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Abstracts Special Issue - Pragmatism in International Relations Theory - Volume 31 Number 3, 2002

The Pragmatism of Global and European Governance: Emerging Forms of the Political 'Beyond Westphalia
Mathias Albert ; Tanja Kopp-Malek

Abstract: This essay argues that debates on, as well as practices of, global and European governance reflect a 'pragmatist attitude' in international relations. This pragmatist attitude is hardly avoidable if global and European governance are seen as evolutionary processes in which a semantics apt for coming to grips with a 'post-Westphalian' world is developing. The article considers how the pragmatist attitude of global and European governance discourses is evident in their refusal to fix the contours of the political beyond the nation-state in its analytical, synthetic, and normative dimensions. It further argues that attempts to provide comprehensive accounts of governance beyond the nation-state are necessarily characterised by failure, because they do not engage the meta-theoretical problem of analysing an era in which the constitutive rules of the game of global politics are undergoing a dramatic shift. After establishing some contours of this 'non-capital-p-pragmatism' in international relations, the article discusses some of its implications for traditional International Relations (IR) agendas.

Pragmatic Solidarism and the Dilemmas of Humanitarian Intervention
Alex J. Bellamy

Abstract: The theory and practice of humanitarian intervention in the 1990s has produced a series of seemingly intractable dilemmas. Why do states act in some cases and not others? How are we to evaluate the legitimacy of particular acts? This article introduces a new perspective on these questions informed by a combination of pragmatism and solidarism. It argues that although the search for criteria that may be used to judge the legitimacy and efficacy of humanitarian intervention may be a futile one, it is possible to think about a politics of legitimate humanitarian intervention. Such a politics may be based on three key insights drawn from pragmatism: the dialogic construction of moral knowledge, the fallibility of knowledge, and the priority of democracy over philosophy. The article discusses how such a pragmatic solidarism may be used to interrogate the quest for legitimising criteria and to build a new politics of humanitarian intervention.

How to Make a Social Science Practical: Pragmatism, Critical Social Science and Multiperspectival Theory
James Bohman

Abstract: Pragmatism and critical theory share a practical and pluralist orientation to social inquiry. On this account, social inquiry is practical not simply by being instrumentally useful but by being oriented toward the realisation of normative ideals, most especially those of democracy. Central to such an enterprise is the relationship between social facts and norms, where facts are understood in the Deweyean sense of a 'problematic situation' that contains factors that both inhibit and enable the realisation of normative ideals. Social facts in this sense can best be analysed by 'multiperspectival theories' that take into account all the dimensions of the problem as well as the perspectives of all relevant actors. When understood as practical social inquiry, a multiperspectival International Relations theory could contribute to the task of realising new democratic possibilities, especially now given the 'fact' of uneven globalisation.

Deweyan Pragmatism and Post-Positivist Social Science in IR
Molly Cochran

Abstract: The appeal of positivism within International Relations (IR) hinges on the belief that it represents the application of science to the study of world politics. This article presents Deweyan pragmatism as an alternative, and better, way of employing scientific method in IR. John Dewey's unique formulations of key scientific concepts like 'objectivity', 'explanation' and 'experimentation' led him to an understanding of social enquiry that retains many of the virtues of scientific method while anticipating and incorporating the epistemological concerns that currently animate post-positivist work in and beyond IR.

Pragmatism's Boundaries
Matthew Festenstein

Abstract: The core, and arguably constitutive, problem confronted by an international political theory is that of the status of borders. This paper argues that pragmatism possesses useful resources for thinking about this issue, if understood in the right way. I begin by positing pragmatism as defined by four core commitments: holism, fallibilism, anti-scepticism, and the primacy of practice. The paper then examines four ways of endowing these basic commitments with more determinate political content: anti-revisionism, social holism, Richard Rorty's 'ethnocentric' conception of political philosophy,and Deweyan democratic inquiry. The article rounds off by outlining a well hedged defence of this last perspective, as both normatively attractive and capable of addressing some of the problems posed by boundaries.

