Prudence and practicality: contending concepts in the reflectivist revision of the "second debate"?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 3:30pm
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:10pm

Without doubt 'prudence' was one of the key concepts in 'classical' political realism. However, until recently, it has hardly received any sustained attention in International Relations theory (IR). When it has, this came in the form of a debate which, intriguingly, unfolded between the proponents of political theory and sociological turn within IR reflectivism. This opposition was first hinted at within securitisation studies and then acquired more explicit formulations in the literature that followed the so-called 'practice turn'.

In this paper I argue that this opposition is reminiscent of the "second debate" in IR, provided the latter is read not as a discussion of methodology but rather a debate on the appropriateness of different methods to the study of the discipline's subject-matter. In fact, it was disagreements over the subject-matter that turned the discussion into a heated debate. What the current discussion within IR reflectivism demonstrates is that these disagreements are far from being resolved. Furthermore, contrary to what some participants to the current discussion contend, addressing these disagreements theoretically would not pull the discipline into sterile metatheoretical navel-gazing, but remind it of one of its central questions: the place of politics in global order.