You are on page 1of 11

Theories in International Relations

Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• In the context of • The realm of IR is • Study of IR is the study • Security • limited attention to EH Carr,
the 30s, to governed by objective laws of the interaction • Sovereignty the role of non- The Twenty
response to the which is rooted in human between sovereign • National state actors Years Crisis
perceived nature states interests (1939)
delusions of • Power • little or no
idealism • The pursuit of power by • The self-interested consideration to Hans
individuals and states is behavior of states in economic Morgenthau,
• To be sanguine ubiquitous and unavoidable the absence of any processes Politics Among
and realistic about --- thus, conflict and overarching authority Nations (1948)
the frailty of human competition is endemic on a global scale • relies on an
nature and to trace produces a condition of impoverished
the implications for • The state is sovereign and anarchy conception of
the conduct of IR the natural unit of analysis human nature and
in IR since states recognize • In so far as conflict is implausible
• To render IR a no authority above avoided, this is not assumptions
rigorous and themselves and are because of the pacific
dispassionate autonomous of non-state intentions of states but • narrowly state-
science of world actors and structures precisely because of centric
politics the balance produced
• States are unified actors, by the aggressive • less an accurate
Intellectual motivated exclusively by pursuit of power and theory of world
Forebears considerations of national security by states politics that the
• Thucydides interest image in and
• Hobbes • It is naïve to assume through which
• Machiavelli • National interests are that cooperation rather world politics was
objective than conflict is the made --- hence,
natural condition of ‘nothing but a
• The principal national world politics rationalization of
interests are CW politics’
survival/security • The evolution of world (Hoffman, 1977)
politics is cyclical,
• There is total separation of characterized by
domestic and international timeless laws rooted in
politics with the former human nature
subordinated to the latter
Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To produce a more • World politics can be • The anarchical structure • Balance of • lacks clarity about Charles
systematic, rigorous analyzed if states were of the international power the conditions of Kindleberger,
and structural unitary rational actors system compels states cooperation and The World in
account of IR in the seeking to maximize their to act as they do: • Relative (as conflict in the Depression 1929-
realist tradition expected utility ordering principle; opposed to international system 1939 (1973)
identical character of absolute)
• The context in which states units in the system; gains • incapable of either Kenneth Waltz,
• To liberate realism
find themselves --- a differences in capabilities predicting or Theory of
from essentialist International
and universal condition of anarchy --- • Accordingly, conflict is a • Hegemonic explaining the end of
determines the content of consequence not of stability the CW despite its Politics (1979)
assumptions of
human nature the rationality they exhibit state belligerence but of focus on BOP within
the pursuit of national the international Robert Gilpin,
• The behavior of states can interest under conditions system War and Change
• To provide a in World Politics
deductive science be explained exclusively in of anarchy
terms of the structure of the • Though states are • state-centric (1981)
of world politics on
the basis of international system itself, inherently conflictual and
JL Mearsheimer,
parsimonious since states are rational and competitive, actual • displays very limited
in any given setting there is conflict can be averted in “Back to the
assumptions about and impoverished
only one optimal course of situations in which there Future: Instability
the international notion of state
action open to them is a balance of power in Europe after
system agency
the Cold War”
• Though there is always a
• The state is again sovereign tendency to instability in • relies on a series of
Intellectual Forebears and the natural unit of the international system, implausible
Same as realists analysis in IR this can be attenuated if assumptions about
a dominant state the unity and
• However, the role of assumed a leadership rationality of the
international institutions in (or hegemonic) role state
the governance of IR cannot • Under such conditions of
be overlooked hegemonic stability
international institutions
• States are, again, unified can serve to provide a
actors, motivated solely by secure basis for
considerations of national cooperation between
interests nations, such as is
evidenced in the
• States seek relative rather international economic
than absolute gains system which developed
in the post-war period
Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To provide a more • Liberal internationalism: • War is the cancer of the • HR Doyle,

positive (though internal effecting external body politics and can • Free “Liberalism in
contrasting) view only be cured by markets World Politics
of human nature: • Liberalism institutionalism: democracy and free • Cooperation (1986)
external affecting internal trade
• ethical view: man where states are drawn to Mueller, Retreat
as enjoyer & think in rational terms • Comparative from Doomsday
exerter of his because institutions advantage (1989)
uniquely human impinge them to do so
attributes or • Democratic peace Giddens, The
capacities (liberal Nation-State and
democracy & HR) Violence (1985)
• Obsolescence of war
Rawls, The Law
• market view: of Peoples
individualist (1991)
concept of mas as
consumer of
utilities, an infinite
desirer and infinite
(liberal capitalism
& free markets)

