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Wk 7. Critical International Relations Theory: Emancipation and Dialogue

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Shannon Brincat

on 12 February 2018

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Transcript of Wk 7. Critical International Relations Theory: Emancipation and Dialogue

Traditional and
Critical Theory
heory: associated with the Frankfurt School (1920s ff)

* A 'critical' rather than 'utopian' exercise that looks to the immanent tendencies of emancipation in IR

* 'Critical International Relations Theory': an extension of Frankfurt School ideas into a
critique of the international system and
the state, seeking to transform/emancipate world politics
Critical Theory
Knowledge interests
and emancipation
* Critique of Positivism as radically incomplete

* Exposing the relation between positivism, Neorealism and dominant interests in world politics

* "... theory is always for someone, and for some purpose"

* Opening the field to normative critique and the importance of emancipatory theorising
Wk 7:
ritical International Relations

The Break with 'Marxism'
* Linked to Marxism. An extension of Marxism?

* Problem of the proletariat and the
lack of revolution - Stalinism, Fascism
and consumerism

* Concerned with ideology and
cultural critique
Meet the
Frankfurt School

Five periods of the Frankfurt School:
1. Orthodox Marxian historical/theoretical studies (1923 to late 1920s, under Carl Grunberg)
2. Early 1930s (under Horkheimer) broadened scope of studies of emancipation (i.e. psychoanalysis/culture).
3. Institute’s return to Frankfurt in 1950 until the death of Horkheimer and Adorno - work turns pessimistic
4. The 1970s and 1980s work of Jurgen Habermas, his colleagues and students, who form the second the third generations of CT. Focus on language and dialogue
5. Third Generation: Systems Theory (Luhmann), democracy (offe), Recognition Theory (Honneth)... ongoing
The Institut fur Sozialforschung,
founded in 1923

* Early members: Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Friedrich Pollock, Erich Fromm, Walter Benjamin,
* Later theorists: Jürgen Habermas, Claus Offe, Axel Honneth, Oskar Negt, Alfred Schmidt, Albrecht Wellmer
* "a comprehensive theory of social life" that linked philosophy
and social science
* economic interpretation of history (Marxism)
* psychoanalysis and social psychology (Freud)
* classical (Weberian) sociology, culture and technology
* 'immanent critique' and dialectics (Hegel)
Key Focus:
... a concern with consciousness, subjectivity, culture, ideology,
capitalism and the concept of socialism to make possible radical, emancipatory political change
Key Theorists
Key Problems and Aims
How are these social
realities related?
Max Horkheimer
* Most influential director of the Frankfurt School (see "Inaugural Address", 1933)
* Focused CT on contemporary social life as
a synthesis of philosophy and social science
* Concerned with a reduction in human suffering (Schopenhauer)
* The material conditions for a 'reasonable' world existed that offered the 'same possibility of self-development' for all... but this was thwarted by social fragmentation
The Eclipse of Reason
* Rise of fascism linked to denigration of 'reason' and deference to 'instrumental reason' and positivism

* Three types of reason: objective, subjective and instrumental

* Instrumental Reason now dominant: criterion of reason is its operational value or purposefulness; truth becomes contingent on mere subjective preference
Adorno: The
Authoritarian Personality
Conventionalism - rigid adherence to conventional middle-class values (“Obedience and respect")
Authoritarian submission - uncritical acceptance of authority
Authoritarian aggression - a tendency to condemn anyone who violates conventional norms (asylum seekers or 'illegals'?)
Sex - exaggerated concern for proper sexual conduct
Anti-intraception - rejection of weakness or sentimentality (“The businessman and the manufacturer are more important to society than the artist and the professor)”
Superstition and stereotypes - belief in mystical determinants of action and rigid, categorical thinking (religious extremism?).
Power and toughness - preoccupation with dominance over others.
Destructiveness and cynicism - a generalizaed feeling of hostility and anger (“Human nature being what it is, there will always be war and conflict.”)
Projectivity - a tendency to project inner emotions and impulses outward (“Most people don’t realise how much of our lives are controlled by plots hatched in secret places” i.e. conspiracy theories, mythical weapons of WMDs in Iraq?)
Adorno: Ideology
and Cultural Critique
“The fact that ‘no universal history' leads from savages to humanity, but very well from the catapult to the atom bomb” - T.W. Adorno
"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."
- Malcolm X
* Contradiction between Western 'civilisation' and
its 'barbarism'

* How can life be more than the mere struggle for
self-preservation? What does self-preservation justify and mask in society?

