Arctic Oil/Gas Neg



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AT: Owen/Pragmatism

Policy focus devolves into endlessly answering the wrong questions – You should prioritize why questions to make our policy prescriptions effective – that’s Scrase and Ockwell – Owen naturalizes systems of violence that only the alt solves


McCormack 10 [Tara McCormack is Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester and has a PhD in International Relations from the University of Westminster, Critique, Security and Power pp42-46]

Problem-solving theory then has two functions. It serves as a guide and an excuse for political elites; a guide because it aims to show elites how they might solve problems arising from a specific set of social and political relations, the ‘given framework for action’, and an excuse as these specific social and political relations are naturalised and presented as eternal and unchanging situations rather than a contingent set of arrangements that are open to change. Problem-solving theory naturalises and removes from questioning the institutions and social and power relations that exist, presenting them as immutable and unchanging facts of life (Cox, 1981: 129). Problem-solving theory, therefore, clearly has a conservative ideological function because it delimits what is legitimate enquiry and any potential for change (1981: 129–130). According to Cox, critical theory can challenge both these aspects of problemsolving theory. Critical theory does not accept the given framework for action. For critical theory this framework itself is subject to critique and questioning. Critical theory begins, like problem-solving theory, with ‘some aspect or particular sphere of human activity’ (1981: 129). Yet whilst problem-solving theory stops at the boundaries, critical theory steps outside of the given framework for action. Critical theory questions the existing institutions and social and power relations which problem-solving theory takes as an unchangeable ‘fact of life’ and tries to explain how and why problems arise by putting them in their broader social, historical, and political context (1981: 129). Critical theory, as Jahn argues, has a methodological requirement of analysing concrete phenomena in their historical and social totality (1998: 614). Critical theory [is] critical in the sense that it stands apart from the prevailing order of the world and asks how that order came about . . . It is directed towards an appraisal of the very framework for action, or problematic, which problem-solving theory accepts as its parameters. Critical theory is directed to the social and political complex as a whole rather than to the separate parts . . . the critical approach leads towards the construction of a larger picture the whole of which the initially contemplated part is just one component, and seeks to understand the processes of change in which both parts and whole are involved. (Cox, 1981: 129) Critical theory therefore requires a substantive material analysis of the framework for action, the historical structure (Cox, 1981: 135) which gives rise to the problematic considered. Cox here also explicitly identifies critical theory with historical materialism: ‘Historical materialism is, however a foremost source of critical theory’ (1981: 133). For Cox, historical materialism is a particular current within Marxist thought ‘which reasons historically and seeks to explain, as well as promote, changes in social relations’ (1981: 133). Cox argues that the prevailing international social order (the framework for action or historical structure [1981: 135]) can be understood, abstractly, in terms of the interaction between material capabilities, ideas and institutions (1981: 136). This historical structure influences both human action and theory although not in a direct or entirely deterministic way (1981: 135). As Marx argued, ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted by the past’ (1978b: 595). For Cox, critical theory has another advantage over problem-solving theory in that it understands that the social world is in a constant state of change: ‘Critical theory is a theory of history in the sense of being concerned not just with the past but with a constant process of historical change’ (1981: 129). As reality changes we find that the divisions of the social world into separate disciplines may appear arbitrary. Cox gives the example of new kinds of theories that challenge the idea of the state as a coherent actor (1981: 130). Writing in 1981, Cox is referring to pluralism and interdependence theory in the context of the oil crises and the end of the Bretton Woods international financial system. Cox argues that contemporary American realism, which he calls neo-realism, exemplifies the problem-solving approach to theory. Theorists working within this framework have an ahistorical approach which assumes a fixed and unchanging international system. For Cox, theory is a way in which we understand and explain the ‘real social world’ (1981: 126). However, Cox argues that the relationship between the social world and the way in which it is perceived and theorised is more complicated than problem-solving theory allows for. For Cox, there is a crucial and complicated relationship between ‘facts’, ‘reality’ and knowledge. ‘Facts’ are not neutral stepping stones on the way to understanding ‘reality’. Theory is not neutral but socially and politically bounded in a complicated way; it reflects, or is a product of, rather than describes actually existing social and political processes. The form that theory takes and the explanations that it gives, arise from and are part of the way in which people attempt to understand the social world and their position in it. Cox argues therefore that theory derives from a given perspective, a specific social, political and economic position, whether of a nation, or class, for example: [Theory is] always for someone and for some purpose. All theories have a perspective. Perspectives derive from a position in time and space, specifically social and political time and space. The world is seen from a standpoint definable in terms of nation or social class, of dominance or subordination, of rising or declining power, of a sense of immobility or of present crises, of past expectations, and of hopes and expectations for the future. (1981: 128) At the epistemological level, therefore, problem-solving theory ignores the complicit relationship between theory and the social and political perspective


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