Intellectual Forebears
• Kant
• Grotius
Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To counter the • individuals and states, • an advanced international division of labor • Lack clarity about Robert Keohane
state-centrism of though rational, have the within the world economy encourages conditions under and Joseph Nye,
realism and neo- capacity to solve problems relations of interdependence and which we should Power and
realism and to re- through collective action cooperation between nations which are expect cooperation Interdependence
insert economic mutually advantageous and conflict (1977)
dynamics in IR • international cooperation for
mutual advantage is both • the condition of complex interdependence • For realist and neo- James Rosenau,
• To explore the desirable and possible which characterizes the international system realists, liberalism Turbulence in
possibilities for renders national economies ever more and neo-liberalism World Politics
cooperation within • actors other than states play sensitive and vulnerable to events in other adopt a naïve and (1990)
the international a central role in international countries utopian conception
system events of both human Joseph Nye,
• this entails a significant loss of state nature and Understanding
• To explore the possibilities for International
• states cannot be capacity an autonomy
implications of a international Conflicts (1993)
conceptualized as unified
more flexible and actors but are themselves • there is complex relationship between cooperation
positive view of multi-centric and subject to a domestic and international politics with no
human nature variety of competing clear or consistent hierarchy • Tend to exaggerate
domestic and international the role of
pressures • international institutions and organizations, international
KEY CONCEPTS though in some sense themselves the institutions, the
• power within the product of state action, may come to extent of
• interdependence/ international system is assume an independent identity and display globalization and the
complex diffused and fluid agency in their own right; institutions may limited capacity of
interdependence assume the role of encouraging cooperative the state
• absolute (as • liberal democratic states do habits, monitoring compliance and
opposed to relative) not wage war upon one sanctioning defectors • Tends to legitimate
gains another (the doctrine of the status quo
• cooperation democratic peace) • rational calculations (rational choice and
• international game theoretics) where cooperation can • The empirical
regimes • military force is by no means occur without a hegemon evidence does not
• trading state rather the only, or the most seem to confirm the
than military state effective, instrument of • neoliberalism as economic liberalism on a democratic peace
(Rosecrance) foreign policy global scale; favors free play of market thesis --- democratic
forces, minimal role of the state in economic states can be quite
• states seek absolute rather life, roll back welfare state belligerent
Intellectual Forebears than relative gains
same as liberals • challenge to comparative advantage:
internationalization of production, mobility of
capital and dominance of TNCs
Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To provide a • Through revolutionary • The logic of • class Underestimated the V. Lenin,

second image of action, the international expansionism: ‘to struggle impact of nationalism, Imperialism: The
IR which believed proletariat would embed conquer the whole the state and war, BOP, Highest Stage of
that the rise of the Enlightenment ideals earth for its markets • national IL and diplomacy on Capitalism
socialist as of liberty, equality and bourgeoisie the structure of world (1972)
opposed to fraternity in an entirely new • International that politics
capitalist regimes kind of world order which sentiments are largely controlled the Antonio Gramsci,
would end conflict would free all human normative or a various Notes from
between states beings from exploitation visionary project that is systems of Prison
(Linklater) and domination based on actual government Notebooks
observations of
• To study global • Combination of a powerful domestic reality • cosmopolitan F. Halliday,
inequality with an analysis of the whole proletariat Rethinking IR,
emphasis on the development of human • Study of imperialism as 1994
internationalization history with a detailed a critique of the liberal • emancipatory
of relations of study of the evolution of proposition that late J. Maclean,
intent of
production and on capitalism and the capitalism was “Marxism and IR:
the forms of global prospects for universal committed to free trade A Strange Case
governance which emancipation internationalism which of Mutual
perpetuate would lead to peace Neglect” (1988)
inequalities of between nations
power and wealth J. Derrida,
Spectres of
• Fate of capitalism is to
• Ushered in neo- Marx: The State
experience frequent
Marxism (via of Debt, the
dependency Work of
theory and WST) Mourning and
as well as critical the New
theory, Gramscian International
and neo- (1994)
Granscian thinking

Intellectual Forebears
• Marx
• Engels
Alternative Theories in International Relations

Rational (English School of IR)

Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To occupy a middle • domestic politics as the • The primary actors in state system Seen as the British Martin Wight,
ground between sphere of the good life and the international system (conflict) variant of realism Why there is no
realism and international politics as the are sovereign ‘states’ International
idealism real of security and survival --- city states or nation international Offers an apology for a Theory (1966)
(Wight) states society society of states which
• To view • In IR, there is a ‘system safeguards the Hedley Bull, The
international • The world is composed of of states’ whenever 2 or world society privileges of leading Anarchical
politics as a several political more states have (where people powers Society: A Study
society of states organizations: state- sufficient contact are bound by of Order in World
systems, empires, society between them and ideas, Politics (1984)
• To advance the states have sufficient impact ideologies and
of each other’s interests Intellectual Forebears Adam Watson,
idea of IR as a
game that is partly • the international system is decisions “Hedley Bull,
• There is ‘anarchy’ in the Grotius (solidarism; State Systems
distributive and not a state of war
distinction between just and International
partly productive international system,
and unjust wars) Societies” (1987)
• the international state meaning there is no
• To argue for the system becomes common government
Vattel (pluralism; states
multidimensionality international societies • States in the
do not exhibit solidarity
of international because members develop international system but are capable of
society that can common culture and exist in an ‘international agreeing for minimum
find some common mutual interests society’ in which they puposes
ground between recognize the common
radically different • the key parameter would interest and common
and mutually be the common culture values forming a
suspicious states among states in the system society in a sense that
as maintained by they conceive
diplomacy, international themselves to be
law, institutions and bound by a common
commerce set of rules governing
relations with one
another and share in
the workings of the
common institutions
Alternative Theories in International Relations

