Authored by: Christian Bueger

Routledge Handbook of International Political Sociology

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415732253
eBook ISBN: 9781315446486
Adobe ISBN: 9781315446479


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Practice has become a core concept in the field of international political sociology. The interest in centring theorizing in practice is spurred by a larger development across the social sciences that has been described as ‘practice theory’ or a ‘practice turn’. It is closely associated with an interest in the works of social theorists of which Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault are perhaps the most well known. It however also concerns thinkers whose work only reached the field more recently, including Etienne Wenger, Andreas Reckwitz, Theodore Schatzki, Michel de Certeau or Bruno Latour to name but a few. For anthropologist Sherry Ortner (1984: 127), who was one of the first to use the label of ‘practice theory’, ‘practice’ was “a new key symbol of theoretical orientation […]. This is neither a theory nor a method in itself, but rather, […] a symbol, in the name of which a variety of theories and methods are being developed”. Thirty years later, practice has certainly become more than a symbol, and is a well-developed concept. Yet, Ortner’s diagnosis is still accurate in that practice theory continues to include a wide variety of theories and methods. In this sense, practice theory is not a Lakatosian research programme, but best understood as a family of theorizing (Reckwitz 2002). Various versions of international practice theory were introduced in International Relations (IR) to study very different empirical material including global governance, international organizations, security communities, European security policy or peacebuilding.

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