Do We Have Too Much Theory in International Relations or Do We Need Less? - Michael Ward writes for Oxford Research Encyclopedias

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I don’t know. This may compromise my ability to convince you that we need less of it. Doubtless many other contributors will spell out clearly what theory is, why it’s become so rare/distorted/atrophied/glorious in recent times, and tell you why we need more of it. Whatever it is. Along with others I will find these treasured insights upon reading the other articles. Maybe you have already read those articles and are now convinced that theory is such a good thing that we need more and better theory. If so, you may not actually want to continue reading mine, which makes the simple point that we don’t need more theory, we need less. Since I don’t really believe much in theory—but am a strong believer in science—I’ll limit my discussion to how I typically see the term used in published articles, books, and graduate syllabi. I’ll focus on my antediluvian point: We need less theory. The concept of theory has been confusing social scientists for decades.

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