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By Roland Bleiker (auth.)

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48 But Waltzian abstraction is obsessed with deduction, categorisation and scientific legitimacy. 49 The result is a form of common sense that is as narrow and problematic as it is deeply entrenched in international relations scholarship. This is why even more moderate, constructivist scholars rely on analytical tools that are largely confined to mimetic principles. To broaden our knowledge of the international does, however, require more than simply adding a few additional layers of interpretation.

63 Linked to this insight into representation was a more broadly conceived discussion of positivism and its relationship to the theory and practice of international relations. Contrary to prevalent social science wisdom, postmodern approaches stressed that our comprehension of facts cannot be separated from our relationship with them, that thinking always expresses a will to truth, a desire to control and impose order upon events that are often random and idiosyncratic. 64 The significance of early postmodern scholarship – and its implications for questions of representation and aesthetics – can perhaps best be appreciated if we compare the respective position with those of the more recently proliferating literature on constructivism.

66 But to claim such is not necessarily new or radical. Hardly anyone would disagree, for instance, with the proposition that the conflict in Iraq emerged from both material and human factors, or that the UN was created as a result of certain ideational constellations at the end of the Second World War. Even the most ardent defender of realism would not see political institutions and events as naturally given. The key issues, rather, revolve around how to understand and interpret these products of ideational and material forces.

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