International Relations


The study of international relations has been a contested ground for many decades. A specific indication of this would be explaining or understanding the nature or knowledge of the world. Many theorists from different schools of thought since the 1930’s have debated the contributions made among themselves. The main terminology here initially is the epistemology or ontology of the research among international relations theorists, much confined within the boundaries of social research either scientific or non-scientific, objective or subjective.


Fundamentally, theories in international relations are either foundational or anti foundational, explanatory or constitutive. Therefore, as a researcher you either fall under the positivist framework of research or the post positivist framework in research. Both of the aforementioned frameworks have been at odds with each other since the birth of research in international relations. In relation to the validity and warrantable acceptability of knowledge that constitutes to the focus. The focus is obviously explaining or understanding international relations. The scale has two ends just as there is a scale among states, democratic on one end and on the other anarchy. The placement of a state on such a scale is dependent upon the domestic and foreign policy, most presently speaking.


There has been much debate between positivist theorists among themselves as Rationalists and Post Positivist theorists as Reflectivist also among themselves, both still existent today. But in the present day there seems to be a new theory that intends to ‘bridge the gap’. Known as Social Constructivism. Using theoretical frameworks and methodology from both sides. Very rationalist in its ways and not very cosy with Reflectivist, though it has been said that this theory has become prevalent. On the grounds that European integration seems to be the best place to test it. Bearing in mind it is a very new theory and it requires some refining and much more contributions in respect of knowledge.


Thus far, IR terminology has occurred very often and I intend to clarify this in detail. But more importantly tackle the focus on what contributions, social constructivism has made to the study international relations?


IR scholars wish to be exempt from the extreme methodological debate and have introduced ‘middle ground’. This is found in the attempt to introduce Social constructivism as it has already been contained in a definition of sociology by Max Weber (1964:88) ‘A science which attempts the interpretive understanding of social action in order to arrive at a casual explanation of it’s course and effects.’ However, Social constructivism, it has been said needs to show more to be accepted as the middle ground in researching social phenomena.


I intend to define the difference in position between two methodological positions Positivism and Post Positivism with the relevance of epistemology and ontology and other related terminology in the research of social phenomena. This will then illustrate the introduction of social constructivism and it’s relevance and the contribution it has made to the study of social phenomena in international relations.


Positivism is the most influential school of thought; scientific methods are used to conduct investigations and research in international relations. Using empirical data for introducing theories, the epistemology and ontology is explaining objectively. Dominant theories such as Realism and Pluralism have come from the work of scholars under the positivist’s school of thought. Both, of which are rational theories and very constitutive to international relations. There are many sub theories under the category of Realism and Pluralism; this has given rise to much debate among rationalists recently. Most recognised as the inter paradigm debate of Neo-Realists and Neo-Liberalists. The neo-neo debate is very modern as these are the refined theories of the traditional Realist and Liberalist theories. The rationalists have explicitly rejected the work of post positivistic research for epistemological and ontological reasons.


There has been much development in liberalism, one such type of liberalism is that of ‘utopian’. Widely known as Wilsonian idealism founder of the league of nation along with the French and British. Subsequently after the First World War, this is reminiscent of the work from Immanuel Kant in perpetual peace. The idea is to bring Democracy and self-determination to the world and an international organization to resolve disputes. This effectively brings interdependence on a global stage such as previous forms of diplomacy had been unsuccessful at dissolving the problems that brought