Critical Theory
Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences Seminal Works

• To draw attention • the purpose of being critical is • Society itself as its critique of Robert Cox,
to the relationship to improve human existence object of analysis particularism - “Social Forces,
of knowledge and • there is a need to react to and social States and World
society dogmatism • Reflection on theory exclusion Orders: Beyond IR
Theory” (1981)
• informed by the traditions of (self-reflexivity)
• To recognize hermeneutic and dimensions of Karin Fierke,
theories as always ideologiekritik • Epistemological
embedded in questions regarding states, social Changing Games,
• theory as an emancipatory forces and Changing
social and political the justification and
project changing world Strategies: Critical
life verification of
• must critique dogmatism of orders Investigations of
knowledge claims,
traditional modes of Security (1998)
• To take society as the methodology
theorizing discourse
the object of applied, the scope
• starts from the conviction that ethics Stephen Gill,
analysis and purpose of
cognitive processes inquiry, and ontology Gramsci, Historical
themselves are subject to Materialism and IR
• To recognize the questions regarding
political interests and ought to the nature of the (1993)
political nature of
be critically evaluated social actors and IntellectualForebears
knowledge claims
• rules out the possibility of other historical Kimberly
and thus need to
objective knowledge and in formations and Frankfurt school: Hutchings,
reflect on theory
its place is the promotion of structures in IR - Adorno International
theoretical reflexivity - Marcuse Political Theory:
• the task of the political - Lowenthal Rethinking Ethics
• ‘Knowledge - Habermas in a Global Era
(theory) is always theorist is to explain and
criticize the present political - Horkheimer (1999)
for someone and
for some purpose’ order in terms of the
principles presupposed by Mark Neufeld,
(Cox) “Thinking Ethically
and embedded in its own
political, legal and cultural --- Thinking
• To radically rethink Critically” (2000)
practices and institutions;
about the
‘immanent critique’ or critical
normative Richard Shapcott,
engagement with the
foundations of “Beyond the
background of normative
global politics Cosmopolitan/
assumptions that structure
our ethical judgments Communitarian
(Linklater) Divide” (2000)
Alternative Theories in International Relations

Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences Seminal Works

• reinvigorated • our beliefs play a crucial • ‘Anarchy is what states • social • unified more by Friedrich
normative theorizing role in the construction of make of it’ (Wendt) – the construction what they Kratochwil, Rules,
in IR our reality structure of the • intersubjectivi distance Norms and
international system ty themselves from Decisions (1989)
• To open up a ‘middle • the social and political does not dictate state • identity than by what they
way’ (Adler) between world is not a given but behavior; it is the share Nicholas Onuf, A
rationalism (rational an inherently interaction and World of Our
choice theory) and intersubjective domain --- intersubjective • for rationalists, Making (1989)
postmodernism a product of social understandings of states much of what they
construction which gives rise to the claim theoretically, Alexander Wendt,
• To explore the condition of anarchy though plausible, Social Theory of
implications of • there is no objective • assesses the remains either International
acknowledging that social or political reality transformative impact of untestable to Politics (1999)
potential realities are independent of our novel social untested
socially constructed understanding of it --- constructions (i.e. EU)
and of according there is no social realm on the state system • may be seeking to
ideas an independent of human • emphasizes the reconcile the
activity importance of national irreconcilable ---
• independent role in
norms on international the choice
the analysis of IR
• ideational factors may be politics and international between
• To explore the accorded as significant norms on national rationalism and
role in IR as material politics postmodernism
implications of
replacing factors • emphasizes the may be starker;
importance of discursive no middle ground
rationalism’s logic of
• for most constructivist, construction and naming as proponents
positivism cannot be in the identification and eventually
rationality with a
reconciled with an response to security gravitate to poles
more sociological
conception of emphasis upon the threats --- threats are
agency significance of perceptions rather than • despite theoretical
intersubjective realities that are appeal, its
• To explore the understanding responded to promise is still
implications of unrealized
treating interests and
preferences as
social constructions
rather than as
objectively given
Alternative Theories in International Relations

Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal Works

• To cast on • genealogical approach: • the identification and • power and • tendency towards RK Ashley, “Living
modernist knowledge is situated at a exploration of the way knowledge in nihilism, fatalism on the
assumptions about particular time; as a power operates in the IR and passivity --- an Borderlines: Man,
the ability to consequence of discourses and abstention from Poststructuralism
generate objective heterogeneity of possible practices of world • incredulity judgement and War” (1989)
knowledge of social contexts and position, there politics towards meta-
and political world can be no single truth --- • is not David Campbell,
narratives Writing Security
only competing • the celebration of postmodernism’s
• To draw attention to perspectives difference, diversity and normative respect (1992)
• deconstruction
the conceptual plurality for ‘difference’ in the
prisms in and • there is no neutral vantage end self-defeating RJ Walker,
through which point from which the world • a challenge to the notion • difference/ --- precluding the Inside/Outside
supposedly can be described and of history as ‘progress’ otherness taking of action to (1993)
dispassionate and analyzed objectively protect that
neutral theories are • problematizing difference? Cynthia Weber,
• the attempt to establish
formulated • all knowledge is partial, the sovereign Simulating
universal conditions for
partisan and power-serving state: • Are its implications Sovereignty
human emancipation
• To expose the violence, profoundly (1995)
can only serve, in
silences, implicit • knowledge claims are never practice, to replace one boundaries, conservative ---
assumptions and neutral with respect to set of relations of identity, deconstruction
universal power relations which are, domination with another statecraft without the
pretensions of such as a consequence, --- there is no escape possibility of the
theories and to ubiquitous and diffuse from tyranny • beyond reconstruction of al
reveal the power sovereignty: alternative?
relations in whose • there are no facts about the • the universal problematizing
reproduction they social and political world, pretensions of general the political • Internal
are complicit only interpretations theories and contradictions --- is
advanced from a particular emancipatory projects not postmodernism
• To explore the vantage point (metanarratives) is Intellectual itself a
implications of an mythical Forebears metanarrative to
IR which does not • the social and political world • Nietzche end all
rely on universal is characterized not by • power relations often • Foucault metanarratives and
claims, privileged sameness and identity but function through the hence a
access to by difference, diversity and construction, in contradiction in
knowledge or the ‘otherness’ language, of hierarchical terms?
possibility of distinctions of • Tends towards pure
liberation or identity/difference, descriptive narrative
emancipation from sameness/otherness as opposed to
power political analysis

Alternative Theories in International Relations

Aim/contribution Key assumptions Key themes Key concepts Silences& limitations Seminal

• To introduce • Gender refers to the • Exclusion of • Gender as constitutive of • Liberal feminism: unclear Betty Friedan,
gender as a assymetrical social women’s lives and IR in dealing with the Feminine
relevant empirical constructs of experiences in IR abstract state or the Mystique
category and masculinity and • Contesting the gendered actual state; failure to (1962)
theoretical tool for femininity as • Women as a dimension of sovereignty, understand women in
analyzing global opposed ostensibly disadvantaged the state, rationality varying situations; Kate Millet,
power relations ‘biological’ male- group on a world provided formal equality Sexual Politics
as well as a female differences scale • Liberal feminism: reform; and not substantive (1970)
normative equality of women with equality
standpoint from • Contesting the • Focus on the men Catherine
which to privileging of the gender dynamics • Radical feminism: MacKinnon,
construct masculine over the naturalizing patriarchy as Feminism,
of capitalist • Radical feminism:
alternative world feminine expansion in the the single cause of Marxism,
orders (True) South: economic women’s oppression and Method and
• Gender is a globalization being thus homogenizing the the State
• Marxist feminism: (1987)
• Not just to add relational concept accompanied by oppression; failed to see
women in the based on the worldwide the difference of non-
study of world analysis of expansion in the white women’s Zillah
• Socialist feminism: Eisenstein,
politics but to masculinity and use of female experiences
combines the dual system Developing a
contest the femininity, men as labor of class and patriarchy as Theory of
exclusionary, well as women, by • Marxist feminism:
sources of oppression Capitalist
state-centric and foregrounding the • Gendered subsumed women in the
positivist nature study of mane and category of class Patriarchy and
construction of IOs • Postmodern/poststructura
of IR masculinities in IR Socialist
with initiatives to l feminism: deconstruction Feminism
mainstream • Postmodern/poststructura
• To deconstruct and rejection of the state; (1979)
gender in global the state as a discursive l feminism: too focused on
and subvert governance discourses and lacks
process Judith Allen,
realism as the institutions specificity; deconstructed
dominant ‘power Does
category of women
politics’ Feminism
explanation for Need a Theory
post-war IR of the State
• To unmask the
dimension of
forms of
prevalent on
world politics