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1-Origins of the Contemporary World Order

Churchill’s remarks about an “Iron Curtain” capture the nature of the Cold War on a global scale: the struggle for
power between two irreconcilable political forces. The Cold War (1945-1991) was a battle for political, economic
and ideological supremacy between the Western world and the Communist world.

1 How did this world system emerge?

1.1 The End of World War Two
After the defeat of Nazi Germany (May 1945) and the surrender of Imperial Japan (September 1945) wartime al-
liance between, on one hand, USA, Britain and France, and on other hand, Soviet Union, comes to an end. German
capital, Berlin, falls to Red Army and Soviet Union occupies most of Central and Eastern Europe.
Three key wartime conferences between USA, Britain and Soviet Union confirm division of Europe and lay foun-
dations of Cold War:

1. Tehran (28 November-1 December 1943) (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin): establishment of a “Second Front” via
“Operation Overlord” – the cross-channel invasion of France to attack Nazi Germany from the West.
2. Yalta (4-11February 1945) (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin): Agreement on unconditional surrender of Nazi Ger-
many, and for post-war Germany to be divided into 4 zones occupied by USA, Britain, France and Soviet
Union Conference Decisions /cont. But at Yalta, emerging disagreements:

• Churchill presses for free and fair elections in Central and Eastern Europe after war
• Stalin insists, though, on Soviet sphere of political influence in Central and Eastern Europe

3. Potsdam (17 July-2 August 1945) (Truman, [Churchill] Attlee, Stalin): the postwar division of Europe is de
facto confirmed, with Soviet Union controlling Baltic states, Poland, Checkoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ro-
mania and eastern part of Germany.

1.2 The Division of Europe Consolidated

In the course of the 1940s, the division of Europe becomes firmly entrenched. In 1949, Germany is split into two
polities: the Federal Republic of Germany (former zones occupied by USA, Britain and France) and the German
Democratic Republic (Soviet occupied zone). Berlin itself divided into West and East: “Checkpoint Charlie” and
the Berlin Wall (built in 1961) came to symbolize the nature of the Cold War.
Remaining countries of Central and Eastern Europe occupied by Red Army become Soviet satellite states – and
remain so until end of 1980s.
Political divisions of Cold War era further enhanced by the establishment of opposing military alliances:

• In April 1949, Western powers form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
• In May 1955 (following the incorporation of West Germany into NATO), Soviet Union and its allies form the
Warsaw Pact

By 1949, both military alliances possessed nuclear weapons: “MAD” – Mutually Assured Destruction. Also in 1949,
the Communist world expands enormously with the triumph of the Chinese revolution to form the People’s Re-
public of China.


2 Dynamics of the Cold War

From 1945 to 1991, two key protagonists of Cold War – USA and Soviet Union – never came into direct military
conflict. But wrong to infer from this that Cold War reflected a static, unchanging, state of international politics. At
least 5 qualifications can be made.

2.1 Internal Divisions

In the West, frequent divisions between the USA and its allies on how best to “contain” international Communism.
This was true even of its closest ally, Britain.
• France always a reluctant member of NATO and, in 1969, left the organization, judging it to be dominated by
the USA and Britain.
• Powerful Communist parties existed in France and Italy throughout the period of the Cold War.
• Significant opposition in Western Europe to nuclear arms and the siting of US nuclear weapons in Europe
In the East
• Emergence of Sino-Soviet split following death of Stalin in 1953.
• Yugoslavia, under Tito, remained defiant and independent of direct Soviet control throughout Cold War pe-
• Romania, under Ceaucescu, a “maverick” member of Warsaw Pact.
• Opposition within Eastern European satellite states to Soviet domination: Berlin uprising of 1953; Hungarian
revolution of 1956; Checkoslovakian “Prague Spring” of 1968.

2.2 Phases of the Cold War

Levels of military and political tension between the two camps did not remain static, but ebbed and flowed from
1945 to 1991:
• 1940s to early 1960s: high tension (exertion of Soviet control in Eastern and Central Europe; triumph of Chi-
nese and Cuban revolutions).
• Mid-1960s to late 1970s: reduced tensions (notion of “peaceful co-existence”; “detente”; and recognition of
respective “spheres of influence” – for example, Central and Eastern Europe for the Soviet Union, Central and
South America for the USA).
• Early 1980s: renewed tension, largely as a result of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and significantly increased
anti-Communist belligerence on part of USA (Reagan) and Britain (Thatcher)

2.3 “Flashpoints” of the Cold War

Changing levels of tension over time produced a constant stream of “flashpoints” – specific events reflecting the
ongoing battle between East and West:
• Berlin, at the heart of the Cold War, was the site of several conflicts, most notably:

– The Soviet imposed “Berlin blockade” (June 1948-May 1949), in response to the establishment of the
Federal Republic of Germany. Blockade undone by the Western powers’ “Berlin airlift”.
– Construction of the Berlin Wall by the German Democratic Republic in 1961

• Bay of Pigs Invasion: unsuccessful attempt by USA to overthrow Cuban regime of Fidel Castro
• Above all, the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. Closest situation to nuclear war in the 20th century. Reso-
lution of crisis ushers in period of reduced tensions and de facto mutual recognition of “spheres of influence”

2.4 Winning the Allegiance of the Non-Aligned

Large swathes of the globe beyond the direct ambit of both the USA and the Soviet Union and there was a constant
battle throughout the Cold War for the allegiance of the nations of Central and South America, South Asia, South-
east Asia, and Africa. The emergence of Non-Aligned Movement of Third World nations is precisely an attempt by
these countries to remain independent of direct domination by one or the other of the two Cold War superpowers.

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2.5 Regional / surrogate Wars.

Battle between Cold War superpowers for global supremacy led, in 3 notable cases, to prolonged, highly destructive,
regional conflicts in which the USA and Soviet Union waged war against each other “by proxy”:

1. Korean War (1950-1953): North Korea, supported by China and Soviet Union, vs. South Korea, supported by

2. Vietnam War: (1955-1975): North Vietnam, supported by China and Soviet Union, vs. South Vietnam, sup-
ported by USA
3. Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989): Soviet-led Afghan forces vs. insurgents supported by USA and
other allies

3 The Ending of the Cold War

Cold War ended with the collapse/overthrow of the Soviet satellite regimes of Central and Eastern Europe from
1989 onwards (including breaching of Berlin Wall in November 1989), and collapse of Soviet Union itself in 1991.
Complex process behind ending of Cold War, but 3 notable factors:

1. Economic stagnation, combined with massive military expansion, of Soviet Union during long leadership of
Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982)

2. Severe deterioration of US-Soviet relations following Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

3. Coming to power in Soviet Union of Mikhail Gorbachev. Policies of economic restructuring (“perestroika”)
and political liberalization (“glasnost”). Consequences were critical:

(a) Cuts in Soviet military spending

(b) Power of Soviet satellite regimes in Central and Eastern Europe no longer guaranteed by Soviet military
(c) Within Soviet Union itself, ending of the political monopoly of the Communist Party

4 Consequences for contemporary world politics

Several Communist states remain in power:

• China – the world’s most populous nation! – remains a single-party Communist political system

• North Korea: a heavily militarized single-party Communist regime with nuclear weapons
• Cuba: single-party Communist system which continues to play significant regional role in Central and South
American politics

Arguably, contemporary world politics are more complex than during the Cold War era.
Two key protagonists of Cold War have struggled to redefine their post-Cold War roles, interests and priorities:

• Post-Soviet Russia: economic stagnation, political instability, corruption, incomplete democratization.

• Post-Cold War USA: divisions with respect to country’s responsibilities as the last remaining world super-

Emergence of China as a global economic superpower challenges balance of power which characterised Cold War
Growing political and economic power of countries like Brazil and India challenge the hegemony in the interna-
tional arena of the Cold War’s key protagonists.
While issues of economic inequality and injustices remain key to understanding the dynamics of contemporary
world politics, the Communist/anti-Communist conflict which defined the Cold War era has largely dissolved, to
be replaced by other, potentially more complex, axes of conflict such as religion and race.

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2-Realism and the Nation State

Realist school of thought is not monolithic, but three fundamental principles/assumptions characterise its ap-
proach to understanding world politics:
Conflict is inherent to the international system. For the Realist, fundamental question is: why is there war and why
is there peace?
The nation-state is the basic unit of the international system and the principal vehicle/agent of waging conflict
within the international system
For each individual nation-state, the key concern is its own power and security

1 Realism and the “First Image” of International Relations

Why are world politics characterised by conflict?
Many scholars have sought answers to this question in human nature itself.
According to this perspective –labelled by Kenneth Waltz (Man, the State and War [1954]) as the “First Image” of
international relations – the most important causes of war are to be found in the nature and behaviour of human
beings themselves. And human beings are fundamentally conflictive.
The notion that we must look, above all, to human beings themselves in order to understand social and politi-
cal conflict – or, put differently, that human beings make (international) society in their own image – has been
sustained by some of the most influential thinkers down the ages:

