The Orchard of Neoclassical Realism – Weathered Tree, Graft or Seedling?
Keywords:neoclassical realism, research program, progress, Lakatos
The aim of this article is to assess the progressiveness of neoclassical realism (NCR) in the context of neorealism’s development. By appealing to the idea of Lakatos research programs, it shows possible ways of NCR’s development and projects its possible futures. The article proceeds in three parts. The first one juxtaposes literature concerning Lakatos’s notion of scientific progress in IR with the philosopher himself and consequently shows how trying to operationalize his methodology in social science is not the way to go. The paper refers to both Elmans’ (2002, 2003) and Schweller’s (2003) proposals, pointing out that the first attempt at a detailed operationalization of Lakatos’s idea is not possible in social sciences, and that the second, relying on a commonsense approach, also proved insufficient to apply Lakatos’s criteria in practice. The second part of the article identifies the theoretical contents of NCR: hard core as well as its positive and negative heuristic, whereas the third one presents how Lakatos’s philosophy inspired the authors to develop three metaphors – weathered tree, graft, and seedling – that help to convey something about the present version of NCR and its possible futures. Conclusions draw the readers’ attention to the question whether and which of the presented metaphors shows the progressive promise of NCR’s progress as understood in Lakatos’ terms.
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