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The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2008

Vincent Pouliot
McGill University, Montreal, QC. E-mail:
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This article explores the theoretical implications of the logic of practicality in world politics. In social and political life, many practices do not primarily derive from instrumental rationality (logic of consequences), norm-following (logic of appropriateness), or communicative action (logic of arguing). These three logics of social action suffer from a representational bias in that they focus on what agents think about instead of what they think from. According to the logic of practicality, practices are the result of inarticulate know-how that makes what is to be done self-evident or commonsensical. Insights from philosophy, psychology, and sociology provide empirical and theoretical support for this view. Though complementary with other logics of social action, the logic of practicality is ontologically prior because it is located at the intersection of structure and agency. Building on Bourdieu, this article develops a theory of practice of security communities arguing that peace exists in and through practice when security officials' practical sense makes diplomacy the self-evident way to solving interstate disputes. The article concludes on the methodological quandaries raised by the logic of practicality in world politics.For helpful comments on earlier versions of this article, many thanks to Emanuel Adler, Janice Bially Mattern, Raymond Duvall, Stefano Guzzini, Jef Huysmans, Markus Kornprobst, Jennifer Mitzen, Iver Neumann, Daniel Nexon, David Welch, Alexander Wendt, and Michael Williams, as well as the journal's reviewers.

Research Article
© 2008 The IO Foundation and Cambridge University Press

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