A Critique of Poststructuralism’s Discursive Ontology: Extra-Discursive Realm and Critical Realism in International Relations



Klevis KOLASI*

While the limits of poststructuralism’s relativist epistemology are usually acknowledged in IR literature, the problems that its discursive ontology posits for the conceptualization of international phenomena are seldom problematized. This article aims to provide a critical assessment of the anti-realist ontological assumptions of poststructuralism about reducing social reality into discursive or linguistic practices, which has recently gained widespread acceptance in post-positivist circles. The article suggests that discursive practices instead of being equated with social structures, and seen as constitutive of social reality, can be properly understood only if conceptualized within a differentiated and stratified ontology, allowing us to probe why specific discourses emerge in a certain way and have more influence than others. Based on the meta-theoretical framework of critical realism, this article tries to show that epistemological relativism which claims knowledge of social reality only indirectly through interpretive schemas does not necessarily lead to a conception of relative ontology that equates social reality with discursive practices. In this respect, the article focuses on and rethinks the relationship between theory and social reality in poststructuralism..

Keywords: Poststructuralism, Discursive Ontology, Discursive Practices, Critical Realism, Stratified Ontology


* Assist. Prof. Dr., Department of International Relations, Ankara University