Dichotomy In International Relations

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Literatures on the study of dichotomy in International Relations critiques dichotomies for its simple dualistic abstraction of complex world politics. However, despite its serious fallacies, scholars and even critiques uses dichotomies, knowingly or unknowingly, in some form or the other. This research attempts to study the use of dichotomy in International Relations. In doing so, the study will apply Marcelo Dascal’s notion of “strategic argument” on dichotomy which sees dichotomy as a strategy used by contenders in a debate to resolve it in their favour. Here dichotomy becomes a constructed and contextual phenomenon rather than a semantic, realistic category. This also provides opportunity for de-dichotomisation as the study of argumentative…show more content…
Some of the prominent ones are Traditionalism vs. Science, Traditional vs. Critical theory, domestic vs. international, east vs. west, Orient vs. Occident, First World vs. Third World, developed vs. developing, core vs. periphery, North vs. South and others. While there have been numerous studies on dichotomies (Gusfield 1967; Keohane 1998; Tickner 1997; Mudimbe-Boyi 2002; Newell 2005; Eckl and Weber 2007), majority of writings critique dichotomies for the negligence of the complexities of world politics which it tends to generalise in simple dualistic levels of abstractions. However, it is to be noted that despite its serious fallacies, scholars uses dichotomies, knowingly or unknowingly, in some form or the other. Study on dichotomy has not been fair to dichotomies, in the sense that none of the studies so far has come up with even one virtue of dichotomy despite its habitual use. Studies on dichotomies begin with criticism and suggest an outright rejection of its use or at least suggest de-dichotomisation. De-dichotomisation here would mean to construe the opposition of poles in less logically binding manner and thereby recognise the presence of intermediate alternatives (Dascal 2008:…show more content…
Another prominent debate has been the Second Great Debate in International Relations where again another dichotomous position was fixated, namely the traditionalism versus behaviouralism. The traditionalists were seen as calling for historical methods while the behaviouralist voiced for a scientific methodology (Bull 1966; Kaplan 1966). This debate also relied on numerous other dichotomies such as objective/subjective, fact/value, understanding/explanation, qualitative/quantitative and others. Similarly the Third Great Debate, namely positivism vs post-positivism, where the question of ontology and epistemology was addressed (Horkheimer 1972, Lapid 1989, Halfpenny 2001). This debate has also relied on some or the other form of dichotomy, for instance problem solving theory/critical theory, discovered/socially constructed knowledge, objective/subjective and others. An important development here has been the emergence of Social Constructivism which is seen, with its positivist epistemology and post-positivist ontology, as an effort to de-dichotomise the tendency of the Third Debate. However, in its attempt to do so Social Constructivism at one point dichotomises its position vis a vis the rationalist (Price and Smit 1998), nevertheless James Fearon and Alexander Wendt (2002)
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