The English School and International Theory

Hidemi Suganami

in International Society and its Critics

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265206
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601866 | DOI:
The English School and International Theory

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The author outlines and assesses the contribution the English School of International Relations to theory in the study of world politics by discussing in turn each of three aspects of theorizing: ‘explanatory’, ‘normative’, and ‘international’. Explanatory theory aims to help understanding of how it is that the realm of world politics works out the ways it appears to do, while normative theory elucidates the steps through which some fundamental normative presuppositions lead to conclusions regarding what should be done in world politics. The author uses the term ‘international theory’ in Martin Wight's specific sense of the term as ‘a tradition of speculation about relations between states, a tradition imagined as the twin of speculation about the state to which the name “political theory” is appropriated’. As the discussion progresses, some other senses of the word ‘theory’ are also brought to attention to elucidate the activities of the English School. In sum, the author argues that the English School's explanatory theory is woefully underdeveloped, its normative theory is in need of further reflection, while its international theory offers a useful way of interpreting world politics.

Keywords: English School of International Relations; explanatory theory, international relations; international relations theory; international society; international theory; normative theory; world politics

Chapter.  8574 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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