Links Across the Abyss: Language and Logic in International Relations

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Constructivists have distanced themselves from questions of language in order to engage the "positivist" mainstream in dialogue. Yet language has played a central role in one important strand of positivism. Current debates in international relations assume a question about whether language is important. This article asks how or why language is important to the study of IR by exploring two distinct phases of the linguistic turn. The first phase, associated with logical positivism, approaches language as a picture of the logic of reality; the second, at the roots of a range of. alternative approaches, approaches language use as analogous to making moves in a game. In constructing a link between two phases of the linguistic turn, the abyss separating "positivists," who aren't concerned with language, and "poststructuralists," who are, is replaced with a spectrum of different approaches to language and logic in international relations. The significance of these differences is illustrated in a variety of theoretical and empirical. examples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-354
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2002


  • NATO


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