POLI10601Introduction to International Politics - lecture 6
Beyond the ‘mainstream’ The varieties of realist and liberal thought constitute the mainstream of IR theory – this is where the bulk of debate lies, or lay until quite recently Neorealism and neoliberalism explicitly attempt to offer us a better explanation of the behaviour of states and to describe and explain the nature of international politics. They both are presenting a theory of international politics We now turn towards the margins of the discipline where a number of alternative approaches or perspectives have emerged to question or challenge the mainstream. These theories, to greater or lesser degrees challenge mainstream theories in three key respects: Ontology: what exists. What is in the world. What constitutes international political „reality‟? Epistemology: knowledge. What can be known about the world, e.g. states, facts and/or values? Methodology: HOW we can gain knowledge of what exists/is in the world.
„Critical‟ theories To be critical in the everyday sense means to disagree with or criticise a point of view. In the social sciences, including IR, critical theory has a more formal meaning. Critical theories take a different view of the nature and purpose of theory. One of the most famous early expressions of this is found in Marx: ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it’. (Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, 1845) What is at stake is the purpose of theory and the role of the theorist. Some newer theories confine themselves to criticising the mainstream for not looking at certain things (some types of feminism and Marxism for example). Others are more challenging to grasp because they raise questions about theory itself. These see theory as not just explaining the world but as constitutive of the world, helping to make and sustain a specific world (Constructivists, some Marxists, some feminists). Some go further and question whether there are any secure foundations at all from which we can judge a social or political theory to be true or false (poststructuralism/postmodernism some feminism) i.e. whether a theory of international politics is either possible or desirable?
Critical theories of IR Started to appear from 1981 onwards in response to Waltz‟s neorealism and the subsequent neo-neo debate Most reject positivism (the belief in the possibility of scientific knowledge of social and political phenomena) Many argue that all knowledge reflects the interests of the researcher/student who cannot be detached from the subject matter they are studying. We are part of the human world that we study and our theorising is also part of that world Many critical theories reject the distinction between facts and judgements. Robert Cox: Theory is always for someone and for some purpose. Put differently, theory is not innocent
So, What then is International Relations? Traditional/mainstream theories of IR concern themselves with relations between states, conflict and cooperation. Critical theories are far less attached to this agenda. They take their inspiration from many sources. Critical theories ask different questions. For example: Neorealism and neoliberalism accept the anarchy problem and try to find ways to live in it or mitigate it. Critical theories conduct a meta-theoretical critique –in other words they don‟t just join in with the theoretical debate they also ask questions about the debate ( between the theory or theories) itself.Let‟s flesh the last point out a bit more …
Critical theories respond to traditional theoriesin two ways: 1. Some critical theories explore the way in which a theory serves particular kinds of interests. (Who benefits? Who doesn’t?) For example neorealism paints a certain picture of the world. Who does well in this picture and who does not?2. Critical theories explore which arguments are closed down or shut out of a particular theoretical debate. (What questions aren’t being asked? What is missing?) Neo realist: „Anarchy leads to conflict so its every state for themselves!‟ Neo Liberal: „No, no. Anarchy leads to conflict so states will cooperate to avoid it and institutions will help them do this.‟ Critical Theorist: „Isn‟t there a different conversation we could be having? Like, why is the world divided into states in the first place? Why does politics become violent? Why are some people better off than others?‟Do all states or their peoples view the word „out there‟ in the same way? Should we factor such things as culture, gender and the histories of peoples (as once subject to imperial rule, for example)?
Sources of inspiration Critical theorists take inspiration from a number of different places. Some from the Marx-influenced thought of the Frankfurt School of philosophers, feminist writers, the Italian philosopher Gramsci (very influential in critical IPE), the German philosopher Habermas, and French philosophers from the last half century particularly Foucault and Derrida. Critical thinkers do not all have a lot in common – but they do all agree that theory should challenge and unsettle established categories and disconcert the reader. We shall now look at 2 examples of critical theories: feminism and constructivism
Feminisms There is not one feminism but many feminisms - different theoretical approaches to understanding the role of gender in power relations. Feminism is not necessarily just about women. Feminism is about progressive social change. Without the appreciation of gender in the hierarchical structure of all social and political relationships we only have a partial view. Many varieties of feminism - emerged in IR in the 1980s. They share a concern with the place of gender in international politics and the subordination of women globally.
Feminism in IR Most feminists define gender as different from sex. They see gender as referring to socially and culturally constructed characteristics that vary according to time and place. Gender is a system of social hierarchy where masculinity is valued over femininity. Feminists show how much of literature in social and political enquiry, especially IR, has tended to depict the two genders thus: Male ~ rational, competitive and aggressive Female ~ emotional, consensus oriented, submissive Many feminists see women as rendered invisible in most international politics scholarship or reduced to very limited roles: home- makers, mothers, in need of protection, victims. As such they are often depicted as (or simply assumed to be) unsuited to a world marked by conflict and war. But note that many feminists resist the notion that women are just victims and some also argue that men are also victims of gender stereotypes and roles.
