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Beyond Dichotomy: Conversations between International Relations and Feminist Theory Author(s): Robert O.

Keohane Source: International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 193-197 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The International Studies Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2600824 . Accessed: 19/07/2011 11:19
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International Studies (1998) 42, 193-198 Quarterly

Beyond Dichotomy: Conversations Between InternationalRelations and FeministTheory


Duke University Ann Tlickner'sarticle in this journal, "You Just Don't Understand: Tlroubled EngagementsBetween Feministsand IR Tl heorists,"seeks to generate a missing debate: betweenfeminist studentsof international relationsand whatshe denotes (1997:613) as "methodologically conventionalIR scholars,"who seek knowledge or positivist, icknerpoints out that throughscientific, methodologies.Professor Tl the states at the heart of internationalrelations theoryare deeply gendered relations.Conhierarchies, and thatsuch hierarchies also structure transnational ventional definitions of "security" miss the real personal insecurity suffered by and even from people, especially women,who are excluded from power,autonomy, respect,as a result of gendered patternsof social relations.Tlicknersuggestsa the connections thatshe assertsbetweenthese researchagenda forunderstanding on the one hand, and distributional outcomesand external unequal social relations, on theother. These are important and I hope security-seeking behavior, contributions, thatTlickner's willprovokedeep reflection and widediscussion. thoughtful argument he absence of sustainedresponsesbyestablishedIR theorists Tl frustrates Professor Tickner,forgood reason. She suggeststhatone of the reasons forIR theorists' silence is ignoranceof the contributions thatfeminist thinking has made. Another reason,however, maybe thatthepoliticization ofdebate on issuesrelatedtofeminist scholarshiphas meant that IR scholars fear that if theyengage seriouslyin this debate, theywill not provokea serious discussionbut will insteadbecome targets forad hominem attackson theirmotives. Myownexperienceunfortunately provides some support for such fears.On the whole, feminist scholarsmet my own 1989 efforts to pointup connections betweeninstitutionalist and feminist theory analysis with silence; the most prominentdiscussion (to my knowledge) accused me of attemptsat manipulationand cooptation,but failed to deal withthe substantive issues thatI had raised (Weber,1994). Weber'srhetoric about "good girlsand bad a seriousattempt to discussreal issues. girls"was amusing,but it did not constitute I Since the issuesare important articleis a major statement, ones, and Tlickner's have accepted the editors'invitation to engage once again in thisconversation. My firstresponse is to welcome work that has introducedconcepts of gender into therefore international relations.Clearly,genderpermeatessocial life, and is likely to have profound,and largelyunnoticed,effects on the actions of statesand on relations.Tickner'sbook, Gender in International Relations transnational (1992), is workabout genderand international relations to date, probablythemostimportant and certainlythe pioneering feminist statementon the issue. Ann Tlickneris a betweenscholarswithbroadlycommonpurposes butverydifferent bridge-builder preoccupations.Her workhelps in an insightful wayto crossbarriersto synergistic in the studyofworldpolitics.Atwhatis called, ironically of orientations syntheses in lightof feminist the "domestic"level,societiesconstruct theory, gendered roles,
?31998 Inter-national Stuclies Association. Publishedlby BlackxvellPulblishers, 35() Main Street, M4aIden,M4A 0)2148, USSA,andl 10)8GowZley Roadl, Oxfordl0X4 IJF:, SK.


