Causation, complexity, and the Concert: the pragmatics of causal explanation in International Relations
- 134 Downloads
A causal explanation provides information about the causal history of whatever is being explained. However, most causal histories extend back almost infinitely and can be described in almost infinite detail. Causal explanations therefore involve choices about which elements of causal histories to pick out. These choices are pragmatic: they reflect our explanatory interests. When adjudicating between competing causal explanations, we must therefore consider not only questions of epistemic adequacy (whether or not we have good grounds for identifying certain factors as causes), but also questions of pragmatic adequacy (whether or not the aspects of the causal history picked out are salient to our explanatory interests). Recognising that causal explanations differ pragmatically as well as epistemically is crucial for identifying what is at stake in competing explanations of the relative peacefulness of the nineteenth-century Concert system. It is also crucial for understanding how explanations of past events can inform policy prescription.
Keywordscausal explanation causation concert of Europe IR theory pragmatism rationalism
Earlier versions of this paper, under a different title, were presented at a workshop at the University of Reading and at the British International Studies Association annual conference in Dublin, both in June 2014. The author is grateful to participants in both forums. Particular thanks are due to Hidemi Suganami, Patrick Jackson and two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful and constructive comments on earlier drafts.
- Achinstein, Peter (1993) ‘The Pragmatic Character of Explanation’, in David-Hillel Ruben ed., Explanation, 326–44, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Elman, Colin and Miriam F. Elman, eds (2001) Bridges and Boundaries: Historians, Political Scientists and the Study of International Relations, Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Goddard, Stacie E., George Lawson, Charles Maier, Matthew Rendall, Brian Vick, Mark Jarrett and Jennifer Mitzen (2015) ‘Roundtable 7–11 on the Congress of Vienna and Dialogue between IR Scholars and Historians’ (H-Diplo/ISSF), http://issforum.org/roundtables/7-11-congress-of-vienna (accessed 4 May, 2015).
- Ikenberry, G. John (2001) After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Jackson, Patrick T. (forthcoming) ‘Causal Claims and Causal Explanation in International Studies’, Journal of International Relations and Development.Google Scholar
- Jervis, Robert (1997) System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Kitcher, Philip and Wesley C. Salmon (1993) ‘Van Fraassen on Explanation’, in David-Hillel Ruben ed., Explanation, 310–25, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kupchan, Charles A. (2012) How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace, Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Lewis, David (1993) ‘Causal Explanation’, in David-Hillel Ruben ed., Explanation, 182–206, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Patomäki, Heikki (forthcoming) ‘Praxis, Politics and the Future: A Dialectical Critical Realist Account of World-Historical Causation’, Journal of International Relations and Development.Google Scholar
- Schroeder, Paul W. (1972) Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Schroeder, Paul W. (1996) The Transformation of European Politics 1763–1848, Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
- Schulz, Matthias (2007) ‘Did Norms Matter in Nineteenth-Century International Relations? Progress and Decline in the ‘Culture of Peace’ Before World War I’, in Holger Afflerbach and David Stevenson, eds, An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War I and European Political Culture Before 1914, 43–60, New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
- Suganami, Hidemi (forthcoming) ‘On the Hume/Bhaskar Contrast in Philosophical Metatheory of International Relations’, Journal of International Relations and Development.Google Scholar
- Weber, Max (2004) ‘The “Objectivity” of Knowledge in Social Science and Social Policy’, in Sam Whimster ed., The Essential Weber: A Reader, 359–404, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Woodward, James (1993) ‘A Theory of Singular Causal Explanation’, in David-Hillel Ruben ed., Explanation, 246–74, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar