international relation


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  • Realism is a very broad theoretical framework -realists disagree with each other on many things -but there are three general principles that realists share in common (1) Statism -the state is the main actor in world affairs -sovereignty is its distinguishing trait Sovereignty means -the state has the supreme authority to make and enforce laws - Max Weber, a state is the “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Weber in Baylis et al 2008: 100) At time of Thucydides and Machiavelli the basic unit was the “polis” or city-state -but since 1648 Peace of Westphalia realists see sovereign state as principle actor Thomas Hobbes noted that inside a state, citizens trade some freedom for security -only once security has been established, can civil society begin -but without security, there can be no art, culture or society Therefore realists argue that the first priority is establishing power domestically -only after that can community begin Realism assumes that the issue of domestic order and security is solved -but between independent sovereign states there is insecurity and danger -this is because there is no global sovereign for the international realm
  • Realists argue that between states there is a state of anarchy -states compete for power and security -power, security, viewed in zero-sum terms (more for one means less for another) -therefore agreement on universal principles difficult -except for the principle of non-intervention in other state’s internal affairs -this principle is designed to facilitate co-existence between states However many realists acknowledge that even this principle doesn’t always apply -relations between ‘great powers’ and their ‘near abroad’ -eg. US ignored it with Iraq/Afghanistan – due to national security and international order Classical realists argue that the first priority of a state is to organize power domestically -after that a state seeks to accumulate power internationally What do realists mean by power? Morganthau – “control over the minds and actions of other[s]” (Baylis et al 2008: 100) (1) power is relational – does not occur in vacuum but in relation to another entity (2) power is relative – states need to consider both their own power and that of others
  • Second principle of realism -in international politics, survival is pre-imminent goal Although some ambiguity – is power is an end in itself? -security is essential for survival -so security must be the ultimate concern for a state -survival is a precondition for achieving all other goals But there is a controversy among realists: -are states really just security-minded -or do states seek power for its own end? Defensive realists (Waltz) argue states have security as their principle interest -only seek enough power to ensure their own survival -states will not seek more power than necessary if it threatens their security Offensive realists (Mearsheimer) argue that all states always desire more power -they may alter the distribution of power even if it jeopardises their security Defensive realists argue that major powers support status quo -therefore lessen competition = somewhat stable Offensive realists argue there is always competition -aspiring powers will take risks to improve their situation
  • Niccolo Machiavelli tried to make a ‘science’ of the art of survival -wrote short and engaging book The Prince -argued that international politics requires different moral/political rules than domestic politics State leaders face a heavy burden -they need to work to understand the nature of international politics -and must protect the state at all costs (even if sacrificing own citizens) Leaders must follow an ‘ethic of responsibility’ -carefully weigh up consequences -sometimes individual immoral acts must be taken for greater good -eg. suspend legal/political rights of suspected terrorists who threaten national security -also used as justification for breaking the laws of war – US Hiroshima/Nagasaki 1945 -but is problematic because no clear guideline for how leaders should weigh consequences In this sense realism provides an alternative moral code for state leaders -this is called the “dual moral standard” -also objects to the idea of bringing ethics into international politics -as each state has its own values and beliefs -this is strongly challenged by liberal theorists who endorse universal human rights (see ch6)
  • Third principle of realism Waltz argues key structural difference between domestic and international politics -domestically, citizens do not have to defend themselves -in the international system there is no higher authority to prevent use of force -security can only be realised through self-help -but by providing security to your state threatens the security of other states This is called the security dilemma -states are required to prepare for their own defence -but there is often uncertainty whether preparations are principally defensive or offensive -increased security for one state can lead to decreased security for another -states often do not trust one another and view other’s military build-up suspiciously -and will likely seek to match or better any such preparations -ironically, then – security-enhancing developments may not lead to increased security [eg. Cuban Missile Crisis]
