Critical Theory

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    • 00:10

      SHANNON BRINCAT: I'm Shannon Brincatfrom Griffith University, and I'm a research fellow there.Critical theory means a lot of different thingsto a lot of different people.And it cuts across a number of different theoreticalapproaches, but what I designate as Critical Theory

    • 00:32

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: with a capital C and a capital T,is that theoretical approach that was developed, initiallyby the Frankfurt School, and has sincebeen taken up into IR under the name of critical IR theory,or just critical international theory.It sort of emerged in international relations theory

    • 00:53

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: in the early '80s and made a strong intervention thereagainst the dominance of neorealist approaches,in particular.But its emergence has a far longer history, particularlywith the work from the Frankfurt School,beginning in the early '30s with the work of, particularly,

    • 01:15

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: the Institute for Social Research, well,it was often known.And I think it really came into its ownunder the directorship of Max Horkheimerand his first foray, or statement, of critical theorythat he juxtaposed with what he called traditional theory.And, of course, he was talking to social theory,or sociology primarily, rather than international relations,

    • 01:36

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: which wasn't really much on the radar of the Frankfurt School.But what he meant by this distinctionbetween critical theory and traditional theorywas traditional approaches to the social scienceshad largely followed in the lines of a positivist analysis.And what Horkheimer was at pains to emphasize

    • 01:57

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: was that this didn't tell us the whole story.And it also had a tendency to mask power relationswithin social systems.That it then gave a sense of as if they were studyingmerely objectively, scientifically,and which affirmed the powers of the status quo.

    • 02:20

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: And the point of critical theory,at least for Horkheimer, was that weneeded to extend our analysis into what canbe called emancipatory theory.And for him, he justified this as beingthe reduction of human suffering that he saw, particularlythroughout late capitalist modernity,through a number of institutions, particularly

    • 02:40

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: the state, particularly capitalism and the cultureindustry.And he sought to replace this traditional emphasison the social sciences with just explaining society as it is,with adding this emancipatory dimension of how we couldactually liberate, or emancipate, ourselvesfrom these conditions in which the social order was

    • 03:00

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: constraining human freedom.And I think that's the defining hallmark of the FrankfurtSchool approach to social theory.And, of course, this is debated.There's a lot of debate about what emancipation is, evenamongst critical theorists.And not a lot prefer to use that term.But I think it's definitely this critique of social sciences

    • 03:25

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: strictly being about explanation,towards processes of transformation.And I think that would be the hallmark that I would sayis still very much present in the workof critical theorists in IR.The Frankfurt School, in particular,

    • 03:46

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: was originally a think tank for Marxist thought.At least in its first manifestation.And under Horkheimer in particular,it sort of broke with traditional Marxismfor a number of reasons, particularly the deformationof the Soviet Union, but in principle,

    • 04:07

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: because they sought to answer the question of why therehad not been a revolution, particularlywithin the German context.You had a highly industrialized state, fairly polarizedworking class, coming out of the horrors of the World War I.All these conditions should have pointedtowards a successful Marxist revolution.

    • 04:28

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: But, obviously, Rosa Luxemburg and that were unsuccessful.And you had the rise of fascism, and World War II.So the question was why the working class had notrevolted as traditional Marxist theory had hoped, or predictedreally, if we're going to the Diamat forms of Marxist thought

    • 04:49

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: that were very prevalent at the time.And so towards that end, they brought inin particular a focus on culture,but also psychoanalysis that had at that point notbeen brought up into Marxist studies.And, particularly, you see how individuals and groupshave been subsumed by capitalism, by the state,

    • 05:11

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: through cultural means, as opposedto just the structural forces of economic determinism.And since then there's been a rupture.Sometimes the Frankfurt School isderided as being Marxism without the proletariat.And which I think is a little true,but it is a little unfair as well, because it's notsaying there-- Horkheimer has this great quote, no Marcuse,

    • 05:35

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: a great quote about that you can't reallyblame the working class for their failuresof revolting because of all the structures around themthat prevented this.And they're really trying to get to gripswith unmasking these forces of domination thatusually aren't seen as being forces of domination.Their masters being liberal freedoms,political civil rights, which are, of course, great things

    • 05:58

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: but they mask a whole host of problems.And the point is, again, to extend beyond thoseand to reach a emancipatory horizon, whateverthat may mean.And, of course, the members of the schoolhad different views on what this could be.And it definitely changed a lot over the course of their lives.Particularly Horkheimer and Adorno

