’ analysis can be applied to IR theories like the democratic peace (Ish-Shalom. duly redefined. 2001). and if we did not. there are indeed different modes of theorizing with their various ends of theories. outside a Humean understanding of causality in general (Hedström and Ylikovski. interact with the foreign policy identity of international actors. although perhaps not continu- ously. as part of interpretivist process tracing with a limited (because contextually open) capacity to travel to other cases (Guzzini. The unfinished dictionary of the ‘international’ In my understanding. there is empirical theorizing. see George and Bennett. Following Jon Elster’s (1998. in particular. We constantly rewrite our dictionary. But they are also clearly connected. one can conceive of such mechanisms. by which I mean more inductively driven research agendas. 2005). taking the constitutive function of theories seriously and allowing for the different modes of theorizing in our field of inquiry puts concepts and their analy- sis at centre-stage for our scientific communication. single case studies and the generalizations which these allow (and this includes also hypothesis generation. but also for which. Not only are concepts the means to achieve theorizing. neglecting the social-historical and semantic self-reflection which needs . try to overcome our normal (and necessary) specialization in order to follow the links between their respective findings. small-n comparisons. 11). But empirical theorizing can also feature smaller units which can travel from very case-oriented studies to others. As this discussion shows. Indeed. often conditioning each other. indeed. But there has been a tendency to concentrate on the technical side. namely. It prompts the need for theorizing this reflexive relationship. Recently. 2012b: ch. such empirical analysis can feature the very relationship between the way we conceive of the social world and the social world itself. These can involve large-n correlational analyses (which also lead to deductive hypothesis-testing). where. concepts are co-constitutive of theories. on the definitional side so to speak. our theorizing is done. Last but not least. our understanding of world politics would be impaired if any of those log- ics of theorizing were allowed to lapse.Guzzini 535 visible often in the establishment of frameworks of analysis or typologies which are mainly concerned with the constitutive function of theorizing.

Most of our political concepts were shaped and acquired their meaning out of a survival of the fittest process. its meaning shifts. since it is a depository of our accumulated knowledge.536 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) to accompany any analysis of concepts. original italics) Asking for such a wider understanding of the role of concepts would also. They are part of semantic relations. not any construction goes. Our concepts are living memory. the tension which is the result of the interaction of the observer’s constitutive theorizing and the historical development within which it takes place. The essentialist resolves the tension by assuming an ulti- mately purely external anchoring point. etc. in turn. but no essence. they have a history. Their analysis is inevitably part of an interpretation within that semantic web. But opposing instrumentalism does not make conceptual analysis go essentialist. concepts do not speak for them- selves. Indeed. in a section entitled ‘the loss of historical anchorage’. In my reading. But this almost inevitably implies that the definition of what makes the issue significant also shifts. several traditions indeed. (Sartori. 2009 [1975]: 62. Just as much as we need the individual concepts to decipher these relations. Concepts may have a tradition. by resolutely embedding conceptual analysis in intellectual history. We cannot just instrumentally define our terms as we feel best for coding. the risk of conceptual stretching. In a sense. Just like data. but equally from the learning process of history. Understanding their ongoing history is not just a means but also an end of our theoretical conversation. Sartori’s point should be extended to oppose both instru- mentalism and essentialism. the instrumentalist by pretending that the purist conceptual definition and the formalization of research permits getting rid of the interaction. One cannot start the analysis without a first definition. Sartori writes: our understandings of meanings are not arbitrary stipulations but reminders of historical experience and experimentation. either. This also affects our way of working with definitions. the opposite applies. Sartori’s quote is clear about the former. Taking them seriously means that we cannot play around the semantic field as we like: we would end up with a clean definition which simply misses the entire point of the research. Despite the inevi- table fact that any concept is a construction of the observer. and many of Sartori’s precepts (plus more conceptual history and historical . In qualitative (interpretivist) studies. there are the historical legacies and roles of a term. If they are part of our ever- expanding and updated dictionary. Besides the technical requirements (about extension and intension. instrumentalism and essentialism are the two flip sides of the same coin. but not alone here. if concepts are at the meeting point between the observer and the observed. affect the way conceptual analysis is done.). our understanding of the issue should improve over the analysis. Concepts cannot be really thought independently of their semantic context and their pragmatic use.… Thus. their definition may often gain from being conceived in an open way so that the empirics can also feed back to it. political scientists and sociologists — let alone the layman — ignoring the authors of the past have freed themselves not only from the constraints of etymology. They both avoid keeping the tension open in the development of ‘data’. with no con- cern for their historical and wider purpose. It is not because we dig into the history of meanings and functions of a concept that we find their ‘essence’.

