Presentation on theme: "Week 2: Major Worldviews January 10, 2007"— Presentation transcript:
1 Week 2: Major Worldviews January 10, 2007 POLS 425 U.S. Foreign PolicyWeek 2: Major WorldviewsJanuary 10, 2007
2 Why We FightWhy does the United States fight? What the key reasons or motivations for US decisions to engage in violent international conflict?Are the reasons generally the same, or do they vary from one war to another?If they vary, why do you think this is the case?Are most wars necessary?
3 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Key PointsYour answers reflect your personal theory of American foreign policyPersonal theories are appropriate and even necessary, but they are often premised on a very shaky foundationPersonal theories tend to be superficialPersonal theories are often governed as much by emotion as they are by evidence and reason
4 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction The First Basic Lesson for Studying U.S. Foreign PolicyCultivate and maintain an open mindRecognize that no on is likely to have a monopoly on the truth
5 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction American ExceptionalismA major obstacle to developing an open-mind about U.S. foreign policy comes from the influence of American exceptionalismWhat is American exceptionalism?
6 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction The Grand Narrative of American ExceptionalismAmerica as the “Chosen Country”American power is force of goodAmerica is obligated to create a “better world” for all
7 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Second Basic Lesson for Studying U.S. Foreign PolicyWe cannot allow ourselves to buy into the idea of American exceptionalism wholly and uncriticallyWe need to create some intellectual and analytical and critical distance between ourselves and the grand narrative
8 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Levels of Analysis: Points of EntranceIndividual Level“State” LevelSystem Level
9 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Levels of Analysis: Point of EntranceIndividual LevelThe individual level of analysis begins at the level of a single individual or group of individuals: typically, presidents, prime ministers, and others directly involved in making policy
10 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Levels of Analysis: Point of Entrance“State” LevelFocuses more on institutionalized organizations or groups to explain foreign policy; also includes such things as national culture, public opinion, media, bureaucratic politics, and so on
11 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Levels of Analysis: Point of Entrance“System” LevelAssumes that the ideas, opinions, and actions of individuals is not really all that important, instead looks at the broad structures or overarching systems that shape the behavior and interactions of states
12 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Levels of Analysis: Point of EntranceKey PointThe levels of analysis are conceptual tools we can use to make our study of foreign policy more manageable and systematicAs with real tools, moreover, we need more than one to “build” an explanation
13 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and TheoryAnother critical set of conceptual tools are worldviews and theoriesThese might be considered the “power tools” of explanations about U.S. foreign policy
14 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and TheoryMajor worldviews and theoriesRealismLiberalismMarxismConstructivism
15 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and TheoryGeneral Notes about TheoryThe author defines theory in the following manner: An explanation of how something works; theories are also used to help tell the future or to make predictionsAnother definition: A theory is a framework of analysis within which facts are not only selected, but also interpreted, organized, and fit together so that they create a coherent whole. A theory helps us explain and/or better understand the world in which we live.
16 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and TheoryGeneral Notes about TheoryKey Point: Theories are also necessarily simplifications of a more complex whole; theories are not reality, but they designed to tell us something meaningful about the real world
17 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and TheoryAdditional PointsFirst, the various theories on US foreign policy are not dependent on whether they are accepted or even understood by policy-makers themselvesSecond, and in a related vein, theories are meant to help us better understand and explain the implications and consequences of different foreign policiesThird, the theories we will study are sometimes compatible, but sometimes contradictory
18 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: RealismCore PremisesCentral questions focus on conditions and causes of war and peaceRegard structure of international system as necessary but not always sufficient for explaining international relationsPrimary unit of analysis is the sovereign stateStates are first and foremost guided by national interest defined in terms of powerStates are rational, unitary actors
19 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: RealismThe key concept in realism is anarchyTo understand this condition, consider what would happen if a group of individuals lived on an isolated island in which there was no society, no rules, no law. And say, on this island, resources were limited and power unevenly distributed. What would happen?
20 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: LiberalismFour central premises of liberalismLiberalism tells us that our focus should be on state-level factorsLiberalism tells us that values (including ideas) beyond national survival may matterLiberals believe decision making is pluralisticLiberals believe that most foreign policy decisions require “consent” of the governed; policy making is different between democratic and authoritarian regimes
21 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: LiberalismImplications of Liberal TheoryRationality of policy-making process is complicated because of competing interestsWar and peace are important, but other issues may be equally important to foreign policy processCooperation and “end of war” are possible
22 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction On RationalityRealists assume that war is rational for an entire nationLiberals, instead, ask: Who (specifically) benefits from war? Why do those who “lose” from war willingly participate?
23 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: MarxismWhat is Marxism?
24 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: MarxismKey Concept: Historical MaterialismHistorical: based on the idea that the specific forces that shape the world are not always the same—e.g., the forces that governed feudal society are not the same forces that govern capitalist societiesMaterialism: based on the idea that economic forces shape the world in fundamental ways, or put another way, economic forces are the motor of history
25 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: MarxismKey Concept: ClassMarxists argue that capitalist society is necessarily divided along class linesClasses exist because all economic systems produces specific social relationshipsThese social relationships are organized around a system that privileges ownership and subordinates labor; it also privileges capital and subordinates other human values, such as social justice, equality, and freedom
26 U.S. Foreign Policy Introduction Worldviews and Theory: MarxismKey Concept: ImplicationsCapitalist states exist to protect/promote the capitalist base of society, and not necessarily to protect the interests of all citizensTo understand foreign policy, then, one must understand that it is primarily a reflection of the interests of capitalists