The Point is Not Just to Explain the World but to Change It

Robert W. Cox

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199219322
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 The Point is Not Just to Explain the World but to Change It

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This article argues that the study of international relations should focus first on the key issues affecting the biological survival of the human race; and then on the pursuit of justice in the condition of peoples, which is essential to maintaining their support for a survivable world order. A short list of priorities would include: survival of the biosphere; avoidance of nuclear war; moderating the rich/poor gap; assuring protection for the most vulnerable people; and effective arrangements for negotiating conflict resolution. The point for us now is to try to understand the world as people are making it so as to gain some control over where we are going; and to forgo speculation about an immanent logic of history that will turn out to be an illusion.

Keywords: international relations; survival justice; world order; history; historical structures

Article.  4089 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Political Methodology

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