International Relations theories

Aggregate of the theories of IR

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Realists: NATO is a way to extend Western influence

Liberalists: NATO will reinforce Central Europe's nascent deomocracies and extend conflict management to the region. The value of incorporating Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland is that they will create a shared identity - means they are less likely to want to go to war.

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IR theory: realism

International Relations theories: competition between realism, liberalism and radicalism

Realism: conflict. Classical realists - Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebahr - states have an innate desire to dominante others (arising from human nature). Morgenthau favoured a balance of power over bipolarity.

Neorealism: Kenneth Waltz focuses on the international system. Great powers seek to survive, and bipolarity is more stable than multipolarity. States will try to balance against the great power of the time or bandwagon on its policies if profitable.

Offence-defence theory: Robert Jervis, George Quester, Stephen Van Evera. War is more likely when states can easily conquer each other. If defence is easier than offence, cooperation can evolve. Defence means states can acquire the means to defend themselves without threatening others, thus dampening anarchy. States can guarantee security by forming balancing alliances and choosing defensive military positions.

Waltz et al believe the Cold War was a very secure time for the US and fear the US could squander its advantage through enacting an overly-aggressive foreign policy.

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IR theory: liberalism

Liberalists want to use the system to mitigate conflict. There are three schools of thought:

1: Economic interdependence between states since the Cold War has reduced incentives to use force for fear of losing lucrative deals

2: Woodrow Wilson et al: the spread of democracy is the key to world peace as democratic countries are less likely to fight with each other.

2: International institutions (IAEA, IMF) curb selfish state behaviour in favour of cooperation. 

Most liberals see states as central to international affairs. They argue that cooperation is more persuasive to states than liberalism allows.

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IR theory: radicalism

Radicalists want to reinvent the international system altogether.

Marxists: say that conflict is due to orthodox capitalism. Capitalist states battle each other for profits and battle socialist states because they see them as the seeds of their own destruction.

Dependancy theory: focuses on the relationship between advanced capitalist powers and less developmed states. The former exploit the latter, so the solution is to overthrow parasitic elites.

As the Cold War came to an end thes ideas were replaced by a deconstructionist approach which is sceptical of universalist theories such as realism and liberalism.

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Domestic policies

Democratic strand of liberalism: Graham Allison and John Steinbruner: using organisation theory and bureaucratic politics to explain foreign policy.

Jervis and Irving Janis apply social and cognitive psychology.

These efforts seek to identify other factors that might lead states to behave contrary to the predictions of realist or liberal approaches. Much of this literature is a complement to the main paradigms rather than a rival approach to analyse the international system as a whole.

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The end of the Cold War

Since the end of the Cold War, scholarship has diversified into a new series of debates. Realism redux: realism turned to the problem of relative and absolute gains. Institutions - do they enable staes to govor long-term gains over short-term ones? Joseph Grieco and Stephen Krasner say no - anarchy forces states to worry about absolute gains from cooperation and how these gains are distributied. Barry Posen looked at ethnic conflict -  the breakup of multi-ethnic states placed rival groups into an anarchic setting, leading rivals to preemptively 'cleanse' alien minorities in the former Yugoslavia. NATO may also experience increasing strains absent a clear enemy and expanding its presence may jeopardise relations with Russia. Micheal Mastenduno: argued that US foreign policy is realist - its actions are designed to preserve US predominance and shape a postwar order that advances US interests.

Defensive realists (Waltz, Van Evera, Jack Snyder) assumed states had little intrinsic interest in military conflict - the costs of expansion outweigh the benefits. Great power wars happened due to excessive faith in force's efficacy. Challenges: Randall Schweller - assumption states only seek to survive stacks deck in favour of status quo - precludes rise of predatory revisionist states, i.e. Hitler's Germany - they are willing to risk annihilation to achieve their aims. Peter Liberman - Does Conquest Pay? - historic cases i.e. Soviet hegemony to show benefits of conquests exceed the costs. 3 - offensive realists (Eric Labs, John Mearsheimer, Fareed Zakaria) anarch encourages states to maximise strength as no state can be sure when a revisionist power will emerge.

Differences explain disagreement over issues such as Europe. Defensive realists - Europe is 'primed for peace' v. Mearsheimer - competition will return to Europe when the US pacifier is withdrawn.

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The end of the Cold War

The post Cold War is still waiting for its 'X' article. Many have tried, but no-one has managed to match George Kennan's analysis, which he proveded for the earlier era, articulating the theory of containment.

The defining argument is between those who believe the world has changed as a result of the cold war and those who do not. Some see the State as the main actor but believe the state's role is moving from competition to ecnonmic competitiveness, domestic welfare and environmental protection. Bill Clinton: enlightened self-interest leads to new cooperation. some attribute the change to the spread of democracy, others to nuclear stalemate and others to the changes in international norms.

Is the state still the most important international actor? Jessica Mathews: the absolutes fof the Westphalian system are dissolving. John Ruggie: we cannot adequately describe the new forces transforming world politics. The idea that states are losing relevance is growing in popularity.

Realists (Christopher Layne, Kenneth Waltz) give the state pride of place still and predict a return to great power competition. Institutionalists (Robert Keohane) emphasise the central role of the state and argue that institutions such as the EU and NATO are important because they provide continuity in the midst of dramatic political shifts. These authors see the end of te Cold War as a shift in the balance of power but not as a qualitative transformation in the basic nature of world politics.

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The end of the Cold War

Liberalism - the defeat of communism led to Francis Fukuyama's claim that humankind had reached the end of history . The debate over the theory of 'democratic peace' has been influential as democracies began to increase and evidence of this relationship began to accumulate. It is a refinement of the theory that democracies are more peaceful than autocratic staes.

