To what extent does the concept of ‘complex interdependence’ challenge realist claims about International Relations? “Contemporary world politics is not a seamless web, is rather a tapestry of diverse relationships”1. Complex interdependence is a relatively new theory; it was Richard N. Cooper who first introduced the concept of economic interdependence in the early seventies, it was then Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye who went further and argued that the idea of interdependence was increasing between states and societies. Realism instead, claims the contrary, however realists do accept that realism doesn’t claim to explain every aspect of international relations. It does have some very basic assumptions which more than anything “can be seen as defining an extreme set of conditions or ideal type” 2 in which there is always likely conflict between states. I will now discuss that complex interdependence can challenge realism and is a more accurate reflection of contemporary international relations.
Firstly we can look at the assumptions by realists. Ultimately in realism, international politics is a struggle for power in which every state has one main primary intention; the acquisition of power, through force via war, which to realists, most importantly is an effective mean of exerting power. As Morgenthau famously said “All history shows that nations active in international politics are continuously preparing for, actively involved in, or recovering from organized violence on the form of war”.3 Thus the international system is anarchical; consequently a state must require a military capacity for basic survival in international relations. States are also seen as the key rational actors in international relations. The final assumption is that realists visualize a hierarchy of issues in global affairs, with ‘high politics’ such as military is above ‘low politics’ issues such as the economy or social matters.
In essence, states will always act in...
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