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International Relations Theory

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Haley Stephenson

on 17 March 2014

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Transcript of International Relations Theory

International Relations Theory
How it Relates
The English School theory presents a unique way of conceptualizing International Relations. This theory is able to look at state relations and see deep commonalities that other theories fail to recognize and evaluate. However, the suggestion that these commonalities could be strong enough to form an international society of equals would be contested by many theorists in the rational tradition and likely even critical theorists because it seems to put too much weight on commonalities without truly considering diversity.
Hedley Bull
One of the most influential early writers in the English School tradition
Focused on life, truth and property
Suggested that Realism was overlooking the proof that the international system was not as violent and chaotic as they so fervently believed
Considered English School to be "via media," a middle ground between other, extremely diverse theories
Proposed an international society where all members are equal and uphold certain expectations and responsibilities within the society
Jack Donnelly
Rational Theory
critical theory
English School
Criticizes rational theories
Focus on emancipation
Posititvist, Status-quo and problem solving oriented
The beginnings of the field of International Relations
Assume a state of Anarchy
Focus on the actions of states
Assumes actors are rational and will always act in their own best interests
Focuses on the formation of an International Society through shared values, rules and institutions
Identifies common values and understanding
States are capable of socializing and sharing meaning
Karl Marx
Focus on the emancipation of the proletariat and the socio-economic system of domination through revolution
How it Relates
Antonio Gramsci
J. Ann Tickner
Jacqui True
How it Relates
States are Rational, self-interested and survivalist
Anarchy leads to conflict
States will balance with each other
Power is seen as limited, or "zero-sum"
Scarcity leads to competition
Focuses on the actions of both states and Institutions
States are rational, self-interested and cooperative
Anarchy can lead to cooperation through institutions, interdependence and good governance
Values democracy and free trade
Power is seen as unlimited or in terms of absolute gains
Hans J. Morgenthau
David A Lake
Thomas Hobbes
Kenneth Waltz
How it Relates
Samantha Power
Robert Keohane and Lisa Martin
Robert Powell
Michael Doyle
Helen Milner
Robert Axelrod and Robert Keohane
Arthur A Stein
President Woodrow Wilson
Emmanuel Kant
How it Relates
Robert Jervis
Critical Theory
Wrote "History of the Peloponnesian War: The Melian Dialogue"
In this writing, the Athenians attempt to persuade the Melians into surrendering with the argument that the Melians should seek to preserve the security of their state. The Athenians argue that they are more powerful and therefore the Melians should succumb
Realist writer because of the focus on power and self-preservation as the only factors considered in the relations of actors

Wrote Leviathan, which became a main reference for later realist thinkers
Discusses that the natural state of man is violent and competitive
In Anarchy, men will automatically be drawn to war because of the concept of scarcity; they must protect what they own because it is not protected by a system of power
This thinking can be extended to the state system where there is no overall system to govern states and therefore they must protect their resources
Proposed the idea that competition is necessary for survival, therefore states must compete (war) to survive
Writings that became references for the formation of a cohesive realist theory
The first person to create a cohesive and distinct theory of International Relations
Saw the power in the fact that Realism could predict state behavior through certain assumptions of the theory
Agreed with the Hobbesian idea that the natural state of man is violent and competitive and applied this idea to his conception of states
Introduced the idea that states in a system of Anarchy will balance their power, always reverting to some form of an equilibrium
Moved away from the traditional concept of Realism and formulated his own Structural Realism
In Structural Realism, instead of the natural state of man, the structure of the environment drives state behavior
Focuses on the distribution of capabilities which determines how powerful the state is
This Neorealism became the dominant form of Realism because the importance that it places on the power of structure was widely more relevant than the idea that basic human nature drives all state behavior
Decided to explain the intricacies of war so that we can better understand where and why to use it
Believed that war is rational, national and instrumental
Wars are conducted to achieve political gains, they are not only spectacles of brute force and would not exist without a political goal
Clausewitz introduced this new idea into the field that states are not violent just because that is their nature but that states use violence strategically to achieve certain goals which is consistent with Realist writings that states are self-interested
"Anarchy, Hierarchy, and the Variety of International Relations"
This writing focuses on the rationalist centered idea that states are constantly evaluating their actions in terms of costs
Depending on the outcome of this evaluation of costs, states will either choose to organize themselves in a system of hierarchy or anarchy
States evaluate costs in order to determine what course of action will be the least risky and will put them in a higher position of power, this idea falls very distinctly into Realist thought because of the focus on security and gaining power
At a time in history, Realist thought was the only way of looking at interstate relations and therefore had a major impact on scholar's perception of the state system. This impact is still felt today and Realism continues to be relevant and widely accepted as the most engaging theory in International Relations. Although Realism is powerful, it is not perfect and many other theories have sprouted up to critique the downfalls of Realist thought. In many ways, Realism can be thought of as the roots of which all other theories have grown, though these other theories have evolved into forms much different than that of Realism.
Along with Friedrich Engels, founded the theory now known as Marxism
Believed that the proletariat was repressed by the bourgeoisie and that there must be revolution in order to fix this repression
The first critical theory that criticized the assumptions of Realism and Liberalism in revolutionary ways. No longer was the focus on states but on the classes within those states. Marx believed that the system was not static and unchangeable which seems to be inherently assumed in Realist thought
This idea of class can also be applied to states because some states are more powerful than others and therefore take advantage of those less powerful states
All later critical theories must recognize Marxism if they are to be successful and relevant because of Marxism's pivotal role in the way theory could now be used to criticize the world and find ways to change it rather than simply evaluate and accept injustices. However, Other theories acknowledge the fact that Marxism is limited by its sole focus on class. Later theories strive to ensure that their theory is relevant to all areas of International Relations and not limited to only one topic.

Wrote "Perpetual Peace"
Believed that states could achieve perpetual peace in relations with other states if they strive towards cooperation
Kant proposed that even though violence is the natural state of nature, just as with Realism, it is possible to move past this violent state and achieve cooperation
Introduced the ideas of basic human rights and that peace cannot be achieved if all humans are not given these basic rights
These ideas became references for what would later develop into Liberalism
During the time in between the two world wars, President Wilson made a speech titled the Fourteen points which proposed that Europe should implement several Liberalism based policies to avoid further conflict
Some of these proposals included free trade, armament reduction, respect for state sovereignty and development among other suggestions
This speech was incredibly powerful because it encouraged states to interact peacefully instead of violently which was a direct contradiction to the Realist idea that states must always be in competition to avoid destruction
In her article "Bystanders to Genocide," Power described the actions of the U.S. government during the Rwandan genocide
Through the course of the article, a Realist story emerges. The U.S. government did not see that the genocide was their issue and that they would have nothing to gain by sending reinforcements to Rwanda
Power uses this case study to give a detailed look at what Realism looks like in reality and the fact that although Realism works, it should not be promoted because it leads to disastrous violations of human rights and a jaded government that did not feel the need to intervene in a genocide
This article is a critical look at Realism and asks the question that even if it is a theory that works, is it really a theory that should be brought to life?
In their writing titled "The Promise of Institutionalist Theory," there is a focus on the Neoliberal ideal that Institutions have the power to affect state behavior
Though Institutions had always been an important aspect of Liberalism, Neoliberalism created a focus completely on the power of institutions, something that had not been focused on in previous versions of Liberalism
However, the most evident flaw in the argument about the power of institutions is that fact that states create institutions. It is possible that Neoliberal theory places exaggerated trust in the assumption that institutions are completely separate from states when in fact the two are intertwined and both have major effects on each other
Argues against the patriarchal organization of society and the repression of the female gender
Tikner questions the way we traditionally look at history by analyzing the idea that those who control the power control the way history is written
Historically women have not had power, therefore history is told through a mans perspective which ultimately undermines the role that women have played in shaping the modern world
This concept can also be applied to those under colonial power and the fact that our modern history is largely written with a western bias.
