Permutations and Combinations in Theorizing Global Politics: Whither Realist Constructivism?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The partial and misguided premise is that the combination of realism and constructivism has more, or different, utility than any other combination of theories, and that the combining should stop with these two theoretical approaches. The old adage that two heads are better than one certainly applies to realism and constructivism, but the justificatory logic applies to expanding further: a second approach covers more ground and exposes more nuance than only one; adding a third, or fourth, approach would do the same. Rather than limiting combinatorics to realisms and constructivisms, I argue that the idea of the more, the merrier applies to IR theorizing as much as it does to social gatherings if not more so. In this chapter, then, I suggest that, theoretically, realist constructivism is itself too limiting a concept for thinking about global politics. After outlining that theoretical argument, I revisit the substance of four empirical chapters in the book, each time adding a third theoretical approach to suggest an increase in the theoretical and empirical leverage that the chapter might provide. The chapter concludes by arguing for trading in realist constructivism for ‘ism’ promiscuity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Social Construction of State Power
Subtitle of host publication Applying Realist Constructivism
EditorsJ. Samuel Barkin
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherBristol University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)978-1529209839
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2020


  • realism
  • constructivism
  • state power
  • IR theory
  • application of theory
  • disciplinary sociology

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