• The early Christian philospher Augustine, the 17th-century English poet John Milton, the 17th-century Dutch
philosopher Spinoza and the 20th-century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr all held to this view. As
Waltz describes, these thinkers looked first to the nature and behaviour of human beings, finding permanent
“defects by which the evils of the world, including war, can be explained”.
• One of the most recent and influential expressions of this long line of thought is that of Hans Morgenthau, in
Scientific Man , written in 1946 – i.e. just after the end of World War Two. In this book, Morgenthau refers to
the “ubiquity of evil in human nature” which itself arises from “man’s ineradicable lust for power”.

1.1 Realism’s Critique of the “First Image”

However, two fundamental problems with the assertion of the “First Image” that the fixed, unchanging, “evilness”
of human beings leads to war:

1. Normative objection: if human nature is the cause of war, and if human nature is fixed, then we can never
hope for peace. Why study international relations?
2. Empirical objection: history of international relations is violent, to be sure, but it is not continually violent –
i.e. there are periods of peace as well. As such, the allegedly fixed quality of human nature cannot be used to
explain two differing outcomes (War vs. Peace).

Waltz: “Human nature may in some sense have been the cause of war in 1914 [World War One], but by the same
token it was the cause of peace in 1910. In the intervening years many things changed, but human nature did not”

2 Realism and the Nation-State

In sum, the Realist school does not reject the notion of the unchanging, conflict-prone, quality of human nature.
But it does argue that human nature is only one of several causes of war and conflict in world politics.
A more “realistic” analysis of world politics: Human nature may not change, but the social-political institutions
that humans construct can change and do change in the course of history, accounting for periods of peace and
war. And the fundamental institution at the core of Realist thinking is the nation-state.

2.1 The Eternal Influence of Thucydides 2 REALISM AND THE NATION-STATE

For Realists, the roots of conflict lie in the need of humans for resources – resources that are often scarce, leading
in turn to competition. In the absence of an international authority to determine how such resources are allo-
cated, such competition leads to a struggle for power, and Realists argue that the principal vehicle, or agent, in this
struggle for power is the nation-state.
Nation-states are not static: new nation-states appear, old ones disappear; some gain power within the interna-
tional system, others lose it; some have important natural resources, others do not; some are democratic in nature,
others are not. It is the dynamics of inter- nation-state relations, and changes in the objective interests of nation-
states over time, that account for periods of war and peace.
For Realists, the centrality of the nationstate to understanding world politics has always been present.

2.1 The Eternal Influence of Thucydides

The Greek soldier and historian Thucydides (c. 460-400 B.C.), author of History of the Peloponnesian War, an
account of the long and disastrous war of the 5th Century BC between the two superpowers of the Ancient World,
Athens and Sparta), has been extremely influential and made Thucydides the “father” of Realism:

“My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done
to last for ever”

History of the Peloponnesian War is first serious analysis in history of the question of the causes of war. It is a
detailed narrative of the long conflict between Athens and Sparta, but it is not just that: Thucydides attempts to
explain why these two powers of the Ancient World eventually went to war with each other.
The social scientific basis of his analysis has influenced Realist views of world politics ever since. Thucydides
derived his method of analysis from classical Greek medicine, above all, from the physician Hippocrates, who
demonstrated that behind every disease lay a natural cause. Every disease had a genesis; the disease led to an
inevitable crisis; then on to a resolution of the crisis. Thus:

Genesis =⇒ Crisis =⇒ Resolution

Thucydides applies this method to an analysis of the causes of war in Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece constitutes
a “world system” consisting of two principal components: Athens and Sparta.

• Genesis of conflict: changes, over time, in the structure of power of this system: expansion in the power of
Athens (for variety of reasons)
• Crisis: continuing diplomatic conflicts and confrontations between Athens and its chief rival, Sparta
• Resolution: war. What makes war inevitable is the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused
in Sparta. Critical point is when one state (Sparta) recognizes that the balance of power is moving against it.
The debate in Sparta is not about whether to fight, but when to fight. Sparta feared – perfectly rationally –
that Athens at some point would direct its increased power against its own interests, so it decides to act while
it still can in order to exert some influence over the course of events.

