Post-structuralism remains one of the most controversial theories in the human and social sciences. Things are no different in International Relations where critics continue to censure the theory for a wide range of alleged intellectual misdemeanours; including accusations of moral relativism and irrationalism (Halliday 1994; Spegele 1992), imputations of flawed interpretation, ‘bowdlerization’, or ‘pillaging’ of post-structuralism’s ‘founding figures’ (Blair 2011; Jarvis 2000; Selby 2007; Spegele 1992), and fulminations against purported discursive idealism and disregard for ‘the real’ (Halliday 1994). In the words of one recent critic, post-structuralism has ‘failed to establish any authentic theoretical innovations capable of providing us with a viable framework for furthering our understanding of international relations’ (Blair 2011: 828). The very fact that post-structuralism has generated so much heated argument and controversy makes it an interesting theory to study. It has ruffled more than a few feathers. While this chapter makes no attempt to defend post-structuralism against the myriad charges in any direct way, it does respond to the claim that post-structuralism has failed to make any substantial ‘theoretical innovations’. This chapter contends that a more sympathetic account of the theory – one that engages with post-structuralism on its own conceptual and methodological terms – will allow for a fairer judgement of post-structuralism’s contribution to the study of international relations.
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