Varieties of feminism …Feminisms of equality: Liberal feminism : „add women and stir‟ – the most mainstream variety. Emphasises discrimination and the absence of women in politics. Would having more women in the upper echelons of politics and international politics alone make a difference? Think of the Scandinavian states all famously „women- friendly‟, with comparatively high numbers of women in parliament, government and public administration. Standpoint feminism:goes beyond the empirical circumstances of feminism to suggest that women offer a different way of seeing things – a viewpoint from those excluded from power. Questions the category of power itself. A number of varieties including socialist feminism and radical feminism. The latter particularly noted for its emphasis on „patriarchy‟ - the rule of the male.Feminism of difference Poststructural feminism:shares the critique of patriarchy but challenges earlier feminisms‟ tendency to articulate a singular feminine identity („woman‟), favouring the articulation of a multiplicity of identities both male and female which are constantly being made and remade through language and text. Asks how international politics produces and reproduces particular accounts of gender subjectivity. Two areas where feminism made an early and influential impact: international development and security studies
Feminism(s) on war and the global economyWar & security The global economy Challenging the myth of A gendered global division of protection labour: 3/5 of the world‟s poor War is gendered: e.g. war-fighting are women and girls; on average and women don‟t mix; women are women earn 2/3 of men‟s invisible in war; images of the earnings; globally, women are enemy are often gendered; Gay disproportionately represented in men and women are unsuited to low paid jobs, subsistence war agriculture, and unpaid labour in Rape as a weapon of war the „private‟ sphere. The definition of security is Contrary to standard gender gendered stereotypes, in global terms it is predominantly women who do Resolving conflict is gendered the hard labour as well as A matter of debate within maintain the household feminism: should women fight? Perceptions about the suitability of women for certain jobs still highly gendered
ConstructivismEmerged at the end of the Cold War as a response to neorealism‟s failureto explain the end of the Cold War – „the embarrassment of changes‟(Kratochwil): Changes as consequence of perestroika (reform) and glasnost (openness) within USSR Change not due to redistribution of capabilities, but for domestic reasons Changes occurred in unexpected way, i.e. without outbreak of hegemonic war Changes were due to changes in practices – both USSR and US decided to do things differently and see each other differentlySome Constructivists argue that International politics must be understoodas a game based on rules and norms. Others focus on the significance ofidentity.What they share is an emphasis on understanding international politics asa means to identifying processes of change.
Constructivism: key claims Materiality is significant, but so are ideas Also important is the meaningactors (individuals or states) give to things and actions. Meaning is shared intersubjectively. Reality is constructed rather than given. Many „facts‟ about the world are „social facts‟ which are dependent upon human agreement Ideas and norms shape the international structure, and the structure shapes the identities, interests and foreign policies of states. Thus, the international structure is made up of both normative and material elements. „Anarchy is what states make of it‟ (Wendt), i.e. international reality is socially constructed. What states do and what is deemed acceptable to do is socially constructed and not just materially determined.
Constructivism and change - norms Constructivism tries to understand how the world hangs together. But the way it does it – emphasising the intersubjective construction of much of our world and its norms and practices – also highlights the possibility of transformation (think of the idea of sovereignty here) There is no singular model or theory of change at the global level. A number of processes at work leading to diffusion of new practices, norms, strategies and so on.Finnemore&Sikkink (1998) The Life cycle of norms: Norm emergence Norm cascade Norm internalisationBut there may be significant constraints on the process ofdiffusion: material power, the politics of identity, culture and soon.
Constructivism and change – Wendt on identity “Anarchy is what states make of it” - What international anarchy is actually like is not given transhistorically. It depends on how states interact. Identity is created in interaction - Two actors, Ego and Alter meet for the first time. Ego starts with a gesture, e.g., of an advance, a retreat, a brandishing of arms, a laying down of arms, or an attack. Alter then must infer Egos intentions and, given that this is anarchy, particularly about whether ego is a threat. Alter may wrongly infer Egos intent, but there is no reason for it to assume before the gesture that ego is threatening. It is only through signalling and interpreting that the costs and probabilities of being wrong can be determined. Wendt concludes that social threats are constructed, not natural. What kind of anarchy prevails depends on how identity is defined - Definitions of identity will influence the anarchy or security environment which prevails. If states consider each other enemies, there‟ll be a self- help system of the worst kind. If, however, they treat each other as „friends and partners‟, a security community might develop (think of the UK and Germany within the EU and NATO today).