Critical Realism: Post-Positivist Stage in International Relations Theory

Critical realism is a philosophy of science that is increasingly occupying the center of discussion in the theory of International Relations. The most important aspect of critical realism is that it shifts the focus of controversy in international relations from epistemology to ontology. According to the materialist ontology of critical realism there exists a reality independent of our observations and experiences. This is an alternative to the dominant positivist as well as post-positivist conceptions of science which associate reality either with what can be observed or with what can be said and thought in discourse. Critical realism provides an understanding of science that overcomes the difficulties of both and explains international relations as part of a totality of social relations with varying ontological depths. By defining structures in terms of social relations, critical realism presents a structural analysis of international relations different from the structuralism of neorealism and develops a transformational model of social activity which tries to avoid both the voluntarism of individualist/unit based analyses and the determinism of structuralist analyses.


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The primary concern of this piece of work is to reconsider scientific realism debate in the philosophy of science. Accordingly, the overall aim is to come up with the clues of a viable scientific realist attitude in the face of anti-realist interpretations of scientific theories. To accomplish this aim, I make use of two modified versions of scientific realism, that is, ‘epistemic structural realism’ and ‘entity realism’. Epistemic structural realism is a realist position of which proponents claim that the ...
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In the 20th century, Critical Theory has been very influential on every discipline of social sciences including international relations. According to Critical IR Theory, traditional theories are problem solving and try to explain repetition and recurrence, rather than change; however, the main subject matter of an IR theory should be the change itself. The idea of change is also constitutive of Habermasian political thought. Jürgen Habermas, as a critical theorist, has developed the model of Deliberative De...
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During the twentieth century, Critical Theory was one of the most influential schools of thought in philosophy, political theory, theory of art, sociology, psychology and cultural studies. As a leading member of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, Adorno analyzed capitalism with an emphasis on culture and claimed that art has the potential for emancipation. The Frankfurt School thinkers generally argued that instrumental rationality became the dominant form of reason and ceased to be self-reflective an...
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This paper analyzes the influence and relevance of Gramscian and Habermasian critical international theories within the context of recent developments in the world politics that do not function in favour of these discourses’ emancipatory objectives and projections. It first looks at their emergence as alternative paradigms to the traditional conceptualizations in the discipline of IR and then compares the roots of their theoretical positions and their contribution to the analysis of international politics. ...
Citation Formats
F. Yalvaç, “Critical Realism: Post-Positivist Stage in International Relations Theory,” ULUSLARARASI ILISKILER-INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, pp. 3–31, 2010, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: