Reflectivity, Reflexivity, Reflexivism: IR's 'Reflexive Turn' - and Beyond

Inanna Hamati-Ataya

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The notion of ‘reflexivity’ has been so intimately tied to the critique of positivism and empiricism in International Relations (IR) that the emergence of post-positivism has naturally produced the anticipation of a ‘reflexive turn’ in IR theory. Three decades after the launch of the post-positivist critique, however, reflexive IR has failed to impose itself as either a clear or serious contender to mainstream scholarship. Reasons for this failure include: the proliferation of different understandings of ‘reflexivity’ in IR theory that entail significantly different projects and concerns for IR scholarship; the equation of ‘reflexive theory’ with ‘critical’ and ‘emancipatory theory’ and the consequent confusion of ethical/normative issues with strictly epistemic/theoretical ones; and the refusal to consider reflexive IR as a ‘research programme’ concerned with empirical knowledge, not just meta-explanation. The development of reflexivity in IR theory as a sustainable cognitive and praxeological effort is nonetheless possible — and still needed. This article suggests what taking the ‘reflexive turn’ would really entail for IR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-694
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number4
Early online date30 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • constructivism
  • critical theory
  • epistemology
  • interdisciplinarity
  • reflexivism
  • reflexitivity
  • vales


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