The Concept of Reason in International Relations
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
In this thesis my aims are twofold. First, I provide an auto-history of the concept of reason in Anglophone IR from 1919 to 2009. I uncover the centrality of the language of reason. I show that the concept of reason has constituted, undergirded, and empowered many prominent IR scholars’ discourses. Second, I bring out a taxonomy of four construal of rationality. I argue that IR thinkers have spoken in four languages of reason. Kantian reason stands in a relation opposed to passion, emotion and instinct, and makes the stipulation that to base actions on the intellect is prerequisite for pursuing interest and moral conduct. I argue that the British Liberal Institutionalists, Has Morgenthau, Richard Ashley and Andrew Linklater are bearers of this construal. Utilitarian reason refers to the maximization of interests under constraints, where interest can be defined as strategic preference, emotional attachment, or cultural value and constraints as a two-person game, uncertainty or risk. I demonstrate how Thomas Schelling, Herman Kahn, Glenn Snyder, Robert Keohane, Robert Gilpin, Helen Milner, Andrew Moravcsik and many other theorists use the concept. Axiological reason means following rules, cultures and norms, and always uses game as an analytical foundation and attends to the problem of how to enforce rules. I argue that Kenneth Waltz, Nicholas Onuf, Friedrich Kratochwil and K.M. Fierke have deployed the concept to construct their theories. Historical reason views all values as conditioned within a specific spatial-temporal background, and insists that moral problems, which are constituted in the margin of every political conduct, must be solved by overcoming universal morality and the unilateral pursuit of interest. I show that Raymond Aron, Martin Wight, David Boucher and Christian Reus-Smit have conceived of reason in this way.
PhD in Politics