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Cover International Relations Theories

8. Critical Theory  

Steven C. Roach

This chapter examines the various assumptions of critical theory espoused by the Frankfurt school, with particular emphasis on how the Frankfurt school’s critiques of authoritarianism and repression influenced the critical interventions by International Relations (IR) theorists. The chapter focuses on two major strands of critical International Relations theory: normative theory and the Marxist-based critique of the political economy. After providing an overview of the Frankfurt school and critical IR theory, the chapter explores critical theorists’ views on universal morality and political economy. It then discusses Jürgen Habermas’s ideas in international relations and presents a case study of the Arab Spring. It concludes by analysing the concept of critical reflexivity and how it can show knowledge and social reality are co-produced through social interaction, and how this interaction can, in turn, produce practical or empirical knowledge of the changing moral and legal dynamics of prominent global institutions.


Cover Political Thinkers

31. Habermas  

Kenneth Baynes

This chapter examines Jürgen Habermas's major contributions to social and political thought. Habermas is regarded as one of the most influential figures in contemporary political theory. In his later work Habermas has begun to expand the normative political implications of his work in social theory and philosophy, culminating in Between Facts and Norms. This chapter first provides an overview of Habermas's earlier work, especially his study on the transformation of the liberal or bourgeois public sphere, before discussing his theory of communicative action (or action based on mutually supposed validity claims). It then considers Habermas's attempt, in Between Facts and Norms, to develop an account of deliberative politics anchored on the idea of political legitimacy and concludes with an analysis of cosmopolitanism as well as his views on discourse theory, democracy, the system of rights, and ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ publics.