Scholars: Micheal Doyle, James Lee Ray and Bruce Russett - most popular explanation is that democratic states embrace norms of compromise barring the use of force against people witht he same principles. this has been used to justify Clinton's efforts to enlarge sphere of democratic rule. 

 Several qualifiers to this theory (Snyder, Edward Mansfield) - states may be more prone to war in the midst of democratic transition so exporting democracy may worsen the situation. Joanne Gowa and David Spiro - the absence of war between democracies is due to definition of democracy and the dearth of democratic states before 1945. Christopher Layne: decisions by democracies not to go to war have little to do with the fact that they are democriacies. Evidence that democracies don't fight each other is confined to the post-1945 era. Gowa - the absence of conflict in this period may be more to do with the Cold War.

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After the Cold War

Liberal institutionalists: claims have become more modest - institutions facilitate cooperation when it is in the state's interest to do so. but they cannot force stats to act against interests (see Keohane).

John Duffield and Robert McCalla: exctended theory into new areas such as NATO. NATO's institutionalised character =  can survive and adapt despite the disappearance of its main adversary, russia.

Economic strand also influental. Globalisation of world markets, rise of NGOs and transnational networks etc are underminig the power of states and shifting attention away from military and toward ecnonmics and social welfare. Societies  become enmeshed  and the costs of disrupting these ties precludes unilateral state actions, especially the use of force. This implies war will remain a remote possiblity between advanced industrial democracies and China and Russia will be brought into world capitalism, promoting prosperity and peace by creating a strong middle class which reinforces pressure to democratise. Eventually competition will become limited to the ecnomic realm.

Challenges: the scope of globalisation is modest and transactions still take place in envoriments created by states.  However, the debate over the changing role of states is likely to continue.

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After the Cold War - constructivism

Constructivism focuses on the impact of ideas rather than material factors such as power and trade.

The state does not merely seek to survive, rather the intersts and identities of staes are malleable products of historical processes. they pay close attention to the prevailing discourse in society because discourse reflects and shapes beliefs and intersts and establishers accepted norms. Attentive to sources of change. Constructivism has replaced Marxism  as the preeminent radical perspective on international affairs. The end of the Cold War was important - both liberalism and realism had problems explaining it or anticipating its arrival. Contructivist explanation: Mikhail Gorbachev revolutionised Soviet foreign policy by embracing new ideas such as comon security.

Old norms are currently being challenged - boundaries are dissolving and issues of identity are becoming more salient. For constructiviests the centarl issue in the post-Cold War world is how different groups conceive their identities and intersts. Ideas and identites shape the way staes understand and respond to situations, so it matters whether the US embraces or rejects its identity as global policeman.

Constructivism is not unified. Alexander Wendt - anarchy does not explain why conflict occurs between staets. the real issue is how anarchy is understood. Another strand - future of the territorial state - transnational communication and shared civic values are undermining national loyalties and creating new forms of association. v role of norms - international law etc. have eroded earlier notions of sovereignty and altered purposes for which state power can be employed. Common theme: discours shapes how political actors define themselves and their interests and modify behaviour.

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Reconsidering domestic policies

Snyder, Jeffrey Freiden and Helen Miller have examined how domestic interest groups can distort the formation of sate preferences and lead to suboptimal international behaviour.

George Downs, David Rocke etc - explored how domestic institutions help states deal with problems of uncertainty. Psychology - have applied prospec theory to explain irrational behaviour.

Interest in the concept of culture has increased - development overlaps with construcitivst emphasis on ideas and norms. Thomas Berger and Peter Katzenstein: used cultural variables to explain why Germany and Japan have escheweed more self-reliant military policies. Elizabeth Kier - looking at British and French military doctrines in the interwar period. Iain Johnston: continuities in Chinese foregin policy traced to 'cultural realism'. Samuel Huntington - 'clash of civilisations' - symptomatic of this trend - claim that cultural affinities are supplanting national loyalties.

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Tomorrow's Conceptual Toolbox

There are signs of convergence. Realists recognise nationalism, militarislm, ethnicity and other domestic factors are important. Liberals acknowledge power is central to international behaviour; some constructivists  admit ideas will have greater impact when backed by powerful sates and reinforced by material forces.

Does realism still give the most compelling general framework for understanding IR? States pay close attention to the balance of power. Enduring preoccupations with power and security help explain why many Asians and Europeans are keen to preserve the US military presence in their regions. Vaclav Havel - if NATO doesn't expand, there may be a new global catastrophe. The US likes being number one and takes advantage of its position ot impose its preferences where possible,i.e. one-sided arms control agreements forced on Russia, dominating peace efforts in Bosnia, and treating the UN and WTO with disdain where their actions do not conform to US interests. It refused to join the rest of the world in outlawing landmines and didn't cooperate at the Kyoto environmental summit. The Cold War did not end power politics and realism is likely to remain the most useful instrument in the intellectual toolbox.

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Tomorrow's conceptual toolbox

But other theories are important. Liberalism identifies instruments staes can use to achieve shared interests, highlights economic forces and helps identify why differences in prefereces occur. tehse factors may become more important so long as the US preserves 'liberal peace'.

Constructivist theories are best suited to analysing how identities and intersts change over time, producing shifts in states' behaviour and triggering shifts in international affairs, for example the shift in Europe from nation-state identity to a broader sense of European identity, or if nationalism is supplanted by 'civilisational' affinities espoused by Hintington. Realism can't deal with these prospects and shouldn't ignore them.

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Thank you... this helped me with global politics rather than history, but youve done a good job any way :) x

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