File Name: theories and approaches of international relations .zip
International relations theories can help us understand the way the international systems work, as well as how nations engage with each other and view the world. Varying from liberal, equality-centric strategies to straightforward realist concepts, international relations theories are often used by diplomats and international relations experts to dictate the direction that a government may take in regards to an international political issue or concern. By studying the following key international theories, professionals in the field can better discern the motivations and goals driving policy decisions worldwide. Realism is a straightforward approach to international relations, stating that all nations are working to increase their own power, and those countries that manage to horde power most efficiently will thrive, as they can easily eclipse the achievements of less powerful nations. The nature of realism implies that seeking a moral high ground is a goal that governments cannot always achieve and that deceit and violence can be highly effective tools for advancing national interests.
International relations theory
International relations theory is the study of international relations IR from a theoretical perspective. It attempts to provide a conceptual framework upon which international relations can be analyzed. The three most prominent theories are realism , liberalism and constructivism.
Many often conflicting ways of thinking exist in IR theory, including constructivism, institutionalism , Marxism , neo-Gramscianism , and others. However, two positivist schools of thought are most prevalent: realism and liberalism.
The study of international relations , as theory, can be traced to E. Early international relations scholarship in the interwar years focused on the need for the balance of power system to be replaced with a system of collective security.
These thinkers were later described as "Idealists". However, a more recent study, by David Long and Brian Schmidt in , offers a revisionist account of the origins of the field of international relations. They claim that the history of the field can be traced back to late 19th Century imperialism and internationalism. The fact that the history of the field is presented by " great debates ", such as the realist-idealist debate, does not correspond with the historic evidence found in earlier works: "We should once and for all dispense with the outdated anachronistic artifice of the debate between the idealists and realists as the dominant framework for and understanding the history of the field".
Their revisionist account claims that, up until , international relations already existed in the form of colonial administration, race science, and race development. A clear distinction is made between explanatory and constitutive approaches when classifying international relations theories.
Realism or political realism  has been the dominant theory of international relations since the conception of the discipline. Early realism can be characterized as a reaction against interwar idealist thinking. The outbreak of World War II was seen by realists as evidence of the deficiencies of idealist thinking.
There are various strands of modern-day realist thinking. However, the main tenets of the theory have been identified as statism, survival, and self-help.
Realism makes several key assumptions. It assumes that nation-states are unitary, geographically based actors in an anarchic international system with no authority above capable of regulating interactions between states as no true authoritative world government exists. Secondly, it assumes that sovereign states , rather than intergovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations , or multinational corporations , are the primary actors in international affairs. Thus, states, as the highest order, are in competition with one another.
As such, a state acts as a rational autonomous actor in pursuit of its own self-interest with a primary goal to maintain and ensure its own security—and thus its sovereignty and survival. Realism holds that in pursuit of their interests, states will attempt to amass resources , and that relations between states are determined by their relative levels of power.
That level of power is in turn determined by the state's military, economic, and political capabilities. The defensive view can lead to a security dilemma , where increasing one's own security can bring along greater instability as the opponent s builds up its own arms, making security a zero-sum game where only relative gains can be made.
Neorealism or structural realism  is a development of realism advanced by Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics. It is, however, only one strand of neorealism. Joseph Grieco has combined neo-realist thinking with more traditional realists.
This strand of theory is sometimes called "modern realism". It shapes all foreign policy choices of states in the international arena. For instance, any disagreement between states derives from lack of a common power central authority to enforce rules and maintain them constantly. Thus there is constant anarchy in international system that makes it necessary for states the obtainment of strong weapons in order to guarantee their survival.
Additionally, in an anarchic system, states with greater power have tendency to increase its influence further. Waltz also challenges traditional realism's emphasis on traditional military power, instead characterizing power in terms of the combined capabilities of the state. The precursor to liberal international relations theory was " idealism ".
Idealism or utopianism was viewed critically by those who saw themselves as "realists", for instance E. For example, an idealist might believe that ending poverty at home should be coupled with tackling poverty abroad.
Wilson's idealism was a precursor to liberal international relations theory, which would arise amongst the "institution-builders" after World War I. Liberalism holds that state preferences, rather than state capabilities, are the primary determinant of state behavior. Unlike realism, where the state is seen as a unitary actor, liberalism allows for plurality in state actions. Thus, preferences will vary from state to state, depending on factors such as culture , economic system or government type.
Thus, instead of an anarchic international system, there are plenty of opportunities for cooperation and broader notions of power, such as cultural capital for example, the influence of films leading to the popularity of the country's culture and creating a market for its exports worldwide. Another assumption is that absolute gains can be made through co-operation and interdependence —thus peace can be achieved. The democratic peace theory argues that liberal democracies have never or almost never made war on one another and have fewer conflicts among themselves.
This is seen as contradicting especially the realist theories and this empirical claim is now one of the great disputes in political science. Numerous explanations have been proposed for the democratic peace. It has also been argued, as in the book Never at War , that democracies conduct diplomacy in general very differently from non-democracies.
Neo realists disagree with Liberals over the theory, often citing structural reasons for the peace, as opposed to the state's government. Sebastian Rosato , a critic of democratic peace theory, points to America's behavior towards left-leaning democracies in Latin America during the Cold War to challenge democratic peace. Neoliberalism, liberal institutionalism or neo-liberal institutionalism  is an advancement of liberal thinking. It argues that international institutions can allow nations to successfully cooperate in the international system.
Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye , in response to neorealism, develop an opposing theory they dub " complex interdependence. The heart of Keohane and Nye's argument is that in international politics there are, in fact, multiple channels that connect societies exceeding the conventional Westphalian system of states.
This manifests itself in many forms ranging from informal governmental ties to multinational corporations and organizations. Here they define their terminology; interstate relations are those channels assumed by realists; transgovernmental relations occur when one relaxes the realist assumption that states act coherently as units; transnational applies when one removes the assumption that states are the only units.
It is through these channels that political exchange occurs, not through the limited interstate channel as championed by realists. Secondly, Keohane and Nye argue that there is not, in fact, a hierarchy among issues, meaning that not only is the martial arm of foreign policy not the supreme tool by which to carry out a state's agenda, but that there are a multitude of different agendas that come to the forefront.
The line between domestic and foreign policy becomes blurred in this case, as realistically there is no clear agenda in interstate relations. Finally, the use of military force is not exercised when complex interdependence prevails. The idea is developed that between countries in which a complex interdependence exists, the role of the military in resolving disputes is negated. However, Keohane and Nye go on to state that the role of the military is in fact important in that "alliance's political and military relations with a rival bloc.
One version of post-liberal theory argues that within the modern, globalized world, states in fact are driven to cooperate in order to ensure security and sovereign interests.
The departure from classical liberal theory is most notably felt in the re-interpretation of the concepts of sovereignty and autonomy. Autonomy becomes a problematic concept in shifting away from a notion of freedom, self-determination, and agency to a heavily responsible and duty laden concept. Importantly, autonomy is linked to a capacity for good governance.
Similarly, sovereignty also experiences a shift from a right to a duty. In the global economy, International organizations hold sovereign states to account, leading to a situation where sovereignty is co-produced among "sovereign" states. The concept becomes a variable capacity of good governance and can no longer be accepted as an absolute right.
One possible way to interpret this theory, is the idea that in order to maintain global stability and security and solve the problem of the anarchic world system in International Relations, no overarching, global, sovereign authority is created. Instead, states collectively abandon some rights for full autonomy and sovereignty. Without understanding their contribution to political order and its progressive possibilities, particularly in the area of peace in local and international frameworks, the weaknesses of the state, the failings of the liberal peace, and challenges to global governance cannot be realised or properly understood.
Furthermore, the impact of social forces on political and economic power, structures, and institutions, provides some empirical evidence of the complex shifts currently underway in IR.
Constructivism or social constructivism  has been described as a challenge to the dominance of neo-liberal and neo-realist international relations theories.
