Strategies of Critique in IR: From Foucault and Latour Towards Marx

Critique is back on the scholarly agenda. Since the financial crisis, critique has been debated in philosophy and sociology with renewed rigour. International Relations is currently picking up on these developments. Yet, the critique of capitalism is largely absent in International Relations. This article argues that the theoretical resources deployed among ‘radical’ International Relations help explain this phenomenon. In order to rectify this, the article aims to resituate Marx at the centre of the debate about critique. Based on a discussion of the understandings of critique by Michel Foucault and Bruno Latour, the article shows that their conscious focus on the small and the contingent has prevented a more totalizing strategy of critique from taking hold. The article illustrates this unwillingness to situate social life in our capitalist social whole by zooming in on ‘resistant’ intervention scholarship. Speaking to the nature of International Relations more broadly, in a second step, the article shows that this lack of ‘totalizing’ analysis has been present in International Relations and International Political Economy since their inception. Taking into account Marxian and Critical Theoretical understandings of totality, the article outlines a totalizing strategy of critique. This strategy has two components: it takes capitalism as such seriously; and it offers a methodology to implement this substantial shift using Marx’s dynamic method of ‘concretization’.

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