  • Classical realism -begins with Thucydides -human nature = the drive for power and the will to dominate -states act as self-serving egotists reflect the leaders’ characteristics -we have already talked about his writing on the conflict between Athens and Sparta -he argues that Sparta’s national interest was survival -and Athens‘ changing power distribution challenged that -Sparta was therefore compelled to go to war with Athens to avoid being vanquished -and Athens felt compelled to pursue power to protect its empire Later classical realists Machiavelli and Morgenthau concurred -argued that the logic of power politics had universal applicability -later examples Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia 1939; USSR and Hungary 1956 Machiavelli argued that in a dangerous and difficult world -the security of the community is of principal importance -if this threatened, obligations and treaties with other states may need to be disregarded -furthermore, imperial expansion is legitimate if it leads to greater security Other classical realists take a less extreme view, though Especially mid-20thC realists such as Butterfield, Carr, Morgenthau and Wolfers -anarchy can be mitigated by wise leadership -pursuit of national interest can be compatible with international order -acting purely based on power and self-interest without moral concern can be self-defeating -Thucydides - Athens suffered epic defeat after following realist self-interest (also Nazis)
  • Structural realism Agree that the international system is a struggle for power -but suggest that this is not a result of human nature Instead argue that security competition and inter-state conflict due to -lack of overarching authority and (in particular) the relative distribution of power Structural realists like rank-order states’ power -so as to count the number of great powers at any given moment -they say the number of great powers determines the international system Waltz argues that states have to be sensitive to the capabilities of other states -for their survival, all states need to think about other state’s potential use of force According to Waltz, security is the “end” and “power” is the means to achieve it -”because power is a possibly useful means, -sensible statesmen try to have an appropriate amount of it” (in Baylis et al 2008: 98) -states are security-maximisers, not power-maximisers -power maximisation often dysfunctional - it triggers counter-balancing coalitions A key distinction here is offensive realism versus defensive realism John Mearsheimer’s theory of offensive realism differs from Waltz’s defensive realism -in particular with how much power states want -Mearsheimer argues that states want to maximise their relative power -argues there is no satisfied status-quo states -therefore, all states continuously look to gain power at expense of others -all states would ideally like to be the global hegemon -but because this impossible, are condemned to perpetual great power competition
  • Structural realists argue that in an anarchic world -a balance of power will naturally develop -alliances will form to balance the power of threatening states However classical realists argue that this is not inevitable -must be constructed by state leaders and diplomats Many argue that the current world order is in fact a uni-polar order -would other countries really look to balance the US? -and balances of power also collapse (eg. End of cold war) Waltz also argues it is difficult to co-ordinate individual gains vs. common good -all states would benefit from ‘free trade’ -but some can benefit more if they have barriers but not others (Europe) -this could lead to others setting up barriers -and collapse of international trade and start of world recession The key is not just whether all will benefit from co-operation -but who will gain more than another (ie. relative gains) -realists argue this is why cooperation is difficult in a self-help system (ch 7)
  • Offensive realism is important -but some contemporary realists sceptical -that distribution of international power alone determines states’ behaviour So have tried to incorporate factors at domestic and individual levels -for example perceptions of state leaders -state-society relationships -motivation of states These people are often called neo-classical realists -they place “domestic politics as an intervening variable -between the distribution of power and foreign policy behaviour” (Walt in Baylis et al 2008: 99) In other words leaders are important -and in particular how they perceive the international distribution of power -there is no objective measure – it’s the state leaders’ personal understanding that matters Neo-classical realists -do not agree that all states have similar interests -think the assumption that security is key makes neo-realists favour the status quo Also, states do not only differ in terms of their interests -also differ in terms of ability to extracting and directing resources towards their interests