The respective knowledge is checked according to different and specific criteria and logics in each of them. such theorizing inevitably is. which resurrects an internal–external divide hard to defend. The dictionary is about the ontology of the ‘international’.g. this could include a reference to specific phenomena in their evolution (e. ‘rights’ for normative theoriz- ing or ‘the state’ for ontological theorizing). In my first section. But on its unfolding. and hence the different modes of theorizing.g. To me. our dictionaries are more than mere tools for analysis. The other front consists in a narrow understanding of the ends of theory. Conclusion IR theory has to defend itself on two fronts. which uses and rewrites the dictionary with a focus on power and governance. where the divide is ‘overcome’ by denying any signifi- cant specificity to the historical development of international practices. at least in my own personal experience. This article has argued that boxing theory in either a practical or narrowly scientific mould does no justice to the substance and ends of IR theorizing. providing the common language (and translations) within which our progress in knowl- edge can take place.Guzzini 537 sociology) are a necessary start. One front consists of the alleged superiority of practical knowledge that gave rise to the discipline of IR in the first place. the analysis will keep returning to those definitions. Illustrative of the four modes of theorizing. Hence. meta-theoretical categories (e. Indeed. The concepts therein can be of different types. And that leads me to a final and per- haps somewhat unexpected remark. empirical mechanisms (e. I have pursued this argument in two steps which were meant also to provide the dif- ferent steps of reflexivity IR theory went through. There are and will be different ways to read and contribute to the dictionary. they are the main stuff of our com- munication. democratic peace). Nor is it empiri- cal Political Science writ large. all needed and all connected: normative. Standard Operating Procedures). the ‘international’ in IR is about ‘global politics’.g. if we stay problem-oriented in our field. This . The former errs by limiting the capacity to observe practice. socialization) or even miniature theories or ideal-types (e. 2012a. Any discussion about a field’s core will be about what is important for understanding the entity IR. but not them alone). indeed. The article sug- gests distinguishing between four modes of theorizing. of theorizing. it seems that this is not the reserved turf of the international practitioner (and many realists. There is a need for controlled and distant observation. theorizing has to take into account the constitutive and instrumen- tal function of theories. including impersonal rule (Guzzini.g. the very categories taken for granted in the already-existing practical knowledge need permanent reflection. I characterized professional schools in IR as being very theory-adverse. operational concepts (e. individual- ism). ontological/constitutive and empirical. meta-theoretical. But if that means that scientific knowledge is needed. They cannot be reified across time. In my view. These concepts and their discussion then also constitute what the dictionary is about. Concepts play a special role by linking up these different modes of theorizing. whatever cyclical vision of history usually underpins such attempts. In my own research. Although isms may no longer be the core. 2013).g.

The usual disclaimers apply. Petr Drulák. But it does not claim that it covers the history of the inquiry into international affairs or politics understood globally. 9–10 June 2011. but contribute to rethinking the relation to international practice and practices. By definition. This is perhaps not so astonishing. They increase the independence and autonomy of think- ing. and one can see some interesting shifts. But it is not necessarily so. 2. If these programmes take their function of educating future elites seriously. For an earlier use of Elias’s argument for IR. Richard Ned Lebow. doing otherwise would reify the concept (Elias. Nick Onuf. Andreas Behnke. commercial. these programmes need to reflect on the ongoing changes in actual international practices and in the ‘official’ language in which this is bundled into practi- cal knowledge. 4. Jeffrey Checkel. Anna Leander. Audie Klotz. This is a logical corollary to the position that rationality cannot be understood independently of the social configuration in which it is realized. I gratefully acknowledge comments. As Alexander Astrov and Nick Onuf insisted. Peter Katzenstein. Notes 1. The first section is indeed very Euro-centric. . I wish to thank the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin for granting me a fellowship during which I carried out all the revisions. Finally. even if it did its best to colonize it. Karin Fierke. help and criticisms from Emanuel Adler. in the context of the panel series on ‘The end of IR theory?’ An earlier version of the first section was written and presented at the conference ‘The Sociology of the Social Sciences 1945–2010’. able to understand the language of practice and science from the inside. Taking seriously the difference between practical and scientific knowledge and the richer pedigree of modes of theorizing may not only make the cen- trality of theory more visible. which is justifiable when analysing the evolution of what today is called the discipline of IR. 3. Alexander Wendt. or that Western IR is all that there is to the present discipline. Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public. As such. two referees and the editors of EJIR. the ideal is to see the future elite become bilingual. this is a major qualifier if one wanted to provide a more comprehensive genealogy of IR. Such capacity is often best acquired through theoretical courses focusing on the constitutive function of theories (and historical courses which provide another form of distance to one’s present-day assumptions). San Diego. and self- reflective on both. 1–4 April 2012. as it were. Jens Bartelson. they need to provide not only factual knowledge. but also the capacity to think and hence be self-reflexive and adaptive when facing new decision situations. see Krippendorff (1985). Acknowledgements This is a revised version of a paper presented at the 53rd annual convention of the International Studies Association. In fact. Copenhagen.538 European Journal of International Relations 19(3) is surely still often the case. Alexander Astrov. Jef Huysmans. 1969: 190). Elias (1969: 181) insists that this therefore precedes the bourgeois-economic self-understand- ing of self-interest as rational. Hidemi Suganami. Iver Neumann. or not-for-profit sectors. some of those schools may want to combine the best of both worlds by being self-reflexive with practical and scientific knowledge at the same time.

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