Unlearning modernity: A realist method for critical international relations?

Felix Rösch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Recent re-readings of classical realism in International Relations have demonstrated that in their critique of modernity, mid-twentieth century realists put their focus on the development of a (self)critical and sceptical epistemology, a focus that often has been of little concern to other International Relations theories. So far, however, this debate on classical realism has not further elaborated realist methodologies, although this has the potential to make the current theoretical debate more accessible for empirical investigations. To this end, this article argues that mid-twentieth century realists pursued a method of unlearning. Unlearning is being understood as the critique and moving beyond the modern imaginary which preconditions everyday knowledge and intellectual thought in a dehumanizing way through a learning process based upon the study of classical texts. Examining the work of Hans Morgenthau, and the evocative if generally under-appreciated writings of the Japanese thinker Maruyama Masao, the article argues that unlearning is an important part of critical realist thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-99
JournalJournal of International Political Theory
Issue number1
Early online date16 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Classical realism
  • Hans J Morgenthau
  • International Relations theory
  • Japanese political thought
  • Maruyama Masao
  • unlearning


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