Beyond Dichotomy

unknownto whose impacton international and transnational behavioris virtually ickneris right us, because we haven'tstudiedit.Tl to tellus thatwe need to do so. At the end of thisessay,I will returnto the researchprogramthatTickner suggests and outlinesome possible directions thatI thinkscholarly work,informed bothby IR theory and byfeminism, could take. Three Misleading Dichotomies Tlaking scholarlywork seriously,however,involves not only tryingto read it thatdo not seem convincsympathetically, butalso offering criticism of arguments of much feminist writing: conceptual ing. My starting point is to accept an insight Tl icknermentionsfour: radichotomiescreate misleading stereotypes. Professor As feminists and public/private. tional/irrational, fact/value, universal/particular, of sexual differences-operateslargely point out, gender-the social construction throughthe use of such stereotypes. WhatI willargue here is thatProfessor herself reliestoo muchon three Tlickner whichseem to me to have misleadingimplications, and to hinder keydichotomies, he first of these dichotomiescontrasts "criticaltheory" with constructive debate. Tl takes the world as it findsit "problem-solving" theory."Problem-solving [theory] and implicitly orderas itsframework" (1997:619). The second acceptstheprevailing humanisticand philosophical dichotomypits "hermeneutic,historically-based, traditions" against positivist epistemologiesmodeled on the natural sciences. FiTicknercontrasts with ofreality nally, a viewthatemphasizesthesocialconstruction an atomistic,asocial conception of behavior governed by the laws of nature relationstheory is portrayed as problem-solving, (1997:616, 618-9). International and asocial; feminist as critical, and sociological. positivist, theory post-positivist, Tlhese dichotomieshave some rhetoricalforce; arguably,recent international relations theoryhas been insufficiently critical,too committedto covering law and too mechanistic and asocial, in itsrelianceon statesas actorsand epistemology, on economic logic to analyze theirbehavior. But fewmajor IR theorists fitthe of being at the problem-solving, and asocial ends of all three stereotype positivist, dichotomies.As Tlicknerherselfpoints out, Hans J. Morgenthau had a deeply ofwar generatedbyideologies such normative purpose: to preventthe recurrence as fascismand communism.Since Morgenthauwas a refugeefromNazism, he worldorderof thelate 1930s and early1940s as the hardlyaccepted the prevailing has framework forhis analysis!KennethN. Waltz,the leader in neorealisttheory, specified) famouslyrelied on "socialization"as a major (although insufficiently process in world politics,whichmakes him a poor candidate fora proponent of "asocial" theories.And Stephen Walt-one of Tl ickner'stargets-has been highly critical of game-theoretic methodology. Tlhe problem with Tlickner'sdichotomies,however,goes much deeper. Tlhe dichotomies should be replaced by continua, with the dichotomous characat thepoles. Each analyst or himself terizations ofworldpoliticshas to locateherself somewherealong the dimensions between criticaland problem-solving theory, nomotheticand narrativeepistemology, and a social or structural conception of international relations.In my view,none of the ends of these continua are the optimalplaces to restone's perspective. of theworld,by itself, on Criticism becomes a jeremiad, oftenrestingimplicitly a utopian view of human potential.Withoutanalysis,furthermore, it constitutes or merelythe opinion of one or a numberof people. On the otherhand, implicit complacentacceptance of the world as it is would rob the studyof international relationsof much of its meaning. How could one identify "problems" without criticism at some level? Tlhe issue is not problem-solving vs. criticaltheory-a convenientdevice fordiscardingworkthatone does not wish to accept-but how



deeply the criticism should go. For example, moststudents ofwar studyitbecause waras theyhope to expose itsevilsor to controlit in some way:fewdo so to glorify such. But the depth of theircritiquevaries. Does the author rejectcertainacts of warfare,all warfare,all coercion, or the systemof states itself? Tlhe deeper the criticism, themorewide-ranging thequestions.Narrowly problem-solving work,as in muchpolicyanalysis, often ignoresthemostimportant causal factors in a situation and because theyare not manipulablein the shortrun. However,the more critical wide-ranging an author's perspective,the more difficult it is to do comparative empiricalanalysis.An opponent of some typesof war can compare the causes of different wars,as a wayto help to eliminatethose thatare regardedas pernicious; but theopponent of thesystem of stateshas to imaginethecounterfactual situation of a system without states. here he second dichotomy-positivist vs. post-positivist-is also misleading.Tl Tl is a wide range of adherence,in international to more or less nomothetic relations, theoreticalclaims, and to aspirations of greater or less adherence to canons of objective associatedwithnaturalscience.Scientific successis not the attainment truth,but the attainmentof wider agreement on descriptivefacts and causal relationships, based on transparent and replicablemethods.Even thosewho seek scientific generalizationrecognize the importance of descriptivework, and of investigating issues that are not amenable to statisticalanalysis, due to their betweenthe units to be comcomplexity, contingency, and lack of homogeneity pared (King, Keohane, and Verba, 1994). No serious studentsof international relationsexpect to discovermeaningful universallaws thatoperate deterministically,sincethey recognizethatno generalization is meaningful without specification of itsscope conditions. he pointis thata sophisticated Tl viewof scienceovercomestheobjectivist-subjectivistdichotomy, to make interrelated choices about and forcesthe investigator and methods.One can recognizethatknowledge is socially purposes,subjectmatter, constructed without to widen intersubjective givingup on efforts agreementabout morefully theconditions important issues,and to specify underwhichsome importantoutcomesare moreor less likely to occur. For instance, our current knowledge of the conditionsunder whichvariousstrategies in international criseslead to war or settlement (Gelpi, 1997; Huth, 1996) is surelyan advance over aphorismssuch does (or does not)work."But as "to achievepeace, prepare forwar,"or "deterrence it would be foolishto believe thatone could understandthe Cuban Missile Crisis howevervalid, about crisismanagement. simplyon the basis of generalizations, and an understanding Narratives, of personal psychology, playan essentialrole in is misleading understanding unique events.Finally,the social-asocialdichotomy because social behavior consistsof individualchoices constrainedby social, ecoand by institutions. Choices are made on the basis nomic,and politicalstructures, of normative, and causal beliefs,all of whichare deeply sociallycondescriptive, It is a platitudethatour beliefs structed. are culturally conditionedand transmitted. Hence all humanactionis in a profoundsense social.Yet as Marx said,people make theirown history, of but not "as theyplease." Choices are made withinstructures the thataffect demography, materialscarcity, and power-and withininstitutions incentives and opportunities them. available to actors,as well as constraining It seems ill-advisedto locate oneselfon the extremeend of any of these three continua: it is not sensibleto choose betweencriticaland problem-solving theory; commitment to nomothetic, toparticularity; objectivescienceand attention emphasis on social construction of realityand on constraints-material,political,and institutional. Aspects of all of these foci of attentioncan enrich the study of international trade-offs exist:movements relations.On each continuum, along the continuumachieve gains on one dimension,but incurlosses on another.Where to locate oneselfdepends, among other things, on the conditionof world politicsat


