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Presentation on theme: "INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY IN POLICY DEBATE Houston Urban Debate League."— Presentation transcript:


2 Discussion Overview  Why discuss IR?  Depth and sophistication of debate  Creative argumentation  Goal: Better understand leading schools of thought and areas of contention in international relations theory  Three Theories: Realism (Neo-Realism); Liberalism (Neo-Liberal Institutionalism); Constructivism

3 Realism (Neo-Realism)  Nature of the International System: Anarchy  For the realist, anarchy signifies that there is no supranational authority that is able to provide security  Disclaimer: International anarchy in this sense does not necessarily imply disorder or conflict.  Rather, it is a framework for interpreting other “players” actions.  Differs from anarchy advocated in counterplans and kritiks. Anarchist philosophy seeks to end state coercion while realists are distinctly statist.

4 Realism (Neo-Realism)  Primary Actors: States (“unit-level” politics)  Because of anarchy at the international level, states revert to “state of nature” and act in their own self- interest (think Machiavelli, Hobbes).  Neo-realists (also called Structural Realists) examine how non-state structures influence decisions, but still place states at the center.

5 Realism (Neo-Realism)  Key Interest: Survival (Classical Realism) Security (Neo-Realism)  Because there is no guarantor of security at the international level, states pursue survival.  Classical Realists viewed states as inherently aggressive, checked only by other powers  Neo-realists argue that states are merely interested in existence (post-WWII security dilemma furthers this).  Relative gains problems create zero-sum international order where states might forego perceived gains if other states make greater gains. This discourages cooperation.

6 Realism (Neo-Realism)  Debate Applications  Hegemony What international system is most stable: hegemonic, unipolar, bipolar, multipolar? Can troop reduction lead to relative gains for the United States by balancing against more meaningful threats? Does this make the topic bi-directional?  Balance of Power, Balance of Threat, Securitization  Does deterrence apply to counter-insurgency strategy (Afghanistan, Iraq) and asymmetric warfare (counter- terrorism)?

7 Liberalism (Neo-Liberal Institutionalism)  Nature of the International System: Anarchy  For the liberalist, anarchy signifies that there is no supranational authority that is able to enforce agreements.  While liberalism and realism share the assumption of international anarchy, neoliberals criticize realists for underestimating opportunities for cooperation within that system.  Question becomes how to create an international system that encourages cooperation.

8 Liberalism (Neo-Liberal Institutionalism)  Primary Actors: Pluralist System (states at the center, but also corporations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), law and protocol)  States cooperate with non-state entities when in their personal interest.  Because there is no international enforcement mechanism to ensure states follow through on agreements, cheating becomes the central concern.  Leads to desire to create “sticky” institutions that hold states to cooperative agreements.

9 Liberalism (Neo-Liberal Institutionalism)  Key Interest: Preferences (Utility determined by the state)  Unlike realism, where states worry about relative gains and would forego cooperation under certain situations, institutionalists seek absolute gains.  Argue that even in situations where partners make relatively greater gains, cooperation on common interests creates “sticky” alliances.  Game Theory describes methods states use to determine when cooperation is in their best interests (prisoner’s dilemma is most common).

10 Liberalism (Neo-Liberal Institutionalism)  Debate Applications  Cases/Counterplans: Alliances/Coalition Building United Nations International Law Economic Interests/International Corporations  Problem of changing preferences and shifting alliances (especially true with democratic systems in wartime)

11 Constructivism  Nature of the International System: Socially Constructed/Contingent  Unlike realism and liberalism, whose causal epistemology draws from positivist (scientific) and structuralist (empirical) traditions, constructivism is post- positivist, deconstructing the ontological assumptions of other IR theories.  “Anarchy is what states make of it…” –Alexander Wendt

12 Constructivism  Key Actors: Shared Ideas (technically, states are still the key actors, but ideas underlie state paradigms about the international system)  Theory developed as a possible explanation for the failure of dominant theories to predict major international events (e.g. fall of the Soviet Union)  Identities and Interests are constructed by cultural norms and shared philosophies.  While the primary function of constructivism is as a critique of leading IR theories, does it advocate anything (for the purposes of policy debate)?

13 Constructivism  Key Interests: Define/Determine Core Ideas; Cooperate to redefine International System  This element of constructivism has been criticized for 1. Being no more than a post-positivist variant of neo- liberalism due to its agreement that social agency shapes state preferences. 2. Not being truly post-modern due to its rational discourse about how ideas can address and solve “external” problems.

14 Constructivism  Debate Applications:  Security Kritik Link: Power/Threats are socially constructed Impacts: Pre-Fiat: Ontology: threat discourse causes violence Epistemology: the human element (can’t know if threats are real or percieved. Post-Fiat: Violence, Military Escalation, Environmental Degradation, Economic Collapse Alternatives: Typically, rejection (voting aff precludes end of threat construct) CP Alt: Use Neo-Liberal Institutionalist construct to redefine values

15 NEO-REALISMNEO-LIBERAL INSTITUTIONALISM CONSTRUCTIVISM NATURE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM Anarchy (No international security mechanism) Anarchy (No international mechanism to enforce agreements) Socially Contingent/Socially Constructed KEY ACTOR(S) StatesPlural (States, Corporations, International Organizations, NGOs) Shared Ideas KEY INTEREST(S) Security/SurvivalPreferences (individual utility to the state) Define Core Ideas Cooperate on Shared Interests DEBATE APPLICATIONS Hegemony, Balance of Power, Balance of Threat, Security Construction Alliances, Non- State/Supranational Organizations, Preference Problem Security Kritik/Threat Construction


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