Realist school of thought argues that insights of Thucydides into war that took place 2,500 years ago are highly rele-
vant for studying international relations both historically and today. For example, a leading modern Realist scholar,
Robert Gilpin, writes in War and Change in World Politics (1981): “the fundamental nature of international rela-
tions has not changed over the millennia. Thucydides lives”. How so? In three key ways:

1. The nation-state remains the principal actor in the international system. Its fundamental goal is to maximize,
maintain and defend its power and influence. In Realist thinking, the notions of “vital interest”, or “national
interest” are important for understanding the behaviour of the nation-state, especially with respect to the
decision, or willingness, to go to war.
In this context, Machiavelli’s The Prince, is a major work with respect to the construction and exertion of state
authority. A major figure in the city-state of Florence of the 1400s and 1500s, Machiavelli is, after Thucydides,
the most influential Realist thinker.
2. The notion of territoriality became, over time, fundamental for the functioning and survival of the nation-
state. Nation-states acquired borders, and a key objective is to defend these borders. For Realists, territorial
sovereignty is the organizing principle of international politics.
3. The nation-state is not alone; it does not exist in a vacuum, but forms part of an international system. Put dif-
ferently, international relations consists, for Realists, of an international system of states. In time of Thucy-
dides, the “world system” consisted of a reduced number of competing nation [city]-states; in the modern
era, the “world system” consists of hundreds of nation-states. But the principle holds.

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3 The International System of Nation-States

The idea that nation-states form, by definition, part of a wider international system of nation-states is captured
nicely by Kenneth Waltz (Man, the State and War [1954]): since each state acts on its own interpretations of its
requirements for security and well-being, one state has to forecast the intentions of other states. The policy of a state,
in short, is determined by its goals and by its relations to other states.
Watltz’s observation captures the dynamic – rather than the static – nature of the international system of nation-
states. After all:

• The distribution of power within the international system changes over time (for several reasons – economic,
demographic etc. - the power of some nation-states increases, while for others, it declines)
• Nation-states will not always correctly interpret the goals and interests of their rivals, leading to conflict and
war, in turn leading to further changes in the international distribution of power

3.1 Dynamics of the International System of Nation-States

The essentially dynamic nature of the nation-state system is reflected in the course of international history.
Up until the 17th century, the international system of nation-states was extremely fluid. Nation-states tended to
be smaller – many appeared and then disappeared. While the notion of territoriality was crucial, the defense of
territories was more problematic. Hence national boundaries tended to change constantly.
Since the 17th century, the international system of states has become more stable, in the sense of more consoli-
dated, and longer-lasting, boundaries between nations.
Treaty of Pyrenees (1659): this decided the exact boundary line between France and Spain. In doing so, it estab-
lished the first official boundary in the modern sense.
This is not to say that the contemporary international system of nation-states has been static:

1. New nation-states have appeared: Decolonization in Africa in 1950s and 1960s (above all, the retreat of
Britain and France) led to the establishment of newly independent African nation-states such as Kenya,
Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana. . . The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the establishment in 1990s of new nation-
states which had previously formed part of the Soviet Union (for example, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan..)

2. Boundaries between nation-states have shifted. Especially true after wars, for example, World War Two.
Poland shifted westwards! (Eastern Poland became part of the Soviet Union and part of Eastern Germany
became part of Poland).
3. Disputes between nation-states over territorial boundaries and territorial possessions remain an important
source of conflict in international politics. For example: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Chilean-Bolivian
conflict over Bolivian access to Pacific coast, Argentinian conflict with Britain over Islas Malvinas, Spanish
conflict with Britain over status of Gibraltar.

3.2 The Changing Structure of the International System of Nation-States

The way the international system of nation-states is structured has changed over time, with no regular pattern.
Gilpin (War and Change in World Politics [1981]) identifies three forms of control, or types of structure, that have
characterized the international system over time:

1. Imperial or hegemonic: where the international system is dominated by a single imperial power. Clear exam-
ples in history are:

(a) The Roman Empire, which dominated the Ancient World, and stretched from Northern Europe to North-
ern Africa and the Middle East
(b) The British Empire (19th century and early 20th century), which occupied, at its peak, a quarter of the
world’s land surface.

2. Bipolar: where the international system is dominated by two roughly equal, and competing, superpowers.
The Cold War is a clear example.