Beyond Dichotomy

themoment, thestateofour knowledgeoftheissues,and thenatureoftheproblem to be investigated. Research Directions Recentconstructivist workin international relations (Finnemore,1996; Katzenstein, 1996) has demonstrated howtheoretical imagination and empiricalexploration can be enhanced,and made morepersuasivetothecommunity ofinternational relations scholars,by a commitment to a relatively conventionalepistemology. As Katzenstein,Jepperson, and Wendtsuggest, "[T]he literature is prone to conflate substantive and theoreticaldifferences with methodological ones, as if a theoretical departurenecessarily depends on some methodologicaluniqueness. It need not" (Katzenstein, Jepperson, and Wendt,1996:68). Constructivist workin international relationshas articulated new concepts,identified puzzles unexplained byprevious and begun to articulateinteresting about behavior.Since this theory, hypotheses workis exploratory, the conceptsare not alwaysclearlyspecifiedand the evidence is often fragmentary ratherthancomprehensive; buttheproceduresbeingfollowed are consistent witha broad conceptionofthe scientific method.Otherscholars, not previously committed to theseviews, are payingmore attention to workof scholars such as Finnemoreand Katzensteinthan to argumentsthatconflatesimilartheowithdismissalofthedesirability reticalinnovations ofsystematic, disciplinedefforts to evaluatepropositions withevidence. workdoes not have to aggregatehomogeneousunits,muchless Carefulscientific use quantitative data. When eventsare unique-whether the subject is dinosaur a murder,or a particularpath-dependentsequence of political acextinction, tions-the investigator thanlike a statistician. mayhave to act more like a detective But the basic methodof social science remainsthe same: make a conjectureabout causality;formulate that conjectureas an hypothesis, consistent withestablished theory(and perhaps deduced from it, at least in part); specifythe observable ofthehypothesis; obtainin thereal implications testfor whether thoseimplications knownand replicable. world;and overall,ensurethatone's proceduresare publicly Relevantevidencehas to be broughtto bear on hypotheses generatedbytheory for the theory to be meaningful. Feministsgive us wise advice to dispense withsexistdichotomies.I thinkthat conversationsamong studentsof international relations-nonfeminist, feminist, be advanced ifwe extend this and post-feminist-will neofeminist, quasi-feminist, advice to commonbutmisleadingdichotomies and methodin our own about theory discipline.We need more cogent contingentgeneralizationsabout international relations-scientific because based on publiclyknownmethodsand checked by a hese generaliof scholars,working both critically and cooperatively. community Tl zationswill not stand forever-no science does-but ifsuccessful theycould command wider intersubjective the basis formore discriminating agreement,forming he questionsasked, and the methods,willreflect our preocand subtleanalysis.Tl as members of particular societies at a cupations and critical dissatisfactions, time:hence thefindings willindeed be socially constructed. particular Furthermore, insofar as these generalizations are worthwhile, theywillnot claim excessivecomactionare unlikely eventsthatfollow createdbyindividual prehensiveness: pathways to be meaningfully explained by covering laws. Most of all, we should all be humble to recognize thatthe pointson whichwe have chosen to place sufficiently our emphasis-the trade-offs we accept-are not privileged. Ann Tickner refersto criticisms of feminist thinkers relations by international scholarsforallegedlynot havinga researchprogram,and suggestsa response: a and transnationresearchprogramthatlinksgendered hierarchies-domestically warand peace. It seems suchas actionsaffecting ally-with classicexternal behavior,



