Soraya Ghebleh - Selected Theories in International Relations


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This presentation describes some of the major theories in international relations and their subsets including liberalism, realism, constructivism, and critical issues theories.

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Soraya Ghebleh - Selected Theories in International Relations

  1. 1. Selected Theories in International Relations Soraya Ghebleh
  2. 2. Liberalism  Neoliberalism  Functionalism  Regime Theory  Collective or Public Goods Theory
  3. 3. Liberalism - Overview  Human nature is essentially good and people can always improve the moral and material conditions of their existence  States are made of people who are rational and law abiding, who can therefore improve society and live in a just environment where states can interact peacefully  Major contributors to Enlightenment and Liberal thinking include: Hugo Grotius, Immanuel Kant, Woodrow Wilson  Liberalism promotes democracy, free trade and with “economic liberalism” promoted by Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham, states will grow interdependent and begin to rely on each other and interact with each other, and will be less likely to fight war because of the economic costs
  4. 4. Liberalism - Overview  Liberals believe cooperation will grow because of “constant interactions” between individuals and states composed of these individuals  Mutual interests between states will increase with greater interdependence, knowledge, communication, and spread of values  Liberals support international organizations and international law (instrumental in maintaining international order)
  5. 5. Liberalism: Neoliberalism  Post WW II – Realism dominated international relations -> Neoliberalism developed in the 1970s as an offshoot of liberalism  Willingness of states to cooperate and work together with the assistance of international institutions  Cooperation is in individual state’s self-interest  States that have “continuous interactions” with each other provide “motivation for international institutions that provide framework for interaction, monitoring behavior, and facilitating transparency,” which will eventually be beneficial and efficient for all states  Neoliberals are more willing to address realist topics such as power  Recognition that not all efforts will necessarily yield good results and not all cooperation’s will end in success
  6. 6. Liberalism: Functionalism  Governance arrangements arise out of functional needs of people and states  International economics and social cooperation are prerequisites for political cooperation and eliminating war  Bring countries “actively together” not “peacefully apart”  By addressing international problems that affect all countries it will bring countries towards cooperation  Economic integration will render war less likely  IGOs could be classified as “functional” -> many are specific, with links to economic issues, have limited membership often restricted by region, and as they grow in functions and specificity  Criticisms: Does not address causes of war outside of economic deprivation, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and there is an assumption that political and nonpolitical issues can be easily separated
  7. 7. Liberalism: Regime Theory  Emerged from international law  Consists of informal norms and rules of behavior – “regimes”  Shaped by liberalism and realism  Shows how states create frameworks to coordinate actions with those of other states  Regimes allow scholars to look at informal patterns that enhance international cooperation  Study of international regimes is ambiguous but helps link institutions and governance by making clear that governance and order involve more than just organizational structures
  8. 8. Liberalism: Collective or Public Goods Theory  “Tragedy of the Commons”  When individuals (states) utilize common resources for their own gain with no regard to the collective group, collectivity suffers and eventually everyone suffers if there is no regulation  Collective goods are available to everyone regardless of contribution  Use of these goods = Activities and choices that are interdependent, decision by one state affects decisions and choices by other states and may have negative consequences  Smaller groups that share collective goods are more likely to utilize resources more responsibly and efficiently than a larger group because there is less room for exploitation and more monitoring and discussion and violations are noticed more easily
  9. 9. Liberalism: Collective or Public Goods Theory  Creation of international organizations to monitor these goods but these organizations need effective policing power that will be respected by all nations otherwise it will not work  Creation of system of rewards and punishments, ex: offering incentives to states from refraining of using goods or limiting use and taxing those who violate  Sees international organizations as crucial in facilitating cooperation and managing public goods
  10. 10. Realism  Neorealism  Strategic/Rational Choice Theory  Hegemonic Stability Theory
  11. 11. Realism - Overview  Individuals are power seeking and act in a rational way to protect their own interests  States are primary actors and act only to promote their own national interests to maximize power and security  Absence of authoritative hierarchy in international affairs  Few rules or norms that restrain states  Morgenthau: father of modern realism  Believes international law and government are weak and ineffective  International organizations are tools of states and are only as strong as states allow them to be
