Cox's Problem-Expreting Theory: The Nature Of Theory And Neuving Theory

Continuing on the suggestion that theory and neutrality cannot coincide, Cox elaborates by describing each theory as having a perspective which is derived from a “social and political time and space” (Cox, 1981: 128). These perspectives stick to theory, but do not always lead them. “Sophisticated theory is never just the expression of perspective” (Cox, 1981: 128), and therefore, even though theory may have a perspective and ‘some purpose’, this does not mean it cannot transcend it. However, it will still be there in the background, aware of social pressures that present themselves as problems to the consciousness (Cox, 1981). The nature of theory is to be aware of these problems, and to serve two possible purposes; provide a guide of tactical…show more content…
Cox’s take on critical theory supports his claim, but also adds a condition to it. As Hoffman puts it, “In addition to theory being for someone and something, theory must also be able to give an account of itself” (Hoffman, 1987: 237). Cox was not the first to introduce this concept of critical theory into IR. Parallels exist between Cox and Horkheimer who wrote a similar piece, but referred to problem-solving theory as traditional theory (Horkheimer, 1972). The Frankfurt School were also one of the first to focus on achieving emancipation and challenge the notion of knowledge and theory being objective. However, Cox admits he was not fully aware of either contribution (Burchill et al., 2013: 167). Instead, Cox drew influence from Gramsci, Vico, and Marx. Their historical materialism approaches to correct neo-realism are similar to the way Cox’s critical theory corrects certain problems of problem-solving theory. Cox rejects the realist view of Waltz that the purpose of theory is to describe reality (cite waltz work). Instead, for early critical theorists the purpose is not only to describe, “but to interpret reality as an open-ended totality of the changing and unfolding social relations and identities in international relations” (Dunne et…show more content…
The relationship between problem-solving theory and neo-realism is that they share the flawed notion of assuming that theory can be universally valid. His stance on the outgrown position neo-realism has within IR shows through his dismissiveness towards problem-solving theory and his likeness towards critical theory. Cox gives pros and cons of both problem-solving and critical theory, describing the relationship between them as “the strength of one is the weakness of the other” (Cox, 1981: 129). However, when disproving the value-free status of theory, he focuses mainly on problem-solving, concluding that its strength of assuming a fixed point of reference is actually an ideological bias (Cox, 1981: 129). He comes to this conclusion by labelling problem-solving theory as conservative and value bound to the prevailing order. His harsh criticisms leave the (allegedly unintended) impression that it is a “distinctly second-rate activity” (Brown, 2016: 47). He dismisses problem-solving theory as not value-free because of its ideology and biased perspective, but this implies that critical theory is not ideological and based on a particular perspective, which then disproves his original claim on theory (Brown, 2016: 48). Although Cox does not deny the importance of

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