* "Philosophy is still necessary because the time to
realise it was missed" (Negative Dialectics, 1966)

* Problem: if society as a self-regulating system of oppression, how can we become emancipated?
Marcuse: One-Dimensional Man
The Dialectic
of Enlightenment
The end of the 'First Generation'
Horkheimer: 'The Wholly Other' (religious transcendentalism)

Adorno: Retreat to aesthetics

Marcuse: Faith in libidinal instincts
* Extension of Marx's concept of alienation under capitalism
* Commodities had become the extensions of people's minds and bodies
* Consumerism had become a form of social control through irrational desires to consume
* Total integration of the working class into capitalism... emancipation could only be achieved by those not integrated into 'One-Dimensional Society'
* Problem: interpenetration of consumerism everywhere... how could emancipation occur?
“The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment..." - Herbert Marcuse
* Western enlightenment trapped as a form technical instrumental reason and domination

* Nazism, Stalinism, state capitalism and the ‘culture industry’ confirmed revolution and emancipation were now impossible

* For Horkheimer and Adorno "...there is no longer any dynamism upon which critique could base its hope" (Habermas)
Cox: Problem-Solving
and Critical Theory
The Links between
The Critique
of Neorealism
The Critiques
of the Critics
Marxism without the Proletariat?
* How can you have a theory of the emancipation of
the working classes without an emphasis on class-analysis?
The Realist Critique
How can we achieve practically achieve emancipation in a world divided by sovereign states and late capitalism?
The Critique of Totalitarianism
Will Critical Theory's universalist hopes for emancipation merely issue in another form of
A Question of Exclusion
If theory is for someone and for some purpose,
who is CT and whose purpose/s does it serve?

... where is postcolonialism and gender?
What is Emancipation?
An idea left vague... Is this deliberate, or is it because it is impossible?
The Ghost of Adorno
The problem of 'men' and 'citizens'
Recognition - 'love, rights and solidarity'
* Under positivism and the principle of exchange (profit) society was made to seem as an “unchangeable force of nature, a fate beyond man’s control.”
* Thought was made to accept the tasks set to it by the “needs” of governments, commerce, and industry without questioning its values and interests
* CT offered a social or intersubjective ontology: the “definite individual” in their real relation to other individuals, groups, and the “web of relationships”
The Positivist
Dispute in German Sociology
* The diverse nature of society meant that
homogeneity could not be asserted in the same
manner as the natural sciences

* The contradictions in capitalist society
could not be glossed over by incremental
'scientism' that masked the values for
which science was being made to serve

* Seems to create a split between 'Problem-Solving' and 'Critical' Theory... Rather, CT seeks a unity between philosophy and social science... Positivism is not wrong but incomplete...

* Cox reduces CT's attachment to 'emancipation'
1. Dialectics reveals patterns of conflict
2. Imperialism reveals dominance of core
3. Reciprocal relation between structure
and superstructure
4. Connection between power and production
Critical International Relation Theory disputed Neorealism's:
- Ontology (of the 'rational-actor')
- Epistemology (of positivism)
- Normative basis (of the status-quo and dominant interests)
* Neorealism's ahistorical analysis was unable to understand sociality as a generative mechanism of change
* neo-realism was utilisable for the dominant interests in the international system
“...normalizing and privileging one particular understanding of what constitutes knowledge... privileging [the] epistemology [of positivism] has the effect of undermining the truth-claims of those who wish to challenge the provenance of the prevailing order. It makes other ways of knowing – and other ways of being – illegitimate.” - Richard Wyn Jones
Some 'Visions' of
Emancipation in CT and CIRT
Critical Theory must combine science and philosophy (Horkheimer), or realism and utopianism (Carr), or practical and normative thinking in order to "explain what is wrong with current social reality, identify actors to change it, and provide clear norms for criticism and practical goals for the future" (Bohman)
Discourse Ethics
Problematises the ethical priority or privileges given to insiders vs. the obligations to distant strangers

Linklater judges social arrangements by the capacity to embrace open dialogue and forms of community that break with unjustified exclusion - a form of cosmopolitanism?

