12. International Politics: Apocalypse Now and Then Realism in International Politics Realism is both historically and conceptually the predominant perspective on international politics. In part, this is because war is what we notice about international politics.
Most of international politics is actually about cooperation: trade, travel, communication, environmental regulation, and the like. Causes of War In fiction, war is presented as so horrible that only an accident or misunderstanding could explain it. In reality, the choice to go to war is pretty much always consciously and rationally made by at
least one of the participants. The dynamics that cause a war are far more intricate and complex than the event that sparks the conflagration. Back to Anarchy Globally, there has never been a formal, hierarchical political structure. Anarchy is the underlying dynamic of international politics.
The theoretical construct of realism provides the best explanation of how international politics operates in an anarchic environment. World War I Was Unpleasant The horrors of World War I are a big part of the reason the study of international politics is so focused on war. The war was also socially traumatic. The study of international politics developed
during the interwar period and was focused on the quest to ensure a peaceful world. All Quiet on the Western Front? The body of academic work developed during this period is referred to as idealism. It is based on two main assumptions: First, conflict of any sort is bad. Second, no rational leader would choose to
endure the massive destruction caused by war. Realism and War A big problem with idealism and the quest for peace was that it didnt work. The outbreak of World War II compelled scholars to abandon idealism in favor of realism. Realism is all about rational choices made in the pursuit of power in an anarchic
international environment. Realism and War All realist theories and perspectives are based on three main assumptions: 1. States are rational unitary actors. Most phenomena can be explained by dynamics external to the state. 2. These unitary rational states interact in an
anarchic environment. States seek security in a world where there is no overarching authority. Realism and War 3. Power is the fundamental resource to be pursued. This includes the idea of going after gains when the opportunity arises. In 1967, Israel, which was at a power
disadvantage, was prompted by fear to preemptively attack Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, defeating them all. Balancing and Bandwagoning Balance of power refers to the way the distribution of power internationally influences the pattern of alliances that form. Alliance formation driven by the fear that the
more powerful side might be pursuing gains Bandwagoning refers to allying with a stronger power to gain favor or to share in spoils. Challenging the Realist Paradigm Realism has a difficult time explaining why cooperative international behavior is more
common than war. Also, it ignores the role of economics. Liberalism is less of a theory than a political ideal encompassing democracy, capitalism, human rights, and civil liberties. Challenging the Realist Paradigm Constructivism is a communication theory based on the idea that the construction of the
other is a predominant influence on international decision making and action. Marxism argues that imperialism and colonialism extend capitalist exploitation into the international context. The Not So Black Box Foreign Policy Analysis questions the realist presumption of the state unitary rational actor. Rather, Foreign Policy Analysis is all about the
decision making that goes on within states in response to inputs from the anarchic international system. The problem is that since no two states are alike, the analysis can be a complicated mess. Why Kant Democracies Fight? Immanuel Kants democratic peace theory posits that since leaders of democratic states are held
accountable to the people, they are much less likely to be able to justify the costs of going to war. While democracies do seem to go to war, they do not seem to fight one another. Unfortunately, there is little scholarly consensus on the cause of this democratic peace. The Shadow of the Hegemon Is the world really anarchic?
International economic activity is far more important and common than war, which is relatively rare. Often there is a dominant hegemon that imposes some degree of structure on international trade and other interaction. The Shadow of the Hegemon The hegemon sets up trade and other rules that
benefit the hegemon. Smaller countries must voluntarily follow along if they want to participate in international trade. The costs to the hegemon of maintaining the system eventually outweigh the benefits. A fading hegemonic power is eventually replaced by a challenger. Its the Economy, Stupid Karl Marx
Another alternative to the realist paradigm is world systems theory. Each country is made up of a small capitalist elite core and a large working-class periphery. Further, countries can be divided between a small core of wealthy, elite, capitalist countries and a much larger periphery of poor, less developed countries. Its the Economy, Stupid
Karl Marx The result is a world economic system that replicates the capitalist exploitative relationship on a global scale. Wealth flows from the peripheries to the cores, both within and between countries. Its the Economy, Stupid Karl Marx The core of the periphery keeps the system
going because it receives key resources from the core of the core. Those in the periphery of the core countries keep the system going because they get the benefit of cheap goods as a result of the exploitation of periphery countries. Its the Economy, Stupid Karl Marx Loans, grants, aid, and trade agreements all
benefit the developed countries. They build economic infrastructures that facilitate economic exploitation of periphery countries by core countries. And they tie developing countries to debts that extract capital at alarming rates. Its the Economy, Stupid Karl Marx Not everything about globalization is bad and evil.
Literacy rates and access to educational opportunities are higher than they have ever been. As are access to health care and vaccinations. With some exceptions, ditto for human rights and basic rights for women. Its the Economy, Stupid Karl Marx Further, it would be impossible to stop globalization.
It is a phenomenon created by advancing technology, increasing worldwide education, and the aggregate economic choices of billions of people. Dude, Think about the Fish As capitalist pressures become ever more universal, economic pressures drive overexploitation globally. The global tragedy of the commons is an issue
that extends across nations and involves subnational political units, multinational entities, and transnational organizations. Constructivism Human beings construct the reality around them through language and communication. The conceptual framework used to describe something enables certain actions and prevents others.
This is a new and interesting theory, the value of which will be determined with more research. Roaring Mice and Vacation Hot Spots The question is not so much which theoretical approach is correct, but how different ideas can help us understand what is going on. Why does Barbados exist?
It has little power in an anarchic world. Is it an economic issue? A moral issue? Something else? There is no one simple theory that explains global interaction. International relations are complex and multifaceted.
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