3. Balance of power: could be called “multi-polar”, where several nation-states compete for resources, engage
in conflict, build empires etc, but with no single nation-state dominating clearly. Historians agree that this
characterised Europe from 1648 to 1914 (at different times, and to varying degrees, France, Britain, Spain, the
Netherlands, Portugal, USA, were all important players in the international system)

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Thus a key question for Realist analysts is how to characterize the international system of the 21st century:

• Imperial? The USA remains, arguably, the most powerful nation-state in the world, but does it compare with
the dominance of the British Empire in the 19th century?
• Bipolar? Is the power of the USA balanced by that of China, for example?
• Balance of power/multipolar? The USA and China are economic superpowers, but Russia remains powerful,
and countries like Brazil and India are increasingly powerful

4 Implications of Political Realism

As a general perspective on the functioning of international politics, Realism has been challenged by Liberal- and
Marxist- influenced competing perspectives. Both of these (for different reasons) challenge the primacy of the
nation-state as the key actor in the international system. (Lectures 3 and 4).
For that reason, reading assigned is one of the most radical versions of the Realist perspective:
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations. The Struggle for Power and Peace. Written originally in 1948, just after
the catastrophe of World War Two, and during the emergence of the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet
Union – i.e., at a time when the actions and effects of nation-state power were very clear indeed.
(Chapter One, “A Realist Theory of International Politics. Six Principles of Political Realism”) (Total 14 pages).

1. Political Realism believes in the objectivity of the laws of politics. It believes also in the possibility of distin-
guishing in politics between truth and opinion: “between what is true objectively and rationally, supported
by evidence and illuminated by reason, and what is only subjective judgement, divorced from the facts as they
are and informed by prejudice and wishful thinking”. Idea that it is possible to study international politics in
a social-scientific manner.
2. The key concept for Political Realism is that of “interest defined as power”. Only way to understand com-
plications of international relations is to see politics as an “autonomous sphere of action and understanding
apart from other spheres, such as economics .. ethics ..or religion”. Politicians, whatever their personal mo-
tives, ideologies, morals etc., think and act in terms of interest defined as power. This lays the basis for a
“rational theory of international politics” in which politicians distinguish between their “official duty”, which
is to think and act in terms of the national interest, and their “personal wish”, which is to see their own moral
values and political principles realized through the world”
3. According to Political Realism, objective interests – not ideas – dominate directly the actions of politicians.
This has important implications for how Realism views the possibility of transforming international politics.
Such transformation can only take place by taking into account the objective interests of nation-states and
attempting to change these interests. (“The realist cannot be persuaded that we can bring about that trans-
formation by confronting a political reality that has its own laws with an abstract ideal that refuses to take
those laws into account”).
4. Political Realism recognises that there is a tension between, on one hand, what is moral, and on the other
hand, the requirements of successful political action. “Realism maintains that universal moral principles
cannot be applied to the actions of states .. The individual may say for himself, “Let justice be done, even
if the world perish”, but the state has no right to say so in the name of those who are in its care .. While the
individual has a moral right to sacrifice himself in defense of [liberty], the state has no right to let its moral
disapprobation of the infringement of liberty get in the way of successful political morality”. For Realism,
“prudence”, and taking into account the “concrete circumstances of time and place”, are fundamental.
5. Political Realism refuses to identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that
govern the universe. “All nations are tempted .. To clothe their own particular aspirations and actions in the
moral purposes of the universe”. (Idea that “God is on our side”). Instead, need to “look at all nations, our
own included, as political entities pursuing their respective interests defined in terms of power”. In doing so,
“we are able to judge other nations as we judge our own and, having judged them in this fashion, we are then
capable or pursuing policies that respect the interests of other nations while protecting and promoting those
of our own”.
6. Intellectually, Political Realism maintains the autonomy of the political sphere. Economist: “How does
this policy affect the wealth of society?” Lawyer: “Is this policy in accord with the rules of law?” Moralist:
“Is this policy in accord with moral principles?” Political Realist: “How does this policy affect the power of
the nation?” So, very important distinction made by Political Realism between what is legal/moral in the
international arena – the “right thing to do” – and the objective interests of a nation. The two may well not
coincide at all.

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3-Liberalism and the Emergence of International Regimes

1 Liberalism versus Realism

• individual nation-states are key actors in international system;
• conflict is inherent to the international system
In contrast, Liberalism’s basic assumptions are the opposite:
1. Nation-states are important, but they are not the only actors in the international system. Liberalism has a
much more pluralist conception of who/what exerts influence in the international system – nation-states,
yes, but also: individuals, interest groups, international organizations
2. Underneath conflict, there is a basic harmony among groups. Progress can be made through learning, sci-
ence, technology and in this way, conflict in the international system overcome. For Liberals, the more the
power of the individual nation-state is constrained, the better. For Liberals, the state – as a representative of
the collective – threatens the rights and freedoms of the individual. Concern for the individual is at the core
of Liberal thought.

