As the ink of the special issue on The Status of Law in World Society: Meditations on the Role and Rule of Law (Kratochwil, 2014) is barely dry (Peltonen and Traisbach, 2020), this chapter follows yet another invitation to engage with Friedrich Kratochwil’s seminal work in International Relations (IR) and International Law in celebration of his most recent monograph titled Praxis (Kratochwil, 2018). In this chapter, I turn to Kratochwil’s veritable gusto in performing academic interventions to explore the purpose and effect of his by now seminal practice of deeply engaging with the work of others by way of intertextual interaction. While some detect a certain ‘grumpiness’ (Welsh, 2020), this chapter argues that his academic interventions on IR theory and International Law, are of a notable game-changing quality. As the following will demonstrate, based on an agonistic reading of these interventions, this quality is characterized by two moves: firstly, a normative call for more critical engagement with the claims of other IR theorists, for ‘values and committing to them have to be an intrinsic concern for social analysis that cannot be sacrificed on the altar of scientific objectivity as otherwise we lose, so to speak, the “object” we are supposed to study’ (Kratochwil, 2020: 1); and secondly, the development of a practice-based approach to constructive critique through academic intervention. According to Kratochwil, this kind of practical engagement works best through praxis, which involves the practices of thoroughly scrutinizing and contesting the theoretical claims of others. This constructive critique in the social sciences is not value-free, to be sure, for ‘it makes at least prima facie sense to be sceptical about the possibility of a value-free “scientific” approach to problems of praxis since values are constitutive for our interests, and following rules is linked to “commitments” and the validity of norms, not to causality’ (Kratochwil, 2020: 1, emphasis added).
This chapter argues that throughout his academic career Kratochwil’s own scholarly action has been developed to a fine point. In the process, his repertoire for academic intervention has been constituted by the writings of those IR theorists whose work he finds to be misleading their readers, thereby often distorting the potential of the discipline.