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date: 11 December 2018

Summary and Keywords

Critical international relations theory (CIRT) is not only an academic approach but also an emancipatory project committed to the formation of a more equal and just world. It seeks to explain the reasons why the realization of this goal is difficult to achieve. What is crucial here is not only the social explanation, but also politically motivated action to achieve an alternative set of social relations based on justice and equality. Critical theory in international relations (IR) is part of the post-positivist turn or the so-called “fourth debate,” which followed the inter-paradigm debate of the 1970s. Post-positivism consists of a plurality of theoretical and epistemological positions that opened up wide ranging criticisms of the neo-realist “orthodoxy” that has dominated IR theorizing since the beginning of 1980s. Critical theory has challenged the mainstream understanding of IR, and has spurred the development of alternative forms of analysis and approaches. Moreover, since the beginning of the 1980s, different types of CIRT have become the main alternative to mainstream IR. The general aim of CIRT can be summed up by Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” A specific tradition of critical thought in IR, derived from Marx, comprises the normative Critical Theory (CT) of the Frankfurt School—termed the “structural critical theory”—since it focuses more on the sociological features and dynamics of capitalism.

Keywords: critical theory, critical international relations theory, Frankfurt School, structural critical theory, Karl Marx, justice, equality, normative critical theory, capitalism

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