The Psychology of International Relations Theory: Finding an Appropriate Methodology for Research


This paper will discuss the bonds and boundaries a researcher must take into consideration when attempting to show links between intellectual history (or history of theory) and real historical events. Specifically, it will focus on the methodological considerations of a research project that is attempting to establish connections between academic International Relations theory, political ideology, and world history in the 20th century. The two main difficulties obvious from the outset in attempting to create such links are that the subject area is a) almost impossibly vast and b) deals largely in the abstract realm of contending ideological worldviews. As such, a rigorous, astute and highly selective methodological approach must be carefully applied if the resulting argument is to be of real academic value. This paper, therefore, explores how to navigate specific boundaries and limitations such as a) the limited ability to make direct assessments of causality, b) the boundaries between different epistemological or ontological worldviews in their interpretations of the ‘same’ historical events, and c) the difficulties of situating a given worldview within its own historical context. Without a disciplined focus on the issues above it would be easy, given the ethereal nature of the subject area, to falter into generalisations or ideological partisanship that would render the argument practically meaningless. It concludes by discussing why an explicitly historical approach is the most suited to dealing with the project at hand.

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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.064

How to Cite

Woodcock, A., (2016) “The Psychology of International Relations Theory: Finding an Appropriate Methodology for Research”, Tropos 3(1).







Alexander Woodcock (University College London)




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