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Chapter 2: Theories of World Politics

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1 Chapter 2: Theories of World Politics

2 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Concepts Paradigm: Dominant way of looking at a particular subject; structured patterns of inquiry and interpretation Theory: Set of hypotheses postulating relationships between variables; used to describe, explain, and predict; must be falsifiable and stand the test of time Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 2

3 The Philosophical Underpinnings of Realism
Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (5th Century BC) “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” “Of gods we trust and of men we know, it is in their nature to rule whenever they can.” “What made war inevitable was the growth of the Athenian power and the fear that this caused in Sparta.” “So far as right and wrong are concerned…there is no difference between the two…” Which of these statements has the most direct application to modern times? Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 3

4 Central Assumptions of Realism
Anarchy States as the main actors States as unitary actors States as rational actors “Realpolitik”—states should be prepared for war in order to preserve peace Political realism is traced back to Thucydides, as well as 16th century philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli and 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 4

5 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Realism’s Tenets (1 of 2) People are selfish and ethically flawed and compete for self-advantage People have an instinctive lust for power Eradicating this instinct is not possible International politics is a “a war of all against all” The prime obligation of the state is promoting the national interest Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 5

6 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Realism’s Tenets (2 of 2) Anarchical international system requires states to acquire military power Military power is more important than economics Do not trust allies Resist international efforts to control state protection and institute global governance Seek flexible alliances to maintain a balance of power Realism also includes a belief that if all states seek to maximize power, stability results by maintaining a balance of power. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 6

7 Important Concepts for Realism
Power: The ability to significantly effect the behavior of another actor Self-help: A principle that in anarchy actors must rely on themselves to promote or protect their own interests Relative Gains: In Realist theory the comparative change in power or influence is more important than the absolute measure of increase/decrease in power Realism also includes a belief that if all states seek to maximize power, stability results by maintaining a balance of power. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 7

8 The Security Dilemma Insecurity leads states to arm, but arms create more insecurity. Realism is a philosophy of necessity, thus leading to a need for arms. Full 24 min. Reading 8 min. 8

9 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Game Theory analysis The Prisoner’s Dilemma Defect Cooperate What are the payoffs? Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 9

10 The Evolution of Realist Thought
World War II East–West rivalry of the Cold War Structural realism or neorealism Used global level of analysis Focus on anarchy Kenneth Waltz John Mearsheimer Kenneth Waltz (Man, the State, and War) believes that the world exists in a state of perpetual international anarchy, which limits and constrains the choices of nations. There is no central authority or enforcer. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 10

11 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Variants of Realism Balance of Power Theory Hegemonic Stability Theory Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 11

12 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Criticism of Realism Could not explain increased cooperation after World War II Many of its propositions not easily testable: criticized by behavioral scientists Lacks precision in defining key terms Disregards ethical principles Focuses on military might at economic and social expense of states Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 12

13 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Other Criticisms: Defining Power in a Meaningful Way is Difficult (1 of 2) What factors make a state powerful? The three tables above list the top 10 states (including the EU as a single state) in three different categories that might be used to assess power. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 13

14 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Other Criticisms: Defining Power in a Meaningful Way is Difficult (2 of 2) The Venn diagram shows which states are in the top ten in one, two and three categories. What does this kind of analysis show us? What does it obscure? What other categories might be used to assess power? Are the different categories of equal importance? All these questions complicate efforts to assess the role of power in international politics. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 14

15 Liberalism (AKA: Idealism)
Holds that reason and ethics can overcome international anarchy to create a more orderly and cooperative world Optimistic about the prospects of cooperation Emphasizes establishing stable democracies as a way to reduce conflict Politics is not seen as zero-sum Emphasizes free trade because it helps prevent disputes from escalating into war Stresses the importance of international institutions Also called “idealism” Liberalism began to emerge during the American Revolution, gradually taking hold on the international level. It focuses on the rights of the individual, not the state. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 15

16 Three Strands of Liberal Theory
Variant of Liberalism Level of Analysis Departure from Realism Liberal Institutionalism System. Retains basic assumption of balance of power theory. Anarchy does not necessarily lead to conflict. Cooperation is possible. Complex Interdependence Theory Sub-state, but not exclusively. Focuses on individuals, firms, NGOs, organizations within governments as key actors. States are not the only important actors. Actors have diverse interests in international politics. Much of IR has little to do with military security. Democratic Peace Theory State. Focuses on what kind of government the state has. States are not all essentially the same. Liberal (democratic) states can solve disputes without war. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning

17 The Evolution of Liberal Thought
World War I Collective security International law Disarmament Complex interdependence International regimes Neoliberalism Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 17

18 The Limitations of Liberalism
Realists argue that institutions actually exert minimal influence on state behavior. The prospects for cooperation are more likely in issues of low politics than of high politics. Realists also argue that liberals tend to turn foreign policy into a moral crusade. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 18

19 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Neorealism Accepts much of realism States’ behavior determined by differences in relative power All states have same objectives, but different capacities to realize them Distribution of capacities determines structure of the international system Global level of analysis Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 19

20 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Neoliberalism Developed by critics of realism/neorealism Focuses on how IGOs and other nonstate actors promote cooperation and peace Examines how states cooperate with each other and de-emphasize conflict Points to regional integration, especially the European Union Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 20

21 Economic Structuralism
Also known as Marxism Focuses on the distribution of wealth Motivation in politics Source of power In many ways, economic structuralism is a response to liberalism. It first began as a theory of domestic politics, then was applied on an international level. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 21

22 Assumptions of Economic Structuralism
Economic determinism Class system Bourgeoisie Proletariat Surplus value Capital: resources that can be used to produce further wealth. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 22

23 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Constructivism Focus on the impact of ideas World politics is socially constructed Focus on the role of norms as constitutive, constraining, or enabling Power in international relations revolves around actors’ ability to persuade others to accept their ideas Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 23

24 Important Constructivist Terms
Interests Identities Norms Realist, liberal and economic structuralist approaches are materialist. Constructivism focuses on the role of ideas in international politics. Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 24

25 The Limitations of Constructivism
Inability to explain why and how ideas change over time Privileging of structures over agents in understanding international events Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 25

26 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
The Radical Critique Socialists focus on class conflict Dependency theory: Poverty in the Third World stemmed from the exploitative structure of the capitalist world economy World-system theory: Views the world capitalist system as consisting of a core, periphery and semi-periphery; the core shifts over time from one area to another Radical critiques tend to overemphasize economic interpretations of international events Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 26

27 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
The Feminist Critique Examines the exclusion of women in discussions about international affairs and the injustice and unequal treatment of women this prejudice caused Explores how gender identity shapes foreign policy decision making and how gendered hierarchies reinforced practices that perpetuated inequalities between men and women Feminists differ in the importance they place on the inherent differences between men and women Need to focus on the role of women as a whole, not just female leaders Gendered ideas: ideas that take “masculine” perspectives as normal Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 27

28 Schools of Thought in Feminist Theory
Feminist Empiricism Feminist Standpoint Theory Feminist Postmodernism Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 28

29 Questions for Critical Thinking (1 of 2)
What are the strong and weak aspects of realism? In the liberal paradigm, how does anarchy create incentives to cooperate? How does neoliberalism differ from liberalism? According to Marxist definitions, is your family part of the bourgeoisie, or of the proletariat? Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 29

30 Questions for Critical Thinking (2 of 2)
Which theory has the best explanatory and predictive power regarding the confrontation between the United States and Iraq? Which theory has the best explanatory and predictive power for world politics in general? Does the nature of the international system change over time? Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 30

31 Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning
Web Links Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Postmodern Thought Data on the Net Feminist Theory Website Niccolò Machiavelli President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Postmodern Thought Data on the Net: The University at Denver’s School of Education has created a website that helps students understand the ideas behind critical theory and postmodern thought. Read about the main authors of postmodern thought and then access their work. Data on the Net: The University of California at San Diego has created a gateway website from which you can browse the collection of several hundred Internet sites of social science statistical data. Feminist Theory Website: The Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech University hosts this website, which provides links to 593 Internet sites related to women’s conditions and struggles around the world. The site also provides 5,425 bibliographical entries. Niccolò Machiavelli: The writings of Niccolò Machiavelli are often cited as the base of realist thinking in international relations. The site also provides a link to his book, The Prince. President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points: Woodrow Wilson’s celebrated Fourteen Points speech before a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918 “expressed the sentiments of the liberal world view and program.” Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning 31

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