Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Beyond Positivism: Critical Reflections on International Relations

Claire Turenne Sjolander and Wayne S. Cox
ISBN: 978-1-55587-483-4
1994/203 pages/LC: 93-33324

"Wide ranging and thought provoking."—Australian Journal of Political Science

"Provides the reader with a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, critical re-examination of the limitations of the Third Debate, and the theoretical issues and problems presently facing international relations scholarship."—Canadian Journal of Political Science

"This is a very welcome set of essays. Each chapter is well written, located within a clear theoretical perspective, and well integrated with other chapters in the book.... First-class examples of this perspective at work."—Mershon International Studies Review

"The authors of this unusually well-written book make a compelling case for theoretical reflexivity."—Thomas J. Biersteker

"This is a book that deserves a wide readership."—Millennium


The metatheoretical debates between positivists and postpositivists that characterized the development of IR theory during the 1980s left at least one major question unanswered: what does postpositivist scholarship look like? This book offers an answer to that question, proceeding from the premise that the metatheoretical debates have reached an impasse, and suggesting that scholarship motivated by theoretical reflexivity provides a base on which alternative, more useful, understandings of international relations can be developed.

Sharing a common critical perspective on the traditional development of IR theory, each of the chapters seriously questions the state-centric realist and the positivist assumptions that have guided so much of the scholarship in the field. The authors trace the evolution of the various IR debates, elaborate on the meaning of theoretical reflexivity, consider applications of the approach to important contemporary issues (international trade, the Gulf wars, the global energy regime), and examine the contributions to reflectivism of other contemporary theoretical traditions.


Claire Turenne Sjolander is assistant professor of political science at the University of Ottawa (Canada). Wayne Cox is lecturer in political studies at Queen's University (Canada).


  • Critical Reflections on International Relations—the Editors.
  • Reflexivity and IR Theory—M. Neufeld.
  • The Discourse of Multilateralism: U.S. Hegemony and the Management of International Trade—C.T. Sjolander.
  • The Politics of Violence: Global Relations, Social Structures, and the Middle East—W.S. Cox.
  • Neorealism or Hegemony? The Seven Sisters' Energy Regime—G.J. Legare.
  • Postmodern Political Realism and IR Theory's Third Debate—T. Porter.
  • And What About Gender? Feminism and IR Theory's Third Debate—S.J. Ship.
  • Problematizing the State in IR Theory—E. Fuat Keyman.