Are theoretical tools nothing but political weapons? How can the two be distinguished from each other? What is the ideological role of theories like liberalism, neoliberalism or democratic theory? And how can we study the theories of actors from outside the academic world? This book examines these and related questions at the nexus of theory and ideology in International Relations.

The current crisis of politics made it abundantly clear that theory is not merely an impartial and neutral academic tool, but instead is implicated in political struggles. However, it is also clear that it is insufficient to view theory merely as a political weapon. This book brings together contributions from a number of different scholarly perspectives to engage with these problems. The contributors, drawn from various fields of International Relations and Political Science, cast new light on the ever-problematic relationship between theory and ideology. They analyse the ideological underpinnings of existing academic theories and examine the theories of non-academic actors such as staff members of international organisations, Ecovillagers and liberal politicians.

This edited volume is a must-read for all those interested in the contemporary political crisis and its relation to theories of International Relations.

chapter |16 pages


Theory as ideology in International Relations

part I|79 pages

Understanding theory and ideology

chapter 1|15 pages

Theory vs. ideology

Validity criteria for knowledge claims and normative conditions of critique

chapter 2|17 pages

Ideology as decontestation

chapter 4|24 pages

‘I see something you don’t see’

Niklas Luhmann’s social theory between observation and meta-critique

part II|88 pages

Contemporary theories as ideologies

chapter 6|22 pages

The spirits we cite

How democratic war theory reproduces what it opposes

chapter 7|25 pages

From theory to practice

The paradox of neoliberal hegemony in twenty-first-century world politics

chapter 8|20 pages

Liberalism and the Cold War

The international thought of Jo Grimond

part III|55 pages

Theorisation outside academia

chapter 9|22 pages

Ideologies of international organisation

Exploring the trading zones between theory and practice

chapter 10|19 pages

From allegations of ideology to conflicts over forms of life

Or, why political scientists don’t talk about Ecovillages

chapter 11|12 pages

Microanalysis as ideology critique

The critical potential of ‘zooming in’ on everyday social practices

chapter |12 pages


From the politics of knowledge to knowledge of politics