    • 06:19

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: came to rather pessimistic conclusionsabout the possibilities.Horkheimer retreated to this concept of the holy other whichwas basically theological.Adorno to an aesthetic turn.I think Marcuse was perhaps the most that stayed optimisticand was still very relevant to the student revolutions in '68.And he retained this phase, that this,

    • 06:41

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: what he called the one-dimensional societycould be overcome.But his explanation will hope for thatand resided in a psychoanalysis type of argumentthat these libidinal instincts in human kindwould one day rupture the system.But that's the first generation of the Frankfurt School.And obviously, I'm going into a lot of detail here.But with later developments, particularly the work

    • 07:02

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: of Habermas, there was this so-called linguistic turn,where we look to communication and forms of dialogue thatcould ground this emancipatory interest that the FrankfurtSchool maintained.And the so-called third generationthat's working now-- I mean Habermas is still working too,but I think that for all intents and purposes,

    • 07:23

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Axel Honneth's work on recognition theoryand the attempt to move to a social theory that'sthoroughly intersubjective and looks to processesof recognition between self and otheris the way forward in terms of this groundingin emancipatory theory that's stillgrounded within real social relations,

    • 07:43

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: but has this tendency towards a politics of betterment.I'd probably call it.Even to go, there's a lot of problems with that as well.So I think if we look at one of the key theoristsin critical IR, Andrew Linklater's work,

    • 08:05

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: he has a excellent article called The Four Achievementsof Critical Theory.And the first of which is the focus on the factthat all forms of knowledge are based in human interests, whichis an idea he gathered from Habermas,

    • 08:26

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: but also Horkheimer before him.And so really poking holes at this ideathat there can be objective truthclaims that aren't tethered to existing power relations.So in the context of IR and critical theory's emergencein the early '80s, this was directedtowards a critique of the positivist foundations

    • 08:47

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: within neorealism in particular.That suggested that their approach was objectiveand politically neutral.And this critique that came from critical theoryshowed that that was merely maskingthe powers of the status quo and giving thatan objective reality that was not necessarily true at all.

    • 09:11

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: The second part is what Linklaterrefers to as the break with Marxism,as well, that I've already spoken about.But in particular, within the context of IR,looking to beyond the things that Marxism in its analysisexcluded, particularly pertainingto issues of dialogue and how dialogue and communication

    • 09:33

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: can be a catalyst for an emancipatory politics.But also the things that Marxism excludedby its economic determinist focus on economics.Not that this was a problem, but that thereneeded to be more analysis to that issue as well.And stemming from that analysis about the objective neutrality

    • 09:58

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: of the world system that neorealism has reallytalked a lot about, the view of critical theoryis that social structures are not immutable.In fact, they're changing on a daily basis.And that this attempt to capture realityas it is at a given point in timefailed to really illuminate the truths of our reality

    • 10:19

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: that was always in a process of transformation.So it uses different methods in its approach.Particularly this method of immanent critique,but also dialectics which is developed from Marxist origins,to look at processes of transformationwithin any given crisis.And to try and focus on those points of transformation

    • 10:40

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: within the present.And hopefully that could lead to an emancipatory politics,but not necessarily so.In fact, usually the other way.So this critique of immutability thesis,or that things don't change, the systems reproductionthesis of neorealism, all these thingswere contended by critical theory.

    • 11:03

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: And to a degree there has been some sort of shifts,I think, in IR theory, but I think we're stilla lot behind the eight ball.Not just IR theory, but social theory as a whole, and reallycoming to grips with understanding transformation.There's a tendency to think of understanding transformationmeans that you can predict things.This is if x and y happen then the conclusion is certain.

    • 11:26

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Whereas the focus, I think, of immanent critiqueis to focus on existing power structuresas they are and the composition of social forces and howthat it is leading to certain transformationsbut not in a predictive sense, but one of understanding.And hopefully-- and this is where critical theorycan merge with an activist politics--

    • 11:48

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: in hoping to understand that changeand promote it towards certain ends.And I think the last point that Linklaterwould make about the achievementsof critical theory, particularly in his first bookMen and Citizens, is that critical theory triesto break with all unjustified systems of exclusion.