to me that such a researchprogramcould be enormously fruitful. We now have relamuch reason to believe thatdemocraciesbehave differently, in international tions,thanautocracies.Do countries withhighly inegalitarian genderedhierarchies behave differently fromthosewithless inequality at home? Like democracies,are in neopositivist each other?Feminists can be interpreted, theyless inclinedto fight terms,as proposing a new explanatoryvariable for the study of international relations:thedegree towhichsocially constructed genderedhierarchies are important.Analysis of the effects of gendered hierarchies could proceed byissue area, by historical timeperiod,by country, or through a combinationof the three. Since we know that intentionality and consequences are not tightly linked in international relations, we shouldnotassumethattheconsequencesin international relations of more egalitarian practiceswithinsome societieswill necessarilybe benign.Supposingthatincreasedgenderequality leads to less aggression, we might well expect thatcountries withrelatively less hierarchical internalstructures would not fighteach other. But theirrelationships with stateswith more inegalitarian genderrelationships would need to be investigated. Perhaps states withless gender more easily;but it is also possible thattheywould hierarchy could resolveconflict be moreeasilybullied,orwouldbecome moremoralistic, to more leading eventually serious crises and perhaps warfare.To continue with the democracyanalogy, democracies are quite warliketowardnondemocracies,although theyare disinclined to fight otherdemocracies.It wouldbe worthwhile to explore suchquestions, withan open mind about whatthe answers willbe. relations.To what Comparable questions could be posed about transnational extent do gendered inequalities within societies extend to transnationalrelaor even encouragingthe operationofbrothels tions-as, forinstance,in tolerating near military bases, or in the hiring practices of Japanese-based multinational enterprises operatingin theUnited States?Once again, however, questionswillnot IR scholarswill need to supply answersthat will convince be enough: feminist others-including thosenot ideologically predisposedto being convinced.Specifying theirpropositions, and providingsystematically gatheredevidenceto testthese willbe essential:scientific propositions, method,in the broadestsense, is the best path towardconvincingcurrentnonbelieversof the validityof the message that feminists are seekingto deliver.We willonly"understand" each otherifIR scholars are theories are open to theimportant questionsthatfeminist raise,and iffeminists their inwaysthatare testable-and falsifiable-with to formulate willing hypotheses evidence. References
M. (1996) NationalInterests in International Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. C. (1997) Crime and Punishment:The Role of Norms in Crisis Bargaining.American Political Science Review 91:339-360. AnnArbor:University HUTH, P. (1996) Standing Your Ground: Territorial Disputes andInternational Conflict. of MichiganPress. JEPPERSON, R. L., P. J. KATZENSTEIN, AND A. WENDT (1996) "Norms,Identity and Culture in National In Katzenstein, Security." 1996:33-75. KATZENSTEIN, P. J., ED. (1996) The Culture ofNationalSecurity: Norms and Identity in World Politics. New York: Columbia University Press. KING, G., R. 0. KEOHANE, AND S. VERBA (1994) Designing Social Inquiry: Inference in Qualitative Scientific Research. Press. Princeton, NJ: PrincetonUniversity TICKNER, J. Relations: Global New A. (1992) Gender inInternational Feminist Perspectives onAchieving Security. York: Columbia University Press. and IR TICKNER, J. A. (1997) You JustDon't Understand:Troubled EngagementsBetweenFeminists Theorists.International Studies Quarterly 41:611-632. WEBER, C. (1994) Good Girls,LittleGirlsand Bad Girls.Millennium 23:337-348.