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The 'practice turn', phronesis and classical realism: towards a phronetic international political theory?

Brown, Chris (2012) The 'practice turn', phronesis and classical realism: towards a phronetic international political theory? Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 40 (3). pp. 439-456. ISSN 0305-8298

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0305829812441893


The ‘practice turn’ in International Relations seems on the face of it to be a very promising development; generally associated with Bourdieu and Foucault, it can also be seen as linked to the Aristotelian notion of phronesis (prudence or practical wisdom) and to the classical realist virtue of ‘prudence’ (prudentia). There are family resemblances here, but also differences; for Aristotle and the realists, practical wisdom is associated more with the intellect, while the ‘practice turn’ places great emphasis on the role of habitual behaviour. Writers as diverse as Flyvbjerg and Macintyre have argued for a ‘phronetic social science’ as an alternative to neo-positivist conceptions of the role of the conduct of social enquiry – but the classical realists could argue that they have already provided a ‘phronetic international relations theory’ . Still, the implications of Aristotle’s comment that ‘prudent young people do not seem to be found’ need to be confronted. Is ‘practical wisdom’ something that can be achieved by study, or is it only achievable in the context of the kind of lived experience that few students of International Relations or International Political theory of whatever age can actually claim?

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Date Deposited: 29 May 2012 14:39
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2021 13:17

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