    • 12:11

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So the insider-outsider dilemma of ethicsbetween our fellow citizens and our duties to outsiders,which is obviously an ancient tension with cosmopolitanthought.Critical theory seeks to overcome that.Particularly in Linklater's work through dialogue.And this is where he bases a lot of his, particularly

    • 12:32

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: his middle period, work on Habermas's notionsof dialogue and promoting discourse ethics.And I think here there's an interesting connectionwith the other, probably leading, critical theorist,Robert W. Cox, even though he doesn't call himselfa critical theorist, and has a lot of problems with the termemancipation.But he too, particularly in his later work,

    • 12:52

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: has looked towards principles of coexistenceand what he calls civilizational dialogueas a way of promoting peace in international relations.I think with more contemporary scholarship in critical IRtheory, that there might be two tendencies of development.The first of if would be picking up on Axel Honneth's work

    • 13:17

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: on recognition theory which obviously extendsupon this concern with dialogue and otherness in a sortof positive political sense.As opposed to the postmodern arguments against that.And also a greater engagement with social ontology,particularly overcoming this divide that happens always

    • 13:40

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: in social thought where we tend towards a dualistic wayof thinking between the subject and the objectand trying to overcome that.To not see things in such a binary or oppositionalframework.So I think this move to social ontologywill bring in questions of intersubjectivityfar more readily than a focus on state politics and war.

    • 14:04

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: And I think that would be a good turn in termsof helping us to understand global social relations.The debates between critical theoryand other conventional approacheshave been tough, to say the least.

    • 14:25

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So I've already said a lot about the initial debateswith neorealism so I won't really go over that.I think more contemporary issues that critical theoryis trying to grapple with-- because itcontinues to be marginalized.There's not many people doing critical theory, especiallyin this Frankfurt School sense of the term.But I think one of the points of contestation

    • 14:48

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: now is between what I would call the neo-neo and the synthesis.But which I'd extend to be somethingI'd call the neo-neocon synthesis within mainstream IR.What I mean by that is neorealism, neoliberalism,and mainstream constructivist analysis,to which seems to converge on a number of key points

    • 15:12

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: so that the differences between these theoretical approachesare no longer as clear cut as they once were.And it's particularly problematic for a disciplinethat is so varied in its interpretationsof international relations.When the three dominant approaches, particularlyin the North American Academy, converge and seem

    • 15:36

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: to agree on the central points-- the analysis of the state,an objective, scientific approach to understanding worldpolitics.And it seems in this sense that there is this dangerthat critical theory's always pointing to in regards to whatpower relations that that triumvirateof theoretical approaches coming together.

    • 15:57

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: What that excludes and what that hides.And I'm sure that a lot of constructivistswould disagree with me on this point,but there is that tendency towards-- Bostermakes the claim that it's about understandingsocial relations and the social construction of world politics.In its mainstream forms it has tended

    • 16:17

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: towards an elitist politics.So it's about norm cascades, and norm entrepreneurs.Whereas the social relations and intersubjectivity and realstruggle between groups has tendedto recede in the background.So in that regard those tensions are still playing out.On the other hand, the debates between

    • 16:39

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: postmodernist and critical theoristshave again been quite intense.Post-modernism, obviously, takes issuewith the universalistic assumptionsunderlying critical theory.Particularly this, what they would sayis a vacuous and very dangerous idea of emancipationbecause that might instill a theoretical monismacross the discipline and lead to a one world system.

    • 17:01

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: And those debates have been, I think, quite beneficialfor both.And I see them-- particularly some forms of postmodernand critical theory-- sort of, notmerging, I wouldn't say that, but at leastcoming to a common ground regardingthe questioning of politics and bringing backin elements of social struggle and resistance.Of course, they would still eschew the term emancipation,

    • 17:24

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: but there is definitely an ethic within most postmodern accountsthat I think is congruent with critical theorists.And I think with feminism as well, there'sbeen some great exchanges, particularly the debates.We did an edited volume on critical theoryand critical security studies and hadinterviews with Angela Lynn Claydor and Robert

    • 17:45

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Cox, Kim Booth.And a number of people responded to that.And I think the debates there, particularlythe feminist challenges against critical theory,have been well made.Particularly this point about the ethics of careand how these notions of emancipation,and this abstract universalism underlying a lot of the stuff

    • 18:05

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: that comes out of the Frankfurt School.Because it is a high end theory, ittends towards losing sight of real concrete social relations.And particularly the ethics of care, which feministscan grapple with a lot better.So again, I don't see these things as being ruptures.I see them as being areas where there's a lot of common ground.And I think looking towards those points of synthesis

