Realism: A Problematic Paradigm

Journal article

Molloy, Seán (2003) Realism: A Problematic Paradigm, Security Dialogue 34 (1).

This article explores paradigmatic representations of realism that dominate the theoretical assessment of realism, arguing that such representations in fact pervert realism in the name of parsimony and science. The first section examines the colonization of realist theory by theorists committed to the philosophy of science. The emergence of neorealism has had a devastating effect on the realist tradition in International Relations (IR), with earlier representatives of that tradition being co-opted retrospectively into a philosophy of science that they opposed. The second section highlights the abuse of Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the paradigm in relation to realism. Kuhn’s work has been used instrumentally to provide international theory with a philosophy of science gloss, a project opposed by Kuhn himself. The third section demonstrates the inadequacy of the paradigmatic interpretation of realism. When this interpretation is applied to the two most foundational realists, Carr and Morgenthau, they fail to meet its requirements for realism.

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