2 Liberalism and the State

Liberalism does not argue that the state should not exist. Within any given country, the state is important for
external defence, and internally, for maintaining the rule of law – which itself is critical for guaranteeing the rights
and freedoms of individual members of society.
But Liberalism then differs sharply from Realism:
• It rejects the idea of the state as an autonomous actor that is motivated by its own need for power or that
claims to represent the well-being of society as a whole.
• In most modern societies anyway, the “state” is not a cohesive centre of decision-making, but instead is
fragmented, made up of competing government departments and bureaucracies: Stephen Krasner, Defend-
ing the National Interest (1978): “Official [state] policy is viewed as an outcome of bargaining among com-
peting administrative units. Each of these units is motivated by its own interests”
• This essentially “pluralist”conception of the state represents an important divide between Liberalism and

1. The Liberal perspective rejects the idea of treating the state as an autonomous actor, with resources and
motivations that are different from any other institution in society.
2. Liberalism rejects, crucially, the concept of the “national interest” which transcends the individual inter-
ests of members of society i.e., in any given country, there are millions of individual interests an prefer-
ences, but no “national” interest.
3. To the extent that the state has a role to play, it is to create a structure within which individuals can freely
exercise their own preferences.

3 From Domestic Harmony to International Harmony

Liberalism also distinguishes itself from Marxism. While Marxism argues that society is divided along conflicting
class interests, Liberalism argues that there is an “objecitve harmony” of interests within society.
And for Liberalism, if this is true for individual societies, it is also true for the international political system as a
whole – i.e. that there is an objective harmony of interests among the nations of the world. If these interests are
liberated, then national boundaries would cease to be barriers.


3.1 The Basis for Harmony

For Liberalism, the crucial vehicles, or agents, of harmonious international relations are free trade and the market.
Each side gains from trade, whether that trade takes place between individuals, companies, localities/regions, or
Robert Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations (1987): trade and economic relations are a

“source of peaceful relations among nations because mutual benefits of trade and expanding interde-
pendence among national economies will tend to foster cooperative relations. Whereas politics tends
to divide, economics tends to unite people. A liberal international economy will have a moderating
influence on international politics as it creates bonds of mutual interests..”

For Liberalism, if everyone gains from peaceful economic relations, violence in the international political system –
in the form of Imperialism or War – is by definition economically destructive.

• Imperialism: conquering other countries, building empires, is foolish. The expense of conquest, and of build-
ing and maintaining an Empire, is greater than the advantages won from peaceful trading.

• War: well-being of world’s population can increase only to the extent that production increases too. In this
context, was is destructive, and the idea of “enrichment from war” is an illusion.

4 The Problem of Liberalism

Liberalism presents a series of rational propositions: there is an objective harmony of interests in the international
system; war does not pay; peace is in everyone’s real interest.
(Obvious) problem: if war does not pay, why then, do nation-states seem to behave irrationally so often, by getting
involved in so many of them?
The initial response of Liberalism to this problem is to dismiss the idea that wars are waged to “defend the national
interest”. For Liberalism, states wage wars for other, far less heroic, reasons: e.g. to increase taxes, to expand their
bureacracy or to increase control over their own citizens. Or as Kenneth Waltz, in Man, the State and War (1954)
puts it, for Liberals, the causes of war “are mere pretexts, ways of committing nations to war their governors want
for selfish reasons of their own”.
But the more important, longer-term, response of Liberalism to this problem – and its most significant contribu-
tion to theories of international relations – is that the selfish, cynical, behaviour of nation-states can be changed,
or made to change. To quote Waltz again, “To make the Liberal ideal of international relations real, states must
How is this change in the behaviour of nation-states supposed to come about? In the 19th century, almost utopian
belief of Liberals in the ability of humankind to “Change the World”. Although not entirely utopian: Liberals be-
lieved that via education, advances in science and technology, national leaders would recognise the benefits of
replacing military conflict with peaceful commercial and trading relations as the norm in international politics.

