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Paradigm Lost? Structural Realism and Structural Functionalism

Stacie E. Goddard and Daniel H. Nexon. "Paradigm Lost? Structural Realism and Structural Functionalism." European Journal of International Relations 10.1 (2005): 9-61.

Constructivists attack the social theory of Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics (TIP), arguing its positions on change, agent-structure interaction and culture are irrevocably flawed. We argue that many of these criticisms are mispecified, as they overlook the structural-functionalist assumptions of Waltz’s theory. Seen in this light, structural realism specifies mechanisms of change, provides a plausible account of agent-structure interaction; and is less ‘materialist’ and ‘rationalist’ than its critics suppose. Most fundamentally, recognizing Waltz’s sociological commitments reinforces his insight that reductionist theories cannot account for international order. An appreciation of TIP’s structural-functionalist sensibilities also helps us to understand the flaws of the theory, and provides constructivists with a clearer departure point for a reformulated systems theory of international politics.

» More publications by Daniel H Nexon

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