Causation in International Relations

World political processes, such as wars and globalisation, are engendered by complex sets of causes and conditions. Although the idea of causation is fundamental to the field of International Relations, what the concept of cause means or entails has remained an unresolved and contested matter. In recent decades ferocious debates have surrounded the idea of causal analysis, some scholars even questioning the legitimacy of applying the notion of cause in the study of International Relations. This book suggests that underlying the debates on causation in the field of International Relations is a set of problematic assumptions (deterministic, mechanistic and empiricist) and that we should reclaim causal analysis from the dominant discourse of causation. Milja Kurki argues that reinterpreting the meaning, aims and methods of social scientific causal analysis opens up multi-causal and methodologically pluralist avenues for future International Relations scholarship.

• An introduction to the philosophical assumptions on causation in IR scholarship • Integrates philosophy of science debates to IR theoretical analysis • Illustrates the implications for rethinking the concept of cause in the future study of IR


Introduction: the problem of causation and the divided discipline of international relations; Part I. The Humean Philosophy of Causation and its Legacies: 1. The Humean philosophy of causation and its legacies in philosophy of science; 2. Controversy over causes in the social sciences; 3. Humeanism and rationalist causal analysis in international relations; 4. Reflectivist and constructivist approaches in international relations: more cases of Humeanism; Part II. Rethinking the Concept of Cause: 5. Attempts to move beyond Humeanism: strengths and weaknesses; 6. Rethinking causation: towards a deeper and broader concept of cause; Part III. Reconfiguring Causal Analysis of World Politics: 7. Expanding horizons in world political causal inquiry; 8. Reconceptualising causes, reframing the divided discipline.


‘Cause is the central concept of any science, including human sciences. Yet, most IR scholars seem to assume that this is not the case, which explains in part the appalling state of the discipline. To paraphrase Kant, it is time to awaken IR scholars from their \'dogmatic slumber\' by shifting the field of background discourse, as Kurki attempts to do here. Her brilliant book will no doubt make a huge contribution to the revival of cumulative research in world politics, peace and conflict studies and related fields.’ Heikki Patomäki, Professor of International Relations, University of Helsinki