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International Relations: Important Theories

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Realism makes four basic assumptions about international relations: * The state is the most important actor in international relations. This means that national governments are the most important player in the game of international politics–interest groups like Amnesty International or individual figures like the pope have no effect on how nations relate to one another. * The state is a unitary and rational actor.

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Unitary means that “the state speaks with one voice;” although members of a nation may have many different views on the best approach to a situation, only one approach will be enacted.

Rational means that the state is capable of “identifying goals and preferences and determining their relative importance. ” * International relations are essential conflictual because of anarchy. In this case, anarchy does not mean chaos–instead it refers to the absence of a higher authority to prevent aggression or arbitrate disputes. Just as men might run amok and attack one another without the government to punish them, nations will attack one another so long as they believe it in their best interest.

Anarchy also compels states to arm themseves in order to feel secure. The stockpiling of arms and the building of a military, however, are provocative actions which prompt neighbouring states to feel insecure and build up their own weapons. * Security and strategic issues, known as high politics, dominate the international agenda. This means that states’ paramount goal is to maximize their power in the international community, and that they are primarily concerned with military power.

An example of a nation operating according to this maxim is North Korea in the early 90s–the downfall of the Soviet Union left them without Communist allies, so they began a nuclear weapons development program and threw out UN observers. They believed that if their government gained nuclear power, it would survive in the international community because other countries would fear them. Liberalism * Liberal international relations theories are based on the idea that humans are PERFECTABLE. In contrast to the greedy man of realism or even he survival man of realism, liberal theories tend to see man as rational as well as learning, striving, and improving over time. Liberals believe in PROGRESS.

* Liberals believe that humans can learn to COOPERATE to improve their lives PEACE is seen as a preferred condition and therefore ways should be found to foster peace among states. This allows man to focus on the substantive things that make up the good life: food, art, culture, literature, farming, families. Everything but weapons and the fighting of war. Liberals believe that war stems from INADEQUATE INSTITUTIONS OR MISUNDERSTANDINGS, so we prevent war by crafting better institutions and eliminating the possibility of misunderstanding through education and discussion. * War stems from misery, POVERTY, INEQUALITY. * Liberal approaches often also see man as tied to fellow man by a COMMON HUMANITY.

Therefore, the limits imposed by state boundaries are artificial. This leads to ideas such as the pursuit of human rights violators across state boundaries, seeking to engage in development assistance. League of Nations and UN Charters have strains of this type of liberal idealism: making peaceful settlement of disputes a new norm. Overcome past international conflict through institutionalized collective security mechanisms. * Some influential liberal ideas today: INTERDEPENDENCE and the rise of NON-STATE ACTORS. * Interdependence: Economic linkages, communication technologies finally making possible one world with one common humanity. All linked together, can’t go to war without causing hardship to all.

This has been developed further in the 1990s to a school of thought which sees globalization as rendering war among major powers as impossible, would impoverish everyone, no one has an incentive to rock the globalization boat. * Rise of non-state actors: new non-state actors becoming more influential than the old states of realist international relations discourse: multinational companies many of which have greater annual turnover than developing countries’ GDPs, new cross-national issue groups: the Greens, Greenpeace, Amnesty International.

These corporations and organizations are breaking down the state, establishing common interests across borders. Generally, foster peace. * Also, recently re-in vogue in the liberal camp is the DEMOCRATIC PEACE THESIS, the idea that democracies do not fight one another. * Liberal approaches have fostered much of the growth of INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS (neo-liberalism with emphasis on institutions). International organizations are seen as ways of mediating conflict among states, establishing bases of cooperation, establishing rational-legalistic codes of conduct under which all will be better off. Some liberal internationalists see the evolution of international organizations, the development of international law, the growth of cross-national civil society groups as evidence that the state is being transgressed, or at least having its capacity for war-generating action reduced. * ANALOGY TO DOMESTIC STATE at international level. As in the domestic state where the government provides some order to relations among citizens, so international organizations (while not a world government) can provide some stability, security, and predictability to inter-state interactions.

Can prevent states from being trapped in the SECURITY DILEMMA (need force to protect self, arms build up scares others into thinking you are going to attack, they build up their forces, they scare you, endless cycle of build-up ultimately leading to violence. By making self more secure through arms, make self less secure by compelling arms acquisition on neighbour/rival), can foster and build on areas where cooperation helpful to solve mutual interests, cooperation reinforcing.

States can learn through international organizations/cooperation and change their preferences and behaviors. * IRAQ WAR: Liberals would certainly see Saddam Hussein as a problem: authoritarian, had shown proclivity to invade others. Marxism Marxism is one of the basic theories of international relations. According to Marxists, both realism and liberalism/idealism are simply self-serving ideologies introduced by the economic elites to defend and justify global inequality.

Instead, Marxists argue, class is the fundamental unit of analysis of international relations, and the international system has been constructed by the upper classes and the wealthiest nations in order to protect and defend their interests. The various Marxist theories of international relations agree that the international state system was constructed by capitalists and therefore serves the interests of wealthy states and corporations, which seek to protect and expand their wealth.

According to Marxist theory the “First World” and “Third World” are merely components of a larger world system which originated in 16th-century European colonialism. Instead, these states actually make up the “core” and “periphery” of the world system — respectively, the central wealthy states which own and chiefly benefit from the mechanisms of production, and the impoverished “developing” countries which supply most of the human labour and natural resources exploited by the rich.

States which do not fit either class, but lie somewhere in the middle of the model, are referred to as “semi-peripheral. ” The core-periphery thesis of world-systems theory is based upon another body of work, dependency theory, which argues that the basis of international politics is the transfer of natural resources from peripheral developing countries to core wealthy states, mostly the Western industrialized democracies.

The poor countries of the world, like the poor classes of the world, are said to provide inexpensive human and natural capital, while the wealthy countries’ foreign policies are devoted to creating and maintaining this system of inequality. International economic law (such as the World Trade Organization) and other such systems are seen as means by which this is done.

To combat these systems of inequality, traditional Marxists and dependency theorists have argued that poor countries should adopt economic control policies that can break them out of the prison of international economic controls, such as import substitution (government assistance to domestic producers and barriers to wealthy international corporations attempting to flood the market with mass-produced imports) rather than the export-based models usually favoured by international economic organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.