5 The Contribution of Liberalism

In the 20th Century, however, this relatively optimistic belief in the ability of national leaders to “change the world”
and change the behaviour of states was shattered by the catastrophes of World War One (1914-1918) and World
War Two (1939-1945).
These two conflicts, involving the deaths of tens of millions of people, were precisely the type of inter-state conflicts
which Liberals held to be completely irrational. Yet they happened.
Liberalism therefore looked at other ways of changing the behaviour of the nation-states of the world.
It continued to view the nation-state system as dysfunctional and inefficient. In an influential book, The Anarchical
Society (1977), Hedley Bull argued that this system obstructed the realisation of the goals of economic and social
justice in two principal ways:

• “Because it imposes barriers to the free movement of men, money and goods about the earth’s surface .. it
inhibits world economic growth”
• “Because each state is responsible for the interests of only a limited segment of the human population,
the states system obstructs the just distribution of economic and social benefits among states and nations,
among individuals or according to some conception of the world common good”.

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But the way to reform this system was, for Liberalism, no longer via the education of national leaders, and sim-
ply urging them to behave more rationally, but via the construction of international organizations, or regimes, or
authorities, which transcended the authority of individual nation-states, and which would – hopefully – promote
cooperation, rather than conflict, between the nations of the world.
The notion of the “international regime” – as an authority over and above the individual nation-state – and which
can act as a vehicle for cooperation continues to be the major contribution of Liberalism to the study of world

6 Liberalism and International Regimes

International regimes may take many forms, but: one common characteristic: they challenge, and potentially limit
(to differing degrees), the sovereignty of the individual nation-state.
In addition: international regimes have often emerged after periods of war and conflict

6.1 Conventions and Declarations

6.1.1 The Geneva Convention:

A series of four treaties: 1864, 1906, 1929 and 1949. (1949 treaty – 4 years after World War Two – ratified by 196
The Convention defines the basic rights of wartime prisoners, both military and civilian; protection for the wounded,
and protections for civilians in or near warzones.
i.e. Geneva Convention constitutes a set of rules that are meant to apply in times of armed conflict and which aim
to protect, and treat in a humane manner, people who are not involved, or are no longer involved, in hostilities.
Breaches of rules – which constitute “war crimes” – include, for example: willful killing, torture or inhumane treat-
ment, including biological experiments; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to a person’s body or
health; extensive destruction or taking of property not justified by military necessity; unlawful deportation.

6.1.2 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, December 1948
Built on 2 foundations:

1. The “Four Freedoms” developed by the Allied powers during World War Two: freedom of speech, of religion,
from fear, and from want
2. United Nations (UN) Charter itself, which “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights , and dignity and
worth of the human person”, and committed UN member states to promote “universal respect for, and ob-
servance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or

Declaration consolidated these commitments, especially after the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during
World War Two became well known.
Declaration not legally binding, but has been incorporated into, or influenced, most national constitutions ever
Declaration is also influential in applying moral and diplomatic pressure on national governments that violate its

6.2 Economic Institutions and Trading Alliances

6.2.1 European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)

Founded in 1951 at the Treaty of Paris. Consisted of six member nations: Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy,
Netherlands, Luxembourg.
Established a common market between these countries for coal and steel in order to neutralise competition be-
tween European nations over natural resources.
As such, a classic Liberal-inspired institution, based on the idea that rational, organised, trading relations pro-
moted peace.

3 Pablo Brugarolas WP03

6.3 International Institutions and Organizations 6 LIBERALISM AND INTERNATIONAL REGIMES

French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman: the aim of the ECSC was to “make war not only unthinkable but materi-
ally impossible”.
More recent examples of the construction of powerful regional trading alliances, aimed at promoting peace and
stability via economic exchange:

6.2.2 Mercosur (Mercosul / Southern Common Market)

Established in 1991 at the Treaty of Asunción. Member states are: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.
Associate member states are: Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

6.2.3 NAFTA

North American Free Trade Agreement established by the USA, Canada and Mexico in 1994

6.3 International Institutions and Organizations

Some brief examples:

• In the legal sphere: International Court of Justice.

