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The limits of practice: why realism can complement IR’s practice turn

  • Jonathan Joseph (a1) and Milja Kurki (a2)

Abstract

This paper argues that the current calls for a practice turn in International Relations (IR) while positive in many respects, are problematic and potentially limiting because they are premised on a confused understanding of the role of philosophy and realist philosophy in particular and a restricted view of the role of sociological investigation. This arises from the problematic tendency to lapse into advocacy of an anti-realist philosophical and sociological imagination. We suggest that the problems that practice theorists point to should lead not to knee-jerk anti-realism but rather can motivate a reinvigorated conversation with realism. This entails revisiting the role of philosophy, realism, and sociology in the study of practices. We argue that far from being antithetical to practice theory, a reconsideration of realist philosophy helps make sense of the role of practice and provides those advocating practice theory with better tools to deal with the challenges which motivated the development of these theoretical stances. Reconsidering realism entails, however, a reconsideration of a wider social ontology within which practice takes place, and openness to the role of philosophical and theoretical abstractions in teasing out the role of practice.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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References

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International Theory
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