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Title: On the role of metatheory in the academic discipline of international relations
Author: Freire, Lucas Grassi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 3404
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis investigates in three parts the role played by metatheory in the discipline of International Relations (IR). Part one defines metatheory as 'systematic discourse about theory' and classifies it in a typology combining elements internal or external to the discipline with intellectual or contextual aspects of theorising. Each combination has particular functions. They also add to the roles played by several modes of metatheoretical inquiry (hermeneutical, evaluative, corrective, critical and historical). The typology offered in part one clarifies the general roles of metatheory as a constraining and enabling discursive mechanism. This is also discussed in part two, addressing how IR scholars portray metatheory's role in the discipline. Arguments against and in favour of metatheory are scrutinised, leading to a qualified defence of metatheoretical research in IR. Some of the negative impact of metatheorising in IR is acknowledged, but ultimately a stronger case attempting to eliminate it from the field cannot be sustained for analytical reasons. The merits of metatheory, therefore, will depend on how it operates in particular instances. A selection of illustration cases in part three further develops the argument. The first case stresses how metatheoretical directives shaped 17th century views of the Holy Roman Empire. It indicates that metatheory can frame theoretical claims even in a weak disciplinary context. A stronger disciplinary environment frames the second case, analysing a number of IR theories on the impact of the Peace of Westphalia in the European states-system. This discussion often alludes to the notion of hierarchy. The third case examines the interaction between metatheoretical directives and theories of hierarchy. These arguments are not necessarily compatible with the metatheoretical principles argued by their authors. As a mechanism, therefore, metatheory does not relate to theory in a deterministic way. Part three itself is, of course, a metatheoretical study that further illustrates the thesis.
Supervisor: Hampsher-Monk, Ian; Wight, Colin Sponsor: Overseas Research Scheme ; University of Exeter
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Metatheory ; International Relations ; IR Theory ; International Political Theory ; Peace of Westphalia ; International Hierarchy ; Johannes Althusius ; G W Leibniz ; Samuel Pufendorf