Calculating Critique: Thinking Outside the Methods Matching Game

J. Samuel Barkin, Laura Sjoberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This article suggests to quantitative methodologists that the tools that they use (and often others they do not) are more broadly applicable than is often assumed; to reflexivist researchers that there are many more tools available to their research than are often seen as appropriate; and to the IR discipline writ large that most of the disciplinary thinking about the relationships between research, ontology, epistemology, methodology and methods is unnecessarily narrow. Our core goal is to reveal the problematically inaccurate nature of both the qualitative/quantitative and the positivist/post-positivist divides, as well as of traditional methods training. We suggest that the ability to pair, and the utility of pairing, quantitative (traditionally neopositivist) methods with critical (traditionally non-neopositivist) theorising makes this intervention. To this end, the article begins with discussions of the relationships between epistemology and method in IR research. We continue on to frame a disunity of social science in the quantitative/qualitative divide, which lays the groundwork for a section rethinking traditional understandings of how methods, methodology, and epistemology relate. We then make the case for the utility of methods traditionally classified as ‘quantitative’ for critical research in IR. The article concludes by discussing the transformative implications of this understanding for critical theorising, and for theorising knowledge within disciplinary IR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-871
Number of pages20
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number3
Early online date27 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • methods
  • methodology
  • constructivism
  • critical theory
  • epistemology
  • positivism
  • post-positivism
  • quantitative
  • qualitative

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