Wars, Hotel Fires, and Plane Crashes

Alexander Wendt has drawn on an exceptional range of theoretical literature in his effort to reconceptualize the nature of the international system. His discussion of scientific realism ought to be required reading for any student of international relations, or political science for that matter. He puts to rest the notion that constructivism is necessarily postmodern, devoid of an objective referent. In John Searle's felicitous formulation it is possible to have a subjective ontology but an objective epistemology. In emphasizing that all knowledge is theory laden, Wendt underscores the point that facts never simply speak for themselves. In both the social and natural sciences brute empiricism is never an adequate research strategy. Our theories shape the way we see the world but they cannot remake the world in their own image.