Thursday, 28 January 1999

From "Neorealists as Critical Theorists: The Purpose of Foreign Policy Debate"

By Rodger A. Payne.

Social constructivists [...] regularly examine frames, persuasion, and other discursive mechanisms by which actors reach intersubjective agreement. Critical theorists add an overtly normative dimension by embracing the transformative potential of public deliberation. In contrast, realists and neorealists claim that outcomes are determined by the distribution of material power—political communication and discursive ideals are virtually meaningless elements in international politics. Put simply, talk is cheap. Given this view, it is puzzling that many prominent realists participate actively in national foreign policy debates and in that context both implicitly and explicitly embrace views about political discourse that are remarkably consistent with those held by constructivists and critical theorists. In the recent Iraq debate, the realists reveal lies, political spin, and other distortions of the debate promulgated by government elites and their allies. They challenge the legitimacy of established policies and critique excessive secrecy. Most importantly, these neorealists seek to transform public and elite consciousness so as to produce social pressures for alternative outcomes.

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