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date: 11 November 2019

Summary and Keywords

Methodology is not often discussed in the English School. In fact, its proponents disdain methodology altogether, though that is not to say that the scholars of the English School are without method. There exists within the English School a plurality of methods. However, a plurality of methods does not imply a plurality of ontologies, much less epistemologies. Central to the English School is the concept of international society. Of the specific methods provided by a number of the English School’s most prominent intellectuals, the first to note is the importance of empirical research as opposed to grand theorizing. If English School theorists wear their grand theory lightly, it is not least because they come from an empirical tradition and they spend time in archives getting their hands dirty. They become immersed in diplomatic records, memoirs, and newspapers. They spend time in international institutions, listening to what international civil servants say and to what they think they are doing. They reflect on the meaning of diplomatic action and on the precepts behind that action. Hence, their notion of a “practice” serves, among other things, to point the researcher in the direction of the practitioner. The sources for such an approach would include foreign office documentation, memoirs of the major political actors of the time, interviews, newsprint, and historical archives. What they are looking for in this material is the self-conceptions of the actors who are participating in the processes that constitute international life.

Keywords: methodology, English School, methodological plurality, empiricism, empirical research, English School methods

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