From The Twenty Years’ Crisis to Theory of International Politics: A Rhizomatic Reading of Realism

Sean Molloy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The idea behind this article is to employ a series of Deleuzo-Guattarian principles, primarily the concept of the rhizome, to the articulation and development of Realism as a theory of IR. The article makes the claim that using rhizomatics allows those interested in Realism to reconceptualise the relationship between Realism and Neorealism. The article argues that the publication of The Twenty Years’ Crisis by E.H. Carr and Theory of International Politics by Ken Waltz represent two ‘intense’ moments in the descent of Realism. The article argues that despite the attempted ‘territorialisation’ of Realism into the static, paradigmatic Neorealism, Realism remains a heterogeneous set of concepts. The territorialisation process has met with some resistance; for example, just as Waltz was trying to territorialise Realism, his theory was being deterritorialised by Richard Ashley. The article also examines James Der Derian's attempt to save realism by deconstructing it, advocating an ‘affirmative leap into the imaginary’. The article concludes that despite the Neorealist moment, attempts to splice together constructivism and realism provide evidence that Realism remains mutative, heterogeneous, open and vital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-404
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Deleuze
  • Guattari
  • IR theory
  • realism
  • rhizome


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