What Would 'Eleanor Roosevelt' Do? A Reply to Karp
7 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2013
Date Written: February 26, 2013
In a recent article in Review of International Studies, David Jason Karp inventories methods for identifying international practices – especially, the practice of human rights (HR).1 By clarifying concepts and theories of practice, and outlining methodological alternatives for studying them empirically, Karp makes valuable contributions to the study of practices, which has recently received much interest in international relations, political philosophy and social theory. However, I disagree with his assessment of the relative merits of the four methods he presents. In this reply, I shall pursue two claims: First, Karp’s preferred ‘purpose method’, according to which the researcher constructs an ‘idealized practitioner’ from whose perspective the practice is to be interpreted, fails the two tests Karp proposes to assess the merits of a method: The purpose method cannot account for a practice’s constitution, and, consequently, neither can it account for its normativity. Second, taken together, not only could the three methods Karp rejects – which focus on key speech acts, the intentions of actors, and ultimate values, respectively – withstand some of his criticism; they also constitute a more robust method for locating practices. I conclude that this ‘mixed methods’ approach is especially suitable for studying the practice of HR.
Keywords: practices, human rights, methods, practitioner, pluralism, pragmatism, normativity
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