A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations

  • Simon PolinderEmail author
Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR, volume 5)


There has been a growing realization among international relations theorists that religion plays an important role in world affairs. Many of them began criticizing international relations theory for neglecting the role of religion in international relations; some of these critics have also developed alternative theoretical approaches to account for religion. A prominent critic is Scott Thomas, who argues against current mainstream international relations theories and presents an alternative theory. One of the thinkers who is criticized by Thomas is Kenneth Waltz, the main representative of neorealism—a prominent and influential theory of international relations. One could say that Waltz and Thomas are complete opposites when it comes to religion and theorizing: where Waltz ignores religion almost entirely, Thomas explicitly sets out to incorporate it in his work. I will demonstrate that the opposite positions of Waltz and Thomas can be explained by three points: their view on the possibility and meaning of a religious explanation; their respective views on a interpretative versus an explanatory approach; and their positions on what a theory of international relations should address. On the basis of these differences, I will also argue that each approach has its weaknesses and strengths. I will also demonstrate that the practice-based theory that I propose overcomes the weaknesses of both theories and combines their strengths.


Religion International relations (theory) Neorealism Normative practices 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christian University of Applied Sciences (CHE)EdeThe Netherlands

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