    • 18:28

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: is really quite fruitful areas.Methodological positions and your view of the world,obviously, has tremendous effects.Not only in your research, but politics as well.So the way I try to teach my students that

    • 18:51

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: are being first introduced to IR theory,and to look at this word of ontology,is to see it as being an expression of one's worldviews, or these hidden assumptions of whatthere is in world politics.So the problem is because these-- and thisis where psychoanalysis comes in as welll-- is because we're

    • 19:11

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: usually very unconscious of these world views that we have.Our ontological position, whether expressedin theory or our everyday existence,is really unreflected on.So it's quite a challenge to question yourself and reflecton yourself.So I try to explain it as being a big iceberg.We see the top part of a theory, or one's position,

    • 19:33

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: and that's usually taken as everything.But underneath that is all these hidden biases and assumptionsthat go unreflected on, and unquestioned.And so I think the duty of a good scholar, or student,is to really come to grips with those underlying assumptionsthat are within any approach.And to bring those to light, and to contest them.

    • 19:54

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Not necessarily to reject them, but to be able to defend themif you so wish, through a reasoned way.Not to just leave them unquestioned and unknown.And the other way I describe ontology justto come to grips with it at a more basic level,is to see it being a horse with blinkers on in a race.

    • 20:16

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So they can only see certain thingsif they have a narrow ontology.So neorealism, and its focus on the state and war.It can focus on those questions.It's theory is said to be parsimonious.It doesn't explain everything, but explains a small bitvery, very well.And that's because of its ontological remit,you could say.That allows it to have that really sophisticated analysis

    • 20:38

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: of a small part of international relations.And the problem is if you want to explain,or if you consider what there is in world politics to be larger,then you would need to have a larger ontological position.And this is where I think this push towards social ontologyand a greater engagement with intersubjectivitydoes have certain problems because itdoesn't mean our analysis has to be far more extensive.

    • 21:00

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: We have to bring a lot more things in.Things are going to get a lot more complicated.And then it becomes a question of whatthe researcher values in terms of what'sgoing on in world politics.So I see it as being a definitely more beneficialturn, but definitely a lot harder to do.And particularly with the methodsthat critical theory uses-- immanent critique, dialectics.

    • 21:21

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: The painstaking methods which not everyonehas the patience to use.And particularly in this day and age of publish or perishit takes a lot more time to do that sort of research, I think.So going back to that critique of positivist approaches,there's a tendency within these to take the form,

    • 21:44

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: or the appearance of, world politics as itis, as being what it will be in the future.And even mistaking those formal relations,so things like sovereignty, and legal relations,particularly in that liberal sense, as being all there is,or the most predominant thing.And this sort of meshes with whatI was saying about constructivism earlier,

    • 22:05

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: about the problems of an elitist politics thatseems to be creeping in there.Whereas I think the approach of critical theory,and a few other approaches too, as itallows us to take a wider ontological view of what thereis in world politics, can engage more with social realityas it is, between people, between groups.Another part that is this pervasive, Hobbesian, imaginary

    • 22:29

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: that still comes across it a lot in international relationstheory as a whole.This pessimistic view of humankind.That war is endemic.That there's something wrong at the levelof the individual human-- sort of pessimistic, anthropologicalaccounts.And even though those things havebeen rejected by Waltz himself as first image analysis,

    • 22:55

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: nevertheless I think they still pervade in the backgroundof what people assume humankind to be, and how they act.So I think again, critical theory, because it takesthis dynamic view of humankind, that thereis no essentialized notion of human nature,allows us to not fall into those assumptions as readily.And from a different starting point,

    • 23:18

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: a different account can definitely emerge.So obviously, the position that onetakes in terms of research methods and approachesis a fundamental question.And it's one that should be seriously reflectedon because, obviously, the way yousee the world, it not just informsyou, obviously, of your personal world view,

    • 23:40

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: but the type of politics that comes outof your theoretical approach, and what is actuallyconsidered to be possible, or feasible, within worldpolitics.So it can be terribly constraining,but also enabling.But that requires a lot of self-reflection.

    • 24:02

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So pieces of research that I've donethat demonstrate the importance of theory,particularly methodological choices,has been my work on dialectics.Which has taken years to develop only a small understandingof dialectical analysis.My interest first came through Marx, obviously.

