Critical theory in international relations

This article aims to present Critical Theory in International Relations. It is understood that there has been a lacuna in theoretical debates with little attention paid to this tradition in Brazil. The current revival in theoretical discussions contributes to the weakening of conventional theories. The role of Critical Theory in this trend is fundamental. Frankfurt School Critical Theory is examined as a philosophical and metatheoretical forerunner to its International Relations' counterpart. There follows the epistemological bases for the challenges Critical Theory poses to conventional approaches, with particular regard to the work of Robert W. Cox. Neo-Gramscian thought is thus in the light of concerns for social transformation in International Relations. The Critical International Theory perspective is subsequently scrutinized as a source for emancipatory concerns of IR scholars. The work of Andrew Linklater is presented due to the search for the transformation of political communities by way of the expansion of moral boundaries. A critical assessment of the impacts of Critical Theory to the field of International Relations is thus presented. This article concludes that Critical Theory is largely accountable for the turn towards the ontological and epistemological issues that have distinguished this field of study within the last few decades, by exposing the consequential shortcomings of the predominant conventional theoretical approaches. However, Critical Theory is deliberately associated to post-positivist epistemologies.

International Relations Theory; Critical Theory; Frankfurt School; Gramsci


Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Instituto de Relações Internacionais Rua Marques de São Vicente, 225 - Casa 20 , 22453-900 Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brasil, Tel.: (55 21) 3527-2284, Fax: (55 21) 3527-1560 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
E-mail: cintjournal@puc-rio.br