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Grand theory in international relations: an investigation of a chimera

Dunleavy, Daniel Joseph (2023) Grand theory in international relations: an investigation of a chimera. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100646) (KAR id:100646)


Grand theory is either understood as a particularly useful form of theory or a deeply problematic form of theory in the discipline of international relations (IR). Grand theory, for some, is useful as a "map", a "big picture" or a "framework" to orient and guide research. For others, grand theory either distracts attention from studying what matters in IR, or it is understood to have so many problematic effects that it should be abandoned. Despite the prominence of grand theory, there is no agreement on what constitutes a grand theory in IR. It is difficult to adjudicate whether grand theory is useful or problematic in general because theorists think that different types of grand theory are either useful or problematic. To gain a better understanding of whether grand theory is useful or problematic, I investigate three particular grand theories: Buzan's social structural approach (2004), Lebow's cultural theory (2008) and Ripsman et al.'s type III neoclassical realism (2016). I argue that Buzan (2004) and Lebow (2008) abandon their projects of grand theory while Ripsman et al. (2016) retain their commitment to grand theory. By answering why Buzan (2004) and Lebow (2008) abandoned grand theory, and why Ripsman et al. (2016) have retained their committed to grand theory, I aim to make a contribution as to whether grand theory can be viewed as useful or problematic in IR.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Molloy, Seán
Thesis advisor: Pabst, Adrian
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.100646
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2023 11:00 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2023 14:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Dunleavy, Daniel Joseph.

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