Pragmatic Constructivism and the Study of International Institutions
Peter M. Haas ; Ernst B. Haas

Abstract: This article provides a pragmatic constructivist approach for progressing study in International Relations (IR) that sidesteps the ontological differences between major IR approaches, and that is capable of influencing practices in international relations. In particular, it looks at how international institutions can be studied and the possible consequences of how they are studied. While institutions are at times, as realists and neoliberal institutionalists contend, merely the artefacts of strategically and rationally motivated state actors, they are viewed differently by pragmatic constructivists. Institutions may, at times, be wilful actors on their own, but are also the venue in which reflexive new practices and policies develop. Pragmatic constructivism provides the explanatory lens through which this may be understood, as well as the methodological guidelines by which such a process may be pursued.

On the Historical Imagination of International Relations: The Case for a 'Deweyan Reconstruction'
Jonathan B. Isacoff

Abstract: Despite the recent profusion of historical scholarship in International Relations (IR), there has been little questioning of the positivist assumptions upon which much of that work is premised. This is important because if the assumptions upon which historical knowledge within IR scholarship is constructed were found to be flawed, then explanations that appear to successfully account for historical cases might not be as accurate as we would like to believe. In response to this problem, this article explores John Dewey's pragmatist approach towards history, arguing that Dewey's pragmatism views historical knowledge as socially constructed, but not necessarily to the exclusion of alternative perspectives. The article concludes that Deweyan pragmatism not only provides a more useful way to go about historical research, but also recovers for IR the ability to engage in work that is explicitly for something, and in particular, for the improvement of the public good.

Returning Practice to the Linguistic Turn: The Case of Diplomacy
Iver B. Neumann

Abstract: The linguistic turn in the social sciences has been fruitful in directing attention towards the preconditions for action, as well as those actions understood as speech acts. However, to the extent that the linguistic turn comprises only textual approaches, it brackets out the study of other kinds of action, and so cannot account for social life understood as a whole. We should return to seminal theorists such as Wittgenstein and Foucault, who complemented a linguistic turn with a turn towards practices. Drawing on the work of ethnographers such as Michel de Certeau and sociologists such as Ann Swidler, in part one of this article I suggest that this may be done by using a simple model of culture as a mutually conditioned play between discourse and practices. In part two, I use this model to study changing Norwegian diplomatic practices in the High North in the aftermath of the Cold War. The claim is that capital-based diplomatic practices are being complemented by emerging local practices which may only be governed from the capital by indirect means. Diplomacy thus changes from being a centralised to being a multibased practice.

Re-orienting International Relations: On Pragmatism, Pluralism and Practical Reasoning
David Owen

Abstract: This essay presents the case for a re-orientation of International Relations (IR) in terms of the pragmatist ethos sketched in the work of John Dewey. It argues that contemporary IR theory is characterised by the threat of theoreticism and that this danger is heightened by the confusion between pictures and theories. The essay goes on to indicate how a pragmatist orientation to issues of government in terms of a processual ethic could provide a framework within which the pluralism characteristic of contemporary IR is reconceived in terms of a mutual agonism (rather than antagonism) in the service of practical reasoning and judgement. Viewing IR as a form of practical philosophy oriented to the government of the common affairs of humanity, this orientation stresses the distinct roles that accounts directed to world-disclosure and those directed to action-coordination play in IR and argues that the former are crucial to reflection on problem constitution, while the latter are vital to reflection on problems.

Globalising Democracy Without a State: Weak Public, Strong Public, Global Constitutionalism
Hauke Brunkhorst

Abstract: The usefulness of Dewey's conception of a public for contemporary International Relations (IR) theory lies in its explication of an expanding network of problem-solving communities ('deliberative democracy'). The idea of a weak and deliberative public endowed with growing moral influence fits well with the globalisation of communicative media and attention to human rights. Still, inclusive discussion and deliberation combined with political protest movements do not amount to egalitarian democracy. The latter presupposes not only the right to free expression but also constitutional access to processes of representation and decision making. Against the emerging background of global law, this article investigates the question of whether global society has a constitution, and gives a twofold answer. While global society can be said to have a constitution with respect to constitutive core elements of equal rights, it lacks a strong public as well as a democratic constitution. However, the existing global weak public can be optimistically interpreted as a 'strong public in the making'. This interpretation corrects the institutional and legal weakness of Deweyan pragmatism, lending his notion of a public some new relevance for IR.