Difference between Positivism and Post-Positivism in Research

What is Positivism- Everything is proven by science with Observation. The term ‘positivism’ appears to have been first used in the 1820s, in French, most influentially by Auguste Comte as a label for his ‘positive philosophy’ though many of the ideas to which it referred have a long history. Comte’s philosophy was intended to exemplify and promote the scientific mode of thought that he believed was becoming dominant, superseding the theological and metaphysical forms that had prevailed in earlier periods of European history. Comte’s ideas had a great influence on social science in the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, directly as well as indirectly through the work of others, such as Mill and Durkheim.

What is Post-positivism- Everything is proven by Science and logic. The concept of post-positivism refers to the theories of international relations which epistemologically reject positivism. Positivism holds the idea that the empiricist observation of the natural sciences can be applied to the social sciences. The post-positivist approach can be described as incredulity towards metanarratives—in IR, this would involve rejecting all-encompassing stories that claim to explain the international system. It argues that neither realism nor liberalism could be the full story. A post-positivist approach to IR does not claim to provide universal answers but seeks to ask questions instead. A key difference is that while positivist theories such as realism and liberalism highlight how power is exercised, post-positivist theories focus on how power is experienced, focusing on both different subject matters and agents. Postpositivist theories do not attempt to be scientific or a social science. Instead, they try an in-depth analysis of cases in order to "understand" international political phenomena by asking relevant questions to determine in what ways the status quo promotes certain power relations.

Difference between Positivism and Post-Positivism in Research  table below 

Positivism VS Post Positivism


Logic + Science






Critical Reality




Non- Probability


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