Critical Theorists and International Relations: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Critical Theorists and International Relations

1st Edition

Edited by Jenny Edkins, Nick Vaughan-Williams


424 pages

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A wide range of critical theorists is used in the study of international politics, and until now there has been no text that gives concise and accessible introductions to these figures. Critical Theorists and International Relations provides a wide-ranging introduction to thirty-two important theorists whose work has been influential in thinking about global politics.

Each chapter is written by an expert with a detailed knowledge of the theorist concerned, representing a range of approaches under the rubric ‘critical’, including Marxism and post-Marxism, the Frankfurt School, hermeneutics, phenomenology, postcolonialism, feminism, queer theory, poststructuralism, pragmatism, scientific realism, deconstruction and psychoanalysis.

Key features of each chapter include:

  • a clear and concise biography of the relevant thinker
  • an introduction to their key writings and ideas
  • a summary of the ways in which these ideas have influenced and are being used in international relations scholarship
  • a list of suggestions for further reading

Written in engaging and accessible prose, Critical Theorists and International Relations is a unique and invaluable resource for undergraduates, postgraduates and scholars of international relations.


Edkins and Vaughan-Williams have produced a very helpful collection of introductions to the thinking of a wide variety of writers who have been influential in the critical analysis of international relations. This comprehensive set of accessible introductions helps the reader understand the core contributions of writers who have been seminal in the development of a critical account of international relations.

Professor Steve Smith

Vice-Chancellor, University of Exeter

"As one who usually resists teaching IR courses, I welcome Jenny Edkins' and Nick Vaughan-Williams' Critical Theorists and International Relations. I can finally see myself as an occasional IR instructor in a book that provides the critical perspectives lacking in most IR texts, is organized to facilitate pedagogy, and is consistently excellent, chapter by chapter."

--Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i

"Global politics has provided an important context of critical theory. Yet its growing complexity has also called attention to the ongoing task of articulating and reflecting upon the roles of identity, power, order, and resistance in International Relations.Critical Theorists and International Relations is a splendid and much-needed volume that addresses and fills, in a truly original manner, this important niche. Providing comprehensive and authoritative analyses of the key critical theorists, this edited volume will continue to remind us of the ever-present need to wrestle harder with the contextual and overlapping meanings of critical theory in International Relations."

Steven C. Roach, Editor of Critical Theory and International Relations: A Reader,University of South Florida

A deceptively simple idea outstandingly executed. This is a collection of diverse scholarship exploring the wide parameters of critical international theory. No stodgy hagiography, the contributors offer an accessible but critical collection of (often-personal) reflections on some of the most important thinkers in IR. Students of international politics from a wide range of methodological persuasions will find this book an invaluable starting point.

Stuart Shields, University of Manchester

Table of Contents

Introduction Jenny Edkins and Nick Vaughan-Williams 1. Theodor Adorno Columba Peoples 2. Giorgio Agamben Nick Vaughan-Williams 3. Hannah Arendt Patricia Owens 4. Alain Badiou Claudia Aradau 5. Jean Baudrillard François Debrix 6. Simone de Beauvoir Kimberly Hutchings 7. Walter Benjamin Angharad Closs Stephens 8. Roy Bhaskar Milja Kurki 9. Pierre Bourdieu Peter Jackson 10. Judith Butler Cristina Masters 11. Gilles Deleuze Robin Durie 12. Jacques Derrida Maja Zehfuss 13. Franz Fanon Himadeep Muppidi 14. Michel Foucault Andrew Neal 15. Sigmund Freud Vanessa Pupavac 16. Antonio Gramsci Mark Rupert 17. Jürgen Habermas Neta Crawford 18. G. W. F. Hegel Ritu Vij 19. Martin Heidegger Louiza Odysseos 20. Immanuel Kant Kimberly Hutchings 21. Julia Kristeva Vivienne Jabri 22. Emmanuel Levinas Elizabeth Dauphinee 23. Karl Marx Milja Kurki 24. Jean-Luc Nancy Martin Coward 25. Friedrich Nietzsche Robin Durie 26. Jacques Rancière Rens van Munster 27. Richard Rorty James Brassett 28. Edward Said Latha Varadarajan 29. Carl Schmitt Louiza Odysseos and Fabio Petito 30. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Catarina Kinnvall 31. Paul Virilo James Der Derian 32. Slavoj Žižek Diane Rubenstein

About the Editors

Jenny Edkins is Professor of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. Her books include Global Politics: A New Introduction, with Maja Zehfuss (Routledge, 2008)

Nick Vaughan-Williams is Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter. He is co-editor of Terrorism and the Politics of Response (Routledge 2008).

About the Series


The Series provides a forum for innovative and interdisciplinary work that engages with alternative critical, post-structural, feminist, postcolonial, psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to international relations and global politics. In our first 5 years we have published 60 volumes.

We aim to advance understanding of the key areas in which scholars working within broad critical post-structural traditions have chosen to make their interventions, and to present innovative analyses of important topics. Titles in the series engage with critical thinkers in philosophy, sociology, politics and other disciplines and provide situated historical, empirical and textual studies in international politics.


We are very happy to discuss your ideas at any stage of the project: just contact us for advice or proposal guidelines. Proposals should be submitted directly to the Series Editors:

  • Jenny Edkins ( and
  • Nick Vaughan-Williams (

‘As Michel Foucault has famously stated, "knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting" In this spirit The Edkins - Vaughan-Williams Interventions series solicits cutting edge, critical works that challenge mainstream understandings in international relations. It is the best place to contribute post disciplinary works that think rather than merely recognize and affirm the world recycled in IR's traditional geopolitical imaginary.’

Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General