Tikner brings to attention the fact that other theories base their main assumptions on this skewed version of history and are not capable of acknowledging it because they refuse to critically think about widely accepted "facts"
Contrary to what a Realist might believe, Feminism is a useful way to analyze state behavior on the macro scale
True criticizes other theories (such as Realism and Liberalism) because they fail to recognize the importance of individual people and their influence on state behavior, they do not lend enough importance to the fact that states are comprised of individuals
Three types of Feminism are discussed; Empirical Feminism, Analytical Feminism, and Normative Feminism. All three utilize different strategies for understanding and dealing with the gender bias in modern society
Matthew Paterson
How it Relates
Timothy Dunne
Christian Reus-Smit
How it Relates
Richard Devetak
How it Relates
Two types of Green Theory: Bio-environmentalism and Social Greens
Bio-Environmentalism focuses on the carrying capacity of the Earth and the danger of breaching that capacity, which the population may be approaching. Proposes that decentralization of power can fix this problem
Social Greens focus on the fact that we must change the way states measure success. Currently success is measured in economic terms, which lends to the destruction of the environment
Belief that the current structure of the International System lends itself to environmental destruction
Nature should be considered autonomous with its own agency
Proponents of Environmentalism argue that nature and humans are equal. The current system of capitalism is encouraging states to take advantage of environmental resources in order to gain economic power. This idea can be applied throughout International Relations and not only to environmental issues. Although the concern for the environment is likely shared by many different theories, the decentralization argument would be immediately rejected if presented to any other audience besides one solely interested in Green Theory.
Not strictly Marxist but operates under most of the same assumptions
Gramsci lived in Fascist Italy where he experienced the power that institutions could have on oppressing lower classes, these experiences heavily influenced his writings
Believed that institutions could also be used to promote freedom of the proletariat
Similar to Marx, Gramsci promoted the idea that civil society must strengthen before any change can be made in the structure of the classes
Feminism addresses power on a day to day basis, meaning that it acknowledges that power is not just what is considered traditional. Power comes from every day decisions, often made by women, that can ultimately affect the actions of states. This theory strives to bring awareness to the fact that modern society is gendered in ways that most do not even notice and that this gender bias can not be abolished until people start recognizing that it even exists. Other theories may be just as dismissive of feminism as general society is of women and argue that Feminist thought is not applicable to International Relations as a whole. However, True and Tickner both do a fantastic job at debunking this assumption by outlining the many different complex aspects of Feminism.
Andrew Linklater
Values ideas and identity
Assumes that actors are social
Norms are learned through interaction
Actors exist in systems of domination
The structure of the system reflects the current dominant power
Goal to emancipate the population under domination (general)
Elaborates on the idea that liberal states do not often act violently against other liberal states, proof that a Liberal system is valuable
This liberal peace is even more convincing when Doyle discusses the fact that liberal peace remains constant even through the change of a hegemon, proving the theory that if Liberalist ideas spread, the world would encounter more peace.
Discusses Kant's proposal that nature will bring cooperation. This is in direct opposition to the assumptions of Realism that nature facilitates violence
Milner presents a direct argument against the Realist assumption that Anarchy means chaos by pointing out that we do not actually see chaos in the International system. She explains this lack of chaos through examining interdependence in the form of institutions
Institutions at both the domestic and international level are equipped to inhibit chaos and play a major role in IR, despite the Realist belief that institutions play a minor role at most
In accordance with Liberalism, Milner argues that institutions do not abolish Anarchy because they do not have the capacity to govern sovereign states
In their writing "Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy," the conundrum of why egoistic states would choose to cooperate is addressed
Realists frequently address the fact that self-interested states should find no reason to create long standing relationships of cooperation
This writing fully addresses this argument and argues that it is perfectly rational for egoistic states to cooperate because cooperation brings long-term benefits for both actors involved
Stein addressed the Realist preoccupation with security and argues that institutions protect state security
Survival is no longer at stake because we have a normative understanding of sovereign equality
If survival does not need to be the top priority any longer, Realism is less useful to us
Stein outlines the many different situations where cooperation can be seen as more useful than conflict
Jervis provides a very critical look at the nature of U.S. Hegemony
Along with increased security, hegemony actually comes with numerous amounts of difficulties
A hegemon suddenly is required to concern itself not only with its own security but also the events within other states boundaries and must attempt to represent the interests of everyone
Jervis uses both Realist and Liberal ideas throughout his writing but comes to the conclusion that even a hegemon must cooperate with other states in order to remain powerful
Not quite classified as a Realist and not quite as a Liberalist, Powell creates a theory that mixes both but ultimately leans more towards Liberalism
Powell proposes that certain situations will yield state action that is Realist where cooperation collapses and is not the preferred state behavior and other situations will yield Liberal state behavior where cooperation will provide the most benefits to all actors
The theory concludes by suggesting that a Liberalist situation is preferable because states have more to gain in situations of cooperation
Overall suggests that Neorealism and Neoliberalism may not be as distinct from each other as was previously thought
Liberalism takes the Realist assumption that Anarchy leads to conflict and flips it to suggest that Anarchy can instead lead to cooperation and peace. This theory is useful when examining long-term cooperative state relations and explaining the benefits to state security through interdependence. Although Liberalism is successful at explaining cooperation, it overlooks the human aspect of state relations, this is where critical theories become useful
Richard Little
Argues that theories are useful lenses for looking at different aspects of state relations, but advocates that the English School is the most useful to him
The English School believes in coexistence, an idea directly against Realist thought
Also differs from Rational thought because English School does not propose that actors are calculating egoists but rather that actors share commonalities which prompt them to coexist
Against Critical Theory belief, the English School does not focus on individuals and identity but rather, on society as a whole
Little presents an overview of the debate surrounding the English School and also includes how the English School has contributed to the field as a whole
Discusses the important aspect of a common morality shared in an international society
Much of his writing suggests that the English School differs from Realism in the fact that actors in an international society are not constantly attempting to gain power over other actors and instead interact together in peace. This idea is much more closely related to Liberalism and suggests that these two theories share many similarities
"Constructivism does not deny the existence of the material realm but it does challenge the assumption that it exists independently from our ideas and choices."