    • 24:23

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: But then at the behest of my Ph.D. supervisor, Martin Weber,said, you have to go into Hegel as well.And that was a nice two years of my life, there.But having done that, and coming to grips with that,has really enabled what I hope willbe further research in the future thatcan use a dialectical approach.

    • 24:43

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So I've written on a social relational dialecticalapproach.But then also looked at the negativity within dialecticsand how that promotes change through contradictionsbut within the context of IR.But also one that's concerned very muchwith the politics of difference.And in a recent special issue of Globalizationsthat was republished as Dialectics in World Politics,

    • 25:07

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: I was fortunate enough to have a dialogue with ProfessorLing, where we had a dialogue between a Hegelian dialecticalposition and Frankfurt School type approach,with her Taoist dialectics.So it was both intercultural but alsotwo different philosophical traditionsthat were allied on this question of how to view change

    • 25:28

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: in world politics.And that was a really fruitful exchange.And I think is a really good indicator of whatcan be done if you're open to be self-reflexive and havea constructive debate with others.Particularly when there's so much common ground thatis lost when you entrench yourselfinto a certain position.

    • 25:51

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Andrew Linklater said to me once,there's two types of theorists, the onesthat try to synthesize, and the ones that try to divide.And I think I'm firmly in that campthat's trying to bridge build and draw synthesizers,that way.So using that dialectical approachhas taken a lot of time to develop an understandingand to write about.But I definitely think it'll have helped me

    • 26:15

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: across my research career.And hopefully other people will start using it as well.Since we've laid out in that volume a number of dialecticalapproaches that I think it can all be useful for.The many various questions that needto be asked in international relations.

    • 26:38

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So what key thinkers have inspired my approach?Well definitely it was-- initially in high schoolwe did a subject called history of revolutions,where we studied the French and the Russian revolutions.That's where I first read the Communist Manifestoand was introduced to Marxist ideas then.

    • 26:58

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Went into law school.Didn't like that very much.So found international relations as a subject Ihad to do as part of politics.And that's where I was first introduced to critical IRtheory.In fact Andrew Linklater's Men and Citizenswas the first book that I read.And all of these, not coincidentally,

    • 27:18

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: were all within the same tradition of thought,that same critical approach.So definitely, Marx at the base of things,in terms of the older traditions.Then Hegel, definitely, particularly in my Ph.D. work.And underlying that all has been the Frankfurt Schoolwho I have definitely mined for a numberof different resources.

    • 27:41

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Out of all of those I'd definitelysay Horkheimer's early work has probablybeen most influential in the first generationof the Frankfurt School.But definitely Axel Honneth, as the third generation.Particularly his work on recognition theory,and this new method that he's developingabout what he calls normative reconstruction, in which we can

    • 28:02

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: look at social relations and developmentthrough a sort of ethical or moralistic frame-point.So they would definitely be the primary resourcesthat I've drawn upon.But also a lot of anarchist thinkers as well.

    • 28:23

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So how has IR theory changed in recent years?Well, going back to my earlier commentsusing Ole Waever's notion of the neo-neo synthesis,and adding to that the neo-neocon synthesis.I think that's probably the key development, particularlywithin orthodox IR.And I'd have to say, it's probably

    • 28:44

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: the more things change, the more they stay the same,at least in terms of IR theory.Which is sort of unfortunate.I remember when Robert Keohane in the mid '90s,stated that what he called reflectivist approachesand critical theory feminism, all those, hadto speak in a language that the mainstream could understand

    • 29:05

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: to be considered applicable.Unfortunately, still holds sway.Which is a real problem because the alternative approachesstill tended to be marginalized.Which has always been the case.And I don't think has changed a lot.Of course, there's a lot more exposure of students

    • 29:26

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: to these ideas, which is great.And there's heaps of great Ph.D. work coming through.But I still see the dominance of those orthodox IR approachesas still holding sway.And actually converging on a number of key pointswhich I think is a real problem for the plurality of thinking.

    • 29:50

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Is IR theory ahead in the question of research methods?It's a large question that I can't reallyanswer given the-- it's so hard to be across disciplinesbecause the complexity of literatures involved.So I couldn't really say whether we're more advanced or behind.

    • 30:13

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: But it's a general joke amongst IR theorythat it's 20 years behind in termsof the developments in social theory and political philosophythat it tries to lift up into debates into IR.So, for example, Cox's working on in '81, Social Forces,States and World Orders.

