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Understanding International Relations

By saeedshahani Feb 27, 2013 1411 Words
Defining International Relations
State-centric: It is the study of the relations of states, understood in diplomatic, military and strategic terms. The relevant unit is the state, not the nation. Sovereignty is the key feature. Due to international developments, we may weaken the assumption that external policy of the state is based on security. But states remain dominant in IR. Globalization theorists focus on it rather than the states. We live in a ‘borderless world’ (Ohmae 1990). Development of IR Theory in the 20th Century

Liberal Internationalism: After the end of WW1, British and American thinkers shaped the IR thinking. They adapted broadly liberal political principles to the management of the international system. Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points were under these. The theory was that in domestic politics, people didn’t want to go to war; war came because people are led into it by militarists and autocrats, or because their legitimate aspiration to nationhood were blocked by undemocratic, multinational, imperial systems. The solution is to promote democratic political systems, i.e. liberal-democratic, constitutional regimes, and the principle of national self-determination. The rationale is that if all regimes were national and liberal democratic, there would be no war. These theorists also criticise pre-1914 international institutional structures. Thus League of Nations was formed, as an opposition to the balance of power system. Collective security was pursued. They were liberal because of the rule of law and the assumption of the underlying harmony of interests. Criticism: Nazi regime and popular view towards war was a blow to the theory. LoN wanted to solve everything by war, but law had to be maintained by war. Liberals wildly exaggerated the capacity of collectivities of human to behave in ways that were truly moral (Niebuhr 1932). Carr criticised liberal internationalism to make realism. The influential book was ‘The Twenty Years Crisis’ (1939). His main point was that the liberal doctrine of harmony of interests glosses over the real conflict between the haves and have-nots. There’s scarcity, haves enforce law while have-nots are under their thumbs. Lib. Intl. incoherent and flawed doctrine, with contradictions such as nationalism and democracy are compatible. Yet it is resilient and shared by many. (Chris Brown Kirsten Ainley: Understanding IR) Realism: Realists work with the world as it really is. This became the dominant mood after WW2. Morgenthau saw the mainspring of realism as lying not in scarcity, a product of human condition, but in sin, a product of human nature. Aggressive, power-seeking states stem from the imperfect human material. His definition: IR is about states pursuing interests defined in terms of power. The state becomes the key actor in IR. While other bodies exercise influence, they operate through states and are regulated by them. The claim is not that the state is the only actor but that it is the most significant actor. States have interests, and state interests dominate state behaviour. States are like persons, so they can produce interests. They do not sacrifice themselves; they are egoists. While these interests may be hard complex, realists believe that they can be simplified by assuming that whatever states seek, they seek power in order to achieve those goals. This need is to due to the anarchical nature of the intl. system, so they need to look after themselves. This power can be measured in assets, ability to achieve a particular goal, but behavioural relationships may come in. Measuring power is difficult. Realists tended to use scientific method. Realists were mostly behaviouralists. Challenges: came from the world of Great power diplomacy (high politics) and socio-economic changes (low politics). US inability to turn its power into results on the ground or at the conference table during the Vietnam War was a major blow. Along with détente, it seemed like power politics were becoming less important. Conventional realists assume that significant relations b/w different societies are those which take place via the state’s institutions. While other transactions and exchanges may take place, state ones are the most important. This is no longer true: decision of non-state actors are imp. such as the Al-Qaeda attacks. States may not be able to regulate these actors. Pluralism: Keohane and Nye proposed in Power and Independence (1977) that complex interdependence ran alongside realism, but with 3 differences. Firstly, there are multiple channels of access b/w societies, including non-state actors, as opposed to unitary state assumption. Second, complex interdependence assumes that for most intl. relationships force will be of low salience, as opposed to the central role of force in realism. Lastly, under this there are no hierarchy of issues; any issue area may be on top of intl. agenda, as opposed to realism where security is always the most important. States have always been interdependent, but Pluralism assumes that different issue areas (e.g. security or trade) have different modes of mutual dependence. The sensitivity of actors varies according to circumstances, as does their vulnerability. Agenda-setting is another feature. In realist power politics, the agenda sets itself, as only the big issues of peace and war are significant. There might be a clear route to promote certain issues on top of the agenda – such issues may be characterised by a high degree of intl. order; they may be called regimes. Pluralism preserved some realist insights such as the importance of power. Criticism: Structuralists blamed pluralists that they were stressing the dependence of one group of countries upon another rather than their interdependence. They argued that poverty of the poor was directly caused by the rich. Rational Choice Theory: Theory of International Politics by Kenneth Waltz (1979) brought realism back, and brought in the RCT debate. It assumes that politics can be understood in terms of the goal-directed behaviour of individuals, who act rationally in the minimal sense that they make ends-means calculations designed to maximise the benefits they expect to accrue from particular situations. Neorealism: The same book is used for neorealism. Waltz restricts realism’s scope to counter the pluralist challenge. He concerned to produce interrelated, link law-like propositions from which testable hypotheses can be drawn. He restricts the scope to the international system rather than IR. He proposes to understand the intl. system visa systemic theories. There are only two kinds of system possible – a hierarchical or anarchical. Waltz argues that the current system is anarchical. The intl. system is a self-help system, thus balance of power is brought in. BoP can be defined in terms of the number of poles in the balance. As opposed to most, Waltz believes bipolar systems are easier to manage due to fewer interested parties involved. There is no guarantee that balances will form, but if states ignore the power distribution they might suffer as a result (Waltz 1979). Yet many have survived. He added economic analogies which made it ‘neo’. Waltz adds the rational choice mode of BoP in which states are egoists, as opposed to Morgenthau’s ‘righteous realists’ (Rosenthal 1991). Neoliberalism: They accepted the two basic assumptions of intl. anarchy and rational egoism of states, but their aim was to show that it was possible for rational egoists to cooperate even in an anarchic system. They also adopted game theory, public choice and rational choice theory. Robert Keohane and Robert Axelrod (1984, 1985, 1989) developed such models. They also believed US was in decline and was using its capital built under hegemony. Neoliberalists believe that states are focused on absolute gains of power, as opposed to realists who base it on relative gains (BoP). Constructivism: There is a fundamental distinction b/w brute facts - independent of human actions, and social facts, which depend for their existence on socially establish conventions (Searle 1995). Making social facts appear as brute is an error. We live in a ‘world of our making’ not a world whose contours are predetermined in advance by non-human forces (Onuf 1989). While in the ‘neo’ theories, identities of the actors had no significance, but constructivists believe they do. English School: The focus should be on a world of states and not sub-state entities or universal categories such as ‘humanity’. When they interact they form a society rather than a system, a non-governed relationship whose members accept that they have at least limited responsibilities towards each other and the society. States pursue their interests, but not at all costs; if they do the intl. society would be at danger.

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