The Potential and the Pitfalls of Metatheory in IR

Lucas Grassi Freire


Metatheory is a type of systematic discourse on theory in a given academic discipline. This article further explores this notion of metatheory and critically discusses a number of views against and in favour of metatheory in International Relations (IR). There are ‘strong’ and ‘mild’ claims against metatheoretical IR that should not be ignored. Nevertheless, some of the claims against metatheory in IR contradict themselves. Besides, the ‘strong’ claim that aims for the complete elimination of metatheoretical discourse in IR depends on metatheory as a presupposition. For this reason, it cannot be maintained. ‘Mild’ claims, on the other hand, acknowledge to some extent the potential of metatheory in IR, whilst pointing out contingent problems in its current form. Some of these issues are acknowledged and contrasted with a number of claims in favour of metatheory, leading to a moderate defence of metatheoretical discourse in IR.


Metatheory; Philosophy of Social Science; Philosophy of Science; IR Theory; Methodology

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ISSN: 2317-773X