Constructivist theory criticises the static assumptions of traditional international relations theory and emphasizes that international relations is a social construction. Constructivism is a theory critical of the ontological basis of rationalist theories of international relations. By "ideas" constructivists refer to the goals, threats, fears, identities, and other elements of perceived reality that influence states and non-state actors within the international system.
Constructivists believe that these ideational factors can often have far-reaching effects, and that they can trump materialistic power concerns. For example, constructivists note that an increase in the size of the U. Therefore, there must be perceptions at work in shaping international outcomes.
As such, constructivists do not see anarchy as the invariable foundation of the international system,  but rather argue, in the words of Alexander Wendt , that "anarchy is what states make of it". Marxist approaches argue the position of historical materialism and make the assumption that the economic concerns transcend others; allowing for the elevation of class as the focus of study.
Marxists view the international system as an integrated capitalist system in pursuit of capital accumulation. Gramscian approaches rely on the ideas of Italian Antonio Gramsci whose writings concerned the hegemony that capitalism holds as an ideology. Marxist approaches have also inspired Critical Theorists such as Robert W. Cox who argues that "Theory is always for someone and for some purpose".
One notable Marxist approach to international relations theory is Immanuel Wallerstein's World-system theory which can be traced back to the ideas expressed by Lenin in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. World-system theory argues that globalized capitalism has created a core of modern industrialized countries which exploit a periphery of exploited "Third World" countries.
These ideas were developed by the Latin American Dependency School. Marxist approaches have enjoyed a renaissance since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Criticisms of Marxists approaches to international relations theory include the narrow focus on material and economic aspects of life. Green theory in international relations is a sub-field of international relations theory which concerns international environmental cooperation. Several alternative approaches have been developed based on foundationalism , anti-foundationalism , positivism , behaviouralism , structuralism and post-structuralism.
These theories however are not widely known. Behaviouralism in international relations theory is an approach to international relations theory which believes in the unity of science, the idea that the social sciences are not fundamentally different from the natural sciences.
The " English School " of international relations theory, also known as International Society, Liberal Realism, Rationalism or the British institutionalists, maintains that there is a 'society of states' at the international level, despite the condition of "anarchy", i.
Despite being called the English School many of the academics from this school were neither English nor from the United Kingdom.
Key Theories of International Relations
The Covid pandemic is a global challenge calling for a global response. But the actual responses of states, while exhibiting considerable international cooperation, are predominantly competitive and self-centered. This raises important questions about the utility of our basic intellectual tools—in the form of International Relations Theory IRT —for understanding the pattern of these responses. IRT analyzes inter-state dynamics and explains the extent to which states and institutions do or do not cooperate. This critique focuses on theories that stress competition realism , those that focus on cooperation liberalism and those emphasising ideational constructions that could go either way constructivism and normative theory. It seeks to elucidate the relative strengths of these theories—what they can tell us and what they cannot—in understanding responses to the current pandemic. It concludes that, while all the identified approaches have something to offer, realist theory, which highlights the prioritization of national interests over collective action, provides the most optimal approach for a full understanding of global responses to Covid
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A theory of international relations is a set of ideas that explains how the international system works. Unlike an ideology, a theory of international relations is at least in principle backed up with concrete evidence. The two major theories of international relations are realism and liberalism. Most theories of international relations are based on the idea that states always act in accordance with their national interest, or the interests of that particular state. State interests often include self-preservation, military security, economic prosperity, and influence over other states.
International relations IR theory is difficult to define. It is often taught as a theory that seeks both to explain past state behavior and to predict future state behavior. However, even that definition is contested by many theorists. Traditional IR theories can generally be categorized by their focus either on humans, states, or on the state system as the primary source of conflict. Any bibliography of international relations theory is bound to create controversy among its readers.
Realism , set of related theories of international relations that emphasizes the role of the state , national interest, and military power in world politics. Realism has dominated the academic study of international relations since the end of World War II. Realists claim to offer both the most accurate explanation of state behaviour and a set of policy prescriptions notably the balance of power between states for ameliorating the inherent destabilizing elements of international affairs.
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