    • 30:34

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: This was taken as a really mini revolution in IRthinking because of its critique of positivism.But essentially it mirrored Horkheimer's paper from 1937.So this is very slow on the uptake.You could say the same thing about postmodern approachesthat started to be adopted around the same period.

    • 30:56

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So there's definitely a time lag I think with IR theory.Which I think, because of the nature of the disciplineitself, it still borrows heavily from other disciplinesand raises those ideas up.So the other point I would say thatsuggests it's behind the-- not necessarily behind other datadisciplines per se, but still has

    • 31:17

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: troubles grappling, at least at a methodological level,with understanding change and transformation.Obviously, IR has been very poor at predictingthe end of the Cold War, and the dissolution of the SovietUnion, the rise of terrorism, global financial crisis.None of these things were predicted.And, of course, prediction is notoriously

    • 31:39

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: difficult in the social sciences.But actually, coming up with a sophisticated account of changeand transformation and how that happens through social forces,I think is still something that needs to be worked on.And it's a constant process.But that would be the one area whereI'd suggest a lot more work needs to take place.

    • 32:05

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: So what new directions that I find exciting in research,and where I would like to head?So I've already touched on that.But particularly around social ontology, which I thinkcan make a really big inroads into world politics,in helping to understand the questions that I'm,at least, interested in.Which is really how individuals and groups,as opposed to states, interact in world politics.

    • 32:28

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: And this also ties in with my interest in recognition theoryfrom Honneth, which I'm hoping to developinto a sort of cosmopolitan understanding of howsocial relations are already interacting across,and beyond, and above, state borders.And in ways that they might be changing and developingtowards some sort of emancipatory, cosmopolitan,community.

    • 32:49

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Which has, obviously, been a theme throughout critical IR,I think.Particularly in the work of Linklaterand his push towards the transformation of worldcommunity through dialogue.But so those would be, I think, the most interestingdevelopments that we can hope for.And yes, as I said earlier, also theseattempts to synthesize, or form dialogues,

    • 33:12

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: of bridges between different, or alternative, approaches--so particularly feminism, post-colonialism,and postmodernism, with critical theory.I think there is fantastic debates that are going onand can go on in an attempt to bridge both viewsand hopefully arrive at better understandings, and better

    • 33:32

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: answers, for the problems facing world politics.And I definitely think that's oneof the most exciting areas for developmentnow and in the future.Definitely a frightening area to jump in the deep end

    • 33:53

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: with, particularly if we're looking at political philosophyand trying to raise that up into IR theory debates.The language is very peculiar to different traditions.A lot has been said about the density of postmodernvocabularies, but also critical theory.Reading Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action

    • 34:14

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: is terrible.It's very hard to do.The same thing with Hegel, because these theoristshave a vocabulary that's all their own.So you have to come to grips with that,and then try to relate it back to international relations.So it is definitely a difficult undertaking.But what I say to my students is to read widely

    • 34:35

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: and to read deeply.But I think the best advice is to actuallygo to, and obviously not everyone shares this view,but to go to the primary sources first and try to come to gripswith them systematically.So I try to read these readings chronologically, the debatesthat they were talking to.The theorists, or philosophers, thatthey were talking to to come to a better understanding.

    • 34:57

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: Again, that takes a lot of time.And with the constraints around Ph.D. research that's maybe notfeasible for everyone.But, yes, definitely going to the primary sources firstand getting your own take on thembefore then engaging with the secondary sources,or literature.Because they might be leading you astray,or within a certain interpretive framework,that you mightn't be able to perceive

    • 35:18

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: if you haven't read the sources directly yourself.And the other thing would be to beconfident about your own analysis.I would think, particularly new researchers,defer to older experts, which is of course natural.But I think there should be a lot more gumption

    • 35:39

      SHANNON BRINCAT [continued]: or-- What's the word?--security or faith in one's own critical analysisof these texts.And to not accept the secondary literatureand the accounts of these theorists at face value.And as long as you can back up your claims, of course,to stick with your guns a bit more about those.

Critical Theory

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Abstract

Dr. Shannon Brincat explains critical theory, distinguishing it from other approaches to international relations. He traces the history of the paradigm and its primary concern with power relations. He also discusses his interest in finding synthesis with other theoretical approaches.

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Critical Theory

Dr. Shannon Brincat explains critical theory, distinguishing it from other approaches to international relations. He traces the history of the paradigm and its primary concern with power relations. He also discusses his interest in finding synthesis with other theoretical approaches.

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