Critical Theory

Richard Shapcott

in The Oxford Handbook of International Relations

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


Critical Theory

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This article provides an overview of the most important elements of the critical theory of international relations. Any inquiry into critical international relations theory has to distinguish at least two central components. The first is the epistemological and methodological, what it says about theory; and the second is the normative and substantive, what it says about the world. In other words, ‘why do we study international relations and how do we study international relations’? The article demonstrates this by examining, first, the nature of the critical theory theoretical project and how it differs from and challenges mainstream conceptions of international relations; and secondly, the contributions that have been made by critical international relations theory so far. It begins with a brief discussion of the origins of critical theory and critical international relations theory before examining the major claims and achievements.

Keywords: critical theory; international relations; Frankfurt School; study; mainstream conceptions

Article.  8060 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations ; Political Methodology

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