  12. 12. Realism - Overview  No independent effect on state behavior and will not change the system  Does not acknowledge the importance or the strength of non-state actors (NGOs, MNCs) and does not accept the idea of IGOs as independent actors in the global arena  Does not claim that cooperation is impossible but believes that states don’t have an incentive to cooperate or enter international arrangements
  13. 13. Realism: Neorealism  Difference between traditional realists and neo-realists = emphasis was placed on the structure of international system for explaining world politics  Structure determined by ordering principle and distribution of capabilities among states  Most important thing in global interaction is states capabilities, material possessions, state identities and interests  Neorealist: Kenneth Waltz
  14. 14. Realism: Neorealism  Actors with common interests try to maximize absolute gains  Relative gains are more important in security than economic gains  Power distribution shapes state behavior and provides order in international power, order is a product of system structure not interactions and international institutions  Many recognize emergence and amount of international institutions but believe that they are not that important in international affairs  Belief that institutions are another area for power projection between states to take place
  15. 15. Realism: Strategic/Rational Choice Theory  Preferences are deduced from objective and material conditions of the state  Markets are the most efficient mechanism of human behavior  Microeconomics are the basis for much of rational choice arguments  State actions are based on rational calculations about subjective expected utility  Belief in international institutions as existing to promote self-interest of state actors by reducing uncertainty of interactions and providing stability  Institutions are responses to problems international actors face
  16. 16. Realism: Hegemonic Stability Theory  Realist traditions, draws from neoliberalism, regime theory, and public goods theories  Open world economy created and maintained through power and leadership of a hegemonic state  Hegemony needs liberal international economy, liberal commitment to market economy, tends to push political and economic restrictions on less powerful countries  Open market economy = common good that can ONLY be sustained with actions of a dominant economy  Predominant state exercises leadership not just economically but politically as well
  17. 17. Constructivism  Behavior of individuals and states is shaped by shared beliefs, socially constructed rules, and cultural practices  Humans are capable of changing the world by changing ideas  Interests of actors are “socially constructed”  Wendt – argues that political structure shows little about state behavior  Ability to cooperate depends on whether state identities generate interests shared with other states
  18. 18. Constructivism  Institutions are important  Sovereignty is changing and is influenced by both state and nonstate actors  Constructivists look at the social content of international organizations, norms that govern behavior and shape interests, and decipher how these interests influence actors  Believe that international organizations can serve as agents of social construction  IGOs have the potential to be major actors with independent effects on international relations  Transnational networks of experts can shape understanding of more and more collective issues
  19. 19. Critical Theories  Marxist and Neo-Marxist Theory  Dependency Theory  World-Systems Theory
  20. 20. Critical Theories - Overview  Group of overarching theories of international relations that challenge conventional wisdom and provide alternative frameworks for understanding the world
  21. 21. Critical Theories: Marxist and Neo-Marxist Theory  Grounded in history, economic forces explaining political and social phenomena, production process, capitalism, and importance of social or economic classes to define individual actors  Clash of capitalist class vs. workers (bourgeoisie and proletariat)  A new world order would develop and emerge from this class struggle  Hierarchal Structure – by-product of spread of global capitalism and countries have expanded economically and others developing countries have been constrained and become dependent on actions of developed
  22. 22. Critical Theories: Marxist and Neo-Marxist Theory  Techniques of domination and suppression arise from uneven economic development inherent in capitalist system  Neo-Marxism – Global overnance is predictable response to the logic of industrial capitalism  International law and organizations are products and serve the interests of the capitalist class  Normative in their orientation – capitalism is bad and its structure and mode of production is exploitative with clear positions on how to ameliorate inequalities
  23. 23. Critical Theories: Dependency Theory  Basic terms of trade were unequal between the developing and developed world  Believes that IGOs, especially banks and MNCs, are established to maintain dependency relationships and promote exploiter-exploited relationships  Argue that development cannot take place without changes in international economic relations to redress inequalities of power and wealth
  24. 24. Critical Theories: World- Systems Theory  Wallerstein defined three classes of states (Core, Periphery, and Semi-periphery)  Core = Most advanced, agricultural sector able to provide sustenance for industrial workers  Periphery = Cheap, unskilled labor and raw material extraction, prevented from developing by developed core  Semi-periphery = NICs, cheap skilled and semiskilled labor to global economy (existence of a middle area that indicates change is posible)  Shares Marxist ideas that IGOs exist to support and maintain capitalism and are there only for the benefit of core states