Post Structuralism in IR

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  • 8/13/2019 Post Structuralism in IR



    PS is the most philosophical theory we have studied so far.

    Encompasses a wide variety of strands of thought, and there is no oneschool, PSs dont like to be termed as PSs, instead rather criticalthinkers.

    PS focuses on Truth, power and ethics.They are mutually constitutive,intermittently intertwined.

    CLAIM 1: there are no universals; i.e. state, anarchy,o Therefore cannot explain anything, rather the universals must be


    Nietzsche; Never saw himself as a theorist and was primarily againstphilosophy.

    o He is the breaker of systems, rather than philosophers trying tocreate a system of understanding.

    o On the geniality of morality, those things we take as universal,e.g. morality, are historical contingents.

    o He tried to break the idea that these things are timeless (they allhave a history).

    CLAIM 2: If knowledge is a reflection of power, then:1. We must be very suspect of truth claims. E.g. Realist claim that

    war is driven by anarchy.2. We must ask questions such as:

    a. Whose worldview does this theory support?

    b. What kinds of foreign policy does itc. Who does it marginalize?

    Problems and Knowledgeo Heideggers Carpenter: the carpenter can hammer nails all day

    and have a philosophical conversation at the same time and that95% of the things we do dont require thinking. We dont thinkabout getting through a door to get out of a room.Throwing a ball with right hand is instrumental, but when you tryto throw with left arm you need to think about it even though you

    know how to throw/carpenter switching hands to hammer nails.1. We rarely think. This is because most knowledge isinstrumental.

    2. We are only forced to think when we encounter a problem. Therest of the time we are quite content to rely on habits which wedo not question.

    3. Facing a problem we are forced to think

    PS in IR:1. A focus on practice in IR

    a. E.g. Diplomacy

    b. Foreign Policy

  • 8/13/2019 Post Structuralism in IR


    2. A focus on technologies in IR: instrumentalised knowledgewhich allows us to do things without thinking about it

    a. Insurance and risk3. A focus on problems as events in IR

    a. E.g. IR and the problem/event of Great Power War,

    Events, Catastrophes

    CLAIM 3: We require a new critique of IRNeo-realism used as a tool to train state dept. workers,

    o Critique: Genealogy: revealing the role of power has played in the

    constitution of knowledge. Taking things we take to becommon sense, e.g. morality and gender relations, arenot immediately obvious and have histories

    Problematisation: Making claims or concepts normallyheld to be common-sense, problematic or difficult to

    sustain. War on terror is based on the premise that weare fighting religious fanatical others, this allows us tojustify military action, and these practices brutal but nowcommonplace, and we need to break these down in orderto de-normalise them.

    Like critical theoryo Stress the role of power in supporting traditional theorieso SEE SLIDES.

    Truth and Power:o Foucault, the politics of truth

    A different account of power. Power is not a substance. itis a relation. i.e. US is losing power, China is gainingpower, suggesting it is a substance. For PS it isnt asubstance and cant be measured, it is a relationship ofpower. E.g. state has interest and exercises power overdifferent states, instead

    These relations from broader networks. Truth isnt corrupted by power. Power is constitutive of

    truth. There is no objective truth

    o Power is not only repressive, but is also productive. E.g. a cctvcamera prevents you in acting in a certain way, but encouragesyou to act in a positive way

    Ethical Implications: Unlike Critical Theoristso Believe that power cannot be wholly eradicatedo Dont believe that there is an objective truth which can be

    revealed when power is eradicated.o Critique must be ongoing. We will never achieve a point (utopia)

    where we no longer need to work and critique. It is an ongoingprocess where we will never get to a perfect world like Marxists

    etc. believe in. this does not mean they are not striving for abetter world, just that we can continue to improve and critique.


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