Ir in the Modern World

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The disciple of international relations (IR), like all the social sciences, needs theories to make sense of the world it is trying to examine. There are many contrasting and conflicting views advocated by differing schools of thought within IR. The merits and faults of each school of thought have been contested in what are known as the ‘great debates’. The debates were triggered by real world events such as the Abyssinia Crisis, and the failure of the League of Nations in the 1930s. These real world events pitted conflicting ideologies about world politics against each other. Essentially, the great debates are about what the study of IR is or should be. The debates are so fundamental to IR that Ole Wæver (1998, p715) commented that there is no other established means of telling the history of IR. The debates are used by IR practitioners and scholars to define their positions on the way they view the world. However, defining one’s position is not as easy as it sounds. What one thing means to someone might not necessarily mean the same thing to another person. IR and the great debates have been characterized by a wide range of shifts, contests, dialogues and discoveries. In his 1985 work, The Dividing Discipline: Hegemony and Pluralism in International Theory, Kal Holsti concluded that such shifts, contests and dialogues has led to IR becoming a fragmented discipline. Others believe that shifts, contests, and dialogues between theories helps to reveal their strengths and weaknesses and helps in their refinement which can only make the field of IR stronger. The debates this essay shall focus on in detail are the debate between realism and idealism and the debate between traditionalism and behavioralism as the essay title concerns itself more with traditional IR theory. The inter-paradigm debate and the rationalism versus reflectivism debate will be touched upon to give a more comprehensive overview of the debates but they will not be examined in as much detail....
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