  • Realism is criticised because while idea of power is central -it’s not enough to simply say ‘states seek power’ -surely power is a means to an end not an end in itself -surely difference between possessing power and actually using it to change other’s behaviour? However it is difficult to accurately calculate power -often reduced to counting troops, planes and ships -assumption this translates into ability to make states do what they wouldn’t otherwise do Power is not something that can just be ‘calculated’: -for example 1967 Six Day War - Israel annihilated far superior Arab coalition; seized territories Another key issue for realists is the idea that state power is all that really matters -view is that TNC’s, international organisations, terrorist networks rise and fall -but the state is the one persistent feature of modern global politics -however this state-centric assumption is often questioned
  • Critics of realism argue that it has failed to address new developments -regional integration -humanitarian intervention -security community in Western Europe -growth of intra-state war in global South Globalisation causes -states to decline relative to TNCs and regional organisations The response to these criticisms is often called structural realism or neo-realism While critics say realism doesn’t apply in the South (intra-state war) -eg Somalia and Haiti -realists argue that internal wars happen for similar reasons to interstate wars -when state loses legitimate authority to rule -> anarchy -ethnic/cultural/religious groups must then vie for power to get security -therefore security dilemma – spiralling distrust and uncertainty -realists suggest separation or partition as solution (create central government for homogenous groups) -in contrast, liberals argue power-sharing in multi-ethnic states – a noble endeavour
  • international relation

    1. 1. International Relations Week 3 [read Baylis et. al. (2008) chapter 5] Brendon Tagg [email_address]
    2. 2. REALISM <ul><li>3 key principles: Statism, Survival, Self-help </li></ul><ul><li>(1) Statism </li></ul><ul><li>-The state is the main actor </li></ul><ul><li>-Sovereignty </li></ul><ul><li>-Hobbes: we trade some freedom for security </li></ul>
    3. 3. <ul><li>Between states- anarchy </li></ul><ul><li>-zero-sum terms </li></ul><ul><li>-universal agreement difficult </li></ul><ul><li>-‘non-intervention’ - except for great powers </li></ul><ul><li>Morganthau - power is “control over the minds </li></ul><ul><li>and actions of other[s]” (Baylis et al 2008: 100) </li></ul><ul><li>-is both relational and relative </li></ul>
    4. 4. (2) Survival <ul><li>Is power is an end in itself? Or security? </li></ul><ul><li>Defensive realists (Waltz) </li></ul><ul><li>Offensive realists (Mearsheimer) </li></ul><ul><li>Implications </li></ul>
    5. 5. <ul><li>Machiavelli’s The Prince </li></ul><ul><li>- leaders’ heavy burden </li></ul><ul><li>- the ‘greater good’ </li></ul><ul><li>-“dual moral standard” </li></ul><ul><li>- strongly challenged by liberal theorists </li></ul>
    6. 6. (3) Self-help <ul><li>international system </li></ul><ul><li>- no higher authority </li></ul><ul><li>the security dilemma </li></ul><ul><li>- preparations principally defensive or offensive? </li></ul><ul><li>- security-enhancing developments may ‘backfire’ </li></ul>
    7. 7. Three realisms: Classical <ul><li>Thucydides: leaders, states self-serving egotists </li></ul><ul><li>Machiavelli - security of community principal </li></ul><ul><li>-obligations, treaties may be disregarded </li></ul><ul><li>-imperial expansion can be legitimate </li></ul><ul><li>By mid20thC less extreme </li></ul><ul><li>- wise leadership can mitigate anarchy </li></ul><ul><li>- power and self-interest can be self-defeating </li></ul>
    8. 8. Three realisms: Structural <ul><li>International system is struggle for power </li></ul><ul><li>- but not a result of human nature </li></ul><ul><li>lack of overarching authority </li></ul><ul><li>relative distribution of power (in particular) </li></ul><ul><li>“ because power is a possibly useful means, sensible statesmen [ sic ] try to have an appropriate amount of it” (Waltz in Baylis et al 2008: 98) </li></ul>
    9. 9. Structural vs. Classical <ul><li>balance of power naturally develop? </li></ul><ul><li>Waltz: individual gains vs. common good </li></ul>
    10. 10. Three realisms: Contemporary <ul><li>domestic and individual factors </li></ul><ul><li>neo-classical realists place “domestic politics as an intervening variable between the distribution of power and foreign policy behaviour” (Walt in Baylis et al 2008: 99) </li></ul>
    11. 11. Criticisms of realism <ul><li>What does it mean to say ‘states seek power’? </li></ul><ul><li>Is power a means or an end in itself? </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult to calculate </li></ul><ul><li>Is state power the only power? </li></ul>
    12. 12. Criticisms of realism <ul><li>new developments? </li></ul><ul><li>globalisation </li></ul><ul><li>response often called structural realism or neo-realism </li></ul><ul><li>- internal wars happen for similar reasons to interstate wars </li></ul>