The Orchard of Neoclassical Realism – Weathered Tree, Graft or Seedling?


  • Magdalena Kozub-Karkut Jagiellonian University in Krakow
  • Mateusz Filary-Szczepanik Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow



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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Author Biographies

Magdalena Kozub-Karkut, Jagiellonian University in Krakow

Ph.D. Magdalena Kozub-Karkut is a PhD in political science and assistant professor at the Institute of Political Science and International Relations – Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Her research focuses on IR theories, Foreign Policy Analysis and global governance. Her book focused on neoclassical realism was awarded as the best monograph of 2021 by the Polish International Studies Association (PTSM). She took part in many international workshops and conferences and is the member of Polish International Studies Association (PTSM), Polish Political Science Association (PTNP), International Studies Association (ISA) and European International Studies Association (EISA).

Mateusz Filary-Szczepanik, Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow

Is a PhD in political science and assistant professor at the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow. Graduate of interdisciplinary doctoral studies at the Jagiellonian University. His research focuses on realist theories of IR, philosophy of science and historiography of IR. His thesis comparing the theories of Hans Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz was awarded as the best PhD dissertation of 2017 by the Polish International Studies Association (PTSM). He took part in many international workshops and conferences and is the member of Polish International Studies Association (PTSM),) and European International Studies Association (EISA).


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How to Cite

Kozub-Karkut, Magdalena, and Mateusz Filary-Szczepanik. 2022. “The Orchard of Neoclassical Realism – Weathered Tree, Graft or Seedling?”. Politeja 19 (2(77):329-55.