Focuses on Habermas (discourse ethics and dialogue) to create legitimate cosmopolitan community

* Constitutionalism, democracy and the socio-economic conditions make possible the formation of IR to a dialogic community
Owen's 'New Harmony'
The White Knight
Ashley: Dialectical Competence Model
* Habermas Sought to ground emancipation as part of humankind's “knowledge-constitutive interests” (links to Horkheimer's objective, subjective and instrumental reason)
1. Technical interest: to control, make, predict our
natural and social environments (positivism)

2. Practical interest: securing and expanding possibilities of mutual and self-understanding in the conduct of life (hermeneutics)

3. Emancipatory Interest: Concerned with overcoming dogmatism, compulsion, and domination (Critical Theory)
Problem: Are Freudian and Marxism
sufficiently 'intersubjectively'
Discourse Ethics:

(i) no one capable of making a relevant contribution has been excluded

(ii) participants have equal voice and agree to learn from others

(iii) all are free to speak their honest opinion without deception or self-deception

(iv) there are no sources of coercion built into the process and procedures of discourse.
* Elevated concerns of power and the global hegemonic order to help practically realise the project of emancipation
* Examined the balance of power by locating it in the real social, economic, and environmental conditions
* Conjoined empirical approaches to power, order and security with an emancipatory framework
* Resource allocations and principles of legitimacy were exposed as the pillars on which the balance of power regime depended... leading to the outlines of a 'realistic emancipatory theory'
Norbert Elias

* For Cox, intercivilisational coexistence is possible... and has been demonstrated historically

* A pluralist form of cosmopolitanism and intercivilisational dialogue as a form of emancipatory theory
Three stages of recognition:
(i) Love: self-confidence
(ii) Rights: self-respect
(iii) Solidarity: self-esteem
Has human society become too enmeshed in consumerism, commodification, and authoritarianism to achieve emancipation?

Was Adorno right to suggest the time to realise philosophy and emancipation had passed?
Critical Theory: “a theory dominated at every turn by a concern for the reasonable conditions of life”
- Max Horkheimer
Emancipation & Dialogue
* Does not mean mere criticism

* Critique: to expose the limits of existing knowledge claims; what they exclude; what they gloss over

* Critical Theory attempts to bridge philosophy and social science
Some problems
in Positivism
* Studies things by abstracting from their context
(the social totality)

* Reduces knowledge to a collection of external data in order
to deduce unchangeable natural (social) laws

* The observer is deemed the passive recipient of
independent data

* Appearance of fact; not the value of things
* There is no theory of society “that does not contain
political motivations” (Horkheimer, 1937) (link to Robert W. Cox...)

* Positivism reflected purposes of the status quo

* Positivist social science “reified [the] consciousness of the people tested” by registering only the reactions that took place within the dominant system... “the socially average illusion” (Adorno, 1961-1969)
Positivism's alleged
'neutrality' is impossible
the Frankfurt School
Emancipation Proclamation
Freeing of Convicts
* Limited evidence of a 'Civilising Process' to reduce harm done to 'distant strangers'

* Links to ‘cosmopolitanism harm conventions' i.e. Landmines Test Ban Treaty; transboundary pollution
The problem of 'harm',
and the move to cosmopolitanism
* Communication foundational for social life
* Democracy should be governed by “the unforced force of the better argument”
* Formal and procedural...
* Hope that this would lead to inclusion over moral exclusion and the breakdown of barriers between self and other
How can dialogue be useful in IR?
“… an analysis of relations of free individuality, with the move beyond the particularism of the state to a universal society of free beings with rights and duties expressive of their identification with humanity”
- Andrew Linklater (1981/1990)
Recognition allows for a complex/diverse and tolerant social life. A form of Perpetual Peace?
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