chapter  7
12 Pages

Vico Contra Kant: The Competing Critical Theories of Cox and Linklater: Richard Devetak


This chapter juxtaposes the work of Robert W. Cox and Andrew Linklater. Both are regarded as leading critical theorists of International Relations, as this edited collection attests, but both offer very different accounts of what such a critical international theory might entail. This is largely a result of their contrasting intellectual heritages. Despite sharing a common inheritance from Karl Marx, Linklater and Cox draw upon vastly different literatures. Rather than survey and analyse the full range of similarities and differences in the critical theory programmes elaborated by Linklater and Cox, I shall focus on one aspect: their approach to history. Unlike many other critical international theorists – who tend to limit their temporal horizons to the very recent past, the present and, quite often, distant speculative futures – Linklater and Cox both engage seriously with history. However, as we shall see, they adopt very different approaches. Linklater’s approach to history is informed and guided primarily by the philosopher of Königsberg, Immanuel Kant, and Cox’s by the Neapolitan professor of rhetoric, Giambattista Vico. The rival understandings of history offered by these two eighteenth-century thinkers lead our twenty-fi rst century thinkers to develop divergent critical theories.