What's at stake in the historical turn? Theory, practice and phronēsis in international relations

David M. Mccourt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Taking issue with Hobson and Lawson's rejection of the historical turn, this article argues that what is at stake in the turn is the type of knowledge of politics International Relations scholars should produce, and the relationship between theory and practice. The relevant issues are not, then, exhausted by answering the question 'What is history in International Relations?'; instead, the turn forms part of a wider movement in the social sciences away from neo-positivism and its deficient vision of history. The article follows one line of thought on non-neo-positivist International Relations and its relationship to history that seeks to emphasise the centrality of historical knowledge to political praxis understood as practical wisdom or phronēsis. However, while a turn is thus to be welcomed, because the impact of International Relations knowledge lies ultimately in the relationship between the academy and politics, the stakes of the historical turn lie beyond International Relations, adequately historical or not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-42
Number of pages20
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • History
  • International relations
  • Knowledge
  • Phronēsis
  • Practice
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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