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Palgrave Macmillan

Overcoming Poststructuralism

Rawls, Kratochwil and the Structure of Normative Reasoning in International Relations

ISBN 9781137380722
Publication Date August 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series International Political Theory

The theorisation of international relations has progressed considerably in recent years to the point that a dialogue between the concurrent disciplines of International Relations (IR), political theory and international law has started to emerge. There is, however, much work still to be done in establishing what could be termed an 'International Theory' – one which contains the potential to transcend arbitrary disciplinary and methodological boundaries (particularly where the subject matter of the respective disciplines – working out a conception of normative reason appropriate to application in considerations of international justice and human rights – is trans-disciplinary in nature).

This insightful contemporary critique considers the poststructuralist challenge to the very foundations and methodological commitments of traditional IR theory, as developed by R.B.J. Walker and Richard Ashley in the 1990s and beyond – as well as the various ways in which the discipline has sought to respond to such a pervasive attack on its most cherished beliefs. This study not only brings into question the central tenets of traditional IR theory, but also uses the political thought and theories of key thinkers including John Rawls, Friedrich Kratochwil and Peri Roberts to posit an account of normative reasoning which overcomes the challenges presented by a poststructuralist perspective.

Antony O'Loughlin, Solicitor, Mishcon de Reya, UK.

1. Introduction: The 'Enormous Creative Potential of Practical Reason'

2. Inside/Outside: Walker, Ashley, and the Poststructuralist Critique of IR
3. Overcoming the Poststructuralist Critique? Ontology and Epistemology in the Constructivist Theories of Wendt and Kratochwil
4. Constitutive Political Theory: Mervyn Frost and the Role of Norms in International Political Theory


5. Beyond Coherence: Rawls's Conception of Public Reason
6. Contemporary Moral Foundationalism: Buchanan's Conception of Normative Reasoning and the Role of Institutions in Political Justification
7. Philosophical Constructivism and Critical Constructivism Combined: Kratochwil's Account of the Conditions of Practical Reasoning and the Rawlsian Conception of Public Reason
8. The Concept of the Reasonable in International Political Justification: A Rejoinder to the Poststructualist Critique
9. Conclusion. Overcoming Poststructuralism


'Antony O'Loughlin addresses two important questions: the moral grounding of human rights claims, and the specific properties of practical reasoning in international affairs. Serious-minded, lucid and compelling, O'Loughlin offers a fresh way of thinking about many of today's most urgent, and somewhat frightening problems in international relations.' - Anthony Julius, Deputy Chairman, Mishcon de Reya
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