This quote by Dunne sums up the basic idea that Constructivism seeks to find the influence that ideas have on the world as we see it, suggesting the importance of truly understanding the roots of what we see instead of simply accepting everything at face value
The addition of this idea has created a new way of thinking about International Relations because it encourages us to question the reality that we see
This act of attempting to understand how ideas have shaped the world can allow theorists to generate a more wholesome understanding of state relations
Places importance on the fact that individuals are shaped by their environments and that there is no way to be completely objective in any matter because of this
Because the environment shapes our identity, this will also have an effect on political actions of states because all actors are coming from different environments
Stresses that actors are social and that they learn norms of the system through interaction, this creates an argument against the Rationalist idea that actors are egoists and already know their interests even before interacting with other actors. This is impossible with Constructivism because it is necessary for actors to interact before forming preferences
Stresses the fact the Constructivism chooses to focus on empirical analysis
Other theories lack the understanding that the structures we create will eventually shape our behavior. So if we choose to create peaceful structures and relationships then we will achieve peaceful behavior but this is not possible if no one involved believes that peaceful behavior is possible or desirable. Ideas shape everything in the system of international relations because every actor is simply acting on behalf of their values and ideas. Realism would disagree with this on the basic premise that individual ideas cannot change the fact that states must be concerned with security above all else and this concern for security is a collective concern of all within the state that must override any individual ideas.
Critical Theory helps us to critique hegemonic theories, seeks normative change, recognizes that any status-quo is unique to the moment and helps us think about how we got where we are today in terms of historical context. It is a comprehensive theory that does not limit itself to one subject of focus as other critical theories do, it seeks to examine systems of inclusion and exclusion as a whole. In the eyes of other critical theories this may seem too broad and that this broadness does not lend itself to a full understanding of any specific instance of exclusion, such as gender bias. However, this broad focus allows Critical Theorists to see the world and the oppression of certain groups of people as a whole which brings about a more well-rounded understanding of why exclusion happens in the first place.
Focuses on the idea of inclusion and exclusion. Historically, there have always been groups that have been excluded, this exclusion of those that are different from us could be considered a social norm that everyone in any given society partakes in
Linklater suggests that these norms of exclusion are not unchangeable, there is a common ethic of freedom which will allow for exclusionary practices to become more and more obscure
Normative exclusion is at the root of nearly every issue we see today and if it would be possible to change the norms of exclusion then violence would be greatly reduced. However, to do this it is necessary to change the ideas at the core of the belief that those who are different are dangerous and must be treated differently
Critical Theory seeks to identify these norms of exclusion and then decide the most effective course of action that must be taken in order to eliminate them
Devetak explains Critical Theory as one that does not simply accept the injustices in the world as inevitable and unchangeable. It is not enough to recognize that there are systems of discrimination in society, we must seek to understand the historical roots of these systems in order to abolish them
Must also seek to understand the failures of the current system, and how those failures lend themselves to the continuation of discriminatory systems
States should seek to find ways to identify with other actors instead of seeing them as competition
This attempt to identify with others will facilitate a positive change in the international system where discrimination can become obsolete
Full transcript