Established in 1945 by the UN Charter which, in turn, authorizes the UN Security Council to enforce the
rulings of the Court.
Court consists of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.
Currently, the 15 judges come from: France, Somalia, Japan, Slovakia, Morocco, Brazil, Britain, China, USA,
Italy, Uganda, India, Australia, Russia and Jamaica
• In the sphere of employment: the International Labor Organization, an agency of the UN sited in Geneva.
Charged with monitoring and enforcing international labour standards and the protection of workers’ condi-
tions. Especially concerned with protecting the right of workers to associate freely (join unions) and bargain
collectively with employers; ending forced or compulsory labour; ending child labour; ending discrimination
against workers on grounds, for example, of race or politics. International Institutions / cont.
• In the economic sphere, two notable international institutions:

– International Monetary Fund (IMF). International organization established by the Bretton Woods Con-
ference in 1944 and sited in Washington, DC. Goal to reconstruct the international economy after World
War Two. Consists of 188 member states; its aim is to promote global monetary cooperation, financial
stability, international trade, high employment, high economic growth, and poverty reduction. Offers
economic advice and assistance to its member countries.
– World Bank. Also established at Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, World Bank is an international fi-
nancial institution of the UN, which provides loans to developing countries, and whose official goal is
poverty reduction.

6.4 International/Transnational Political Unions

Perhaps most ambitious form of international regime inspired by Liberalism. Two most important examples:

6.4.1 League of Nations / United Nations

• League of Nations (1920-1946): founded shortly after World War One.

• United Nations (1945 >>): founded after World War Two. Inspired by the Liberal ideal that a truly interna-
tional, or supranational, organization was needed to prevent the recurrence of a world war, and to promote
peaceful relations between the individual nation-states of the world.

4 Pablo Brugarolas WP03


6.4.2 European Union (EU)

Though constructed (obviously) on a smaller scale than the UN, the EU is unique in the world as it is a truly political
union which makes legislation – and enforces that legislation- on its member states.
Origins lay with the ECSC, which later became the European Economic Community (EEC), established by the
Treaty of Rome in 1957. Its goals were, again, the promotion of peace and stability in Europe via the free move-
ment of people, goods, services and capital.
The Maastricht Treaty of 1993 formally established the European Union and eventually led to the single European
currency, the euro.
Schengen Agreement of 1995 led to the abolition of passport and custom controls between some (not all) EU mem-
ber states.
Importantly, as the EU has grown (from its original 6 member states to its current 28), it has been transformed
from just being a free trade area to a genuinely political union. All its institutions are Europe-wide, affecting all
its member states: e.g., European Commission, Court of Justice of the EU, European Central Bank, and European
So EU is unique in world in being a truly trans-national governmental structure exerting massive influence, via
legislation, over the lives of its member-state citizens.

7 Implications of Liberalism for Understanding World Politics

On one hand, international treaties, conventions, declarations, alliances, organizations, or in general terms, “in-
ternational regimes”: confirm validity of Liberal perspective on world politics. Nearly all were established after
major conflicts (principally the two World Wars of the 20th Century), thereby confirming the classic Liberal belief
in the capacity of human beings in general, and national leaders in particular, to learn from the destructive con-
sequences of war and conflict and to seek new ways to promote international peace. Implications of On the other
hand: Critics of Liberalism point out:

• International regimes may have helped to prevent World War Three, but world politics have not been peaceful
since 1945.
• The power of international regimes is limited. For example, international declarations on human rights, on
rights of prisoners and civilians in times of war, do not prevent these rights from being continually violated.
Nor do declarations on war crimes and crimes against humanity prevent these crimes being committed.
Or do the ILO’s declarations of the evils of child labour, or the persecution of trade union activists in develop-
ing countries, actually prevent these crimes from taking place?
So problem of enforcement.
• Critics of Liberalism question the universal nature of support for international regimes. For example: In the
1948 vote at the UN General Assembly which adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 8 countries
abstained. Today, many Arab countries criticise the “Western” bias of the Declaration’s principles, especially
with respect to religious rights
Many developing countries criticise international institutions like the IMF or World Bank for adopting and
defending the economic interests of the more powerful countries of North America and Europe.
In Europe, levels of support for the EU from EU citizens both between and within EU member states varies a
lot. Many EU citizens do not want to be EU citizens!

8 Conclusion
To what extent is Liberalism helpful in understanding phenomena to be covered later in course?:

• The nature of the post-Cold War international situation

• The strengths and weaknesses of the UN
• Globalization
• World Poverty
• Terrorism
• Challenges of Environmental Change

5 Pablo Brugarolas WP03

4-Marxist and Marxist Inspired Theories of Imperialism

Wealth continues to be highly concentrated in a few Gulf states, Europe and North America. Poverty remains
extensive throughout the world, particularly in Africa (9/10).
For Marxist analysts, what drives world politics are economic relations, economic forces. International economic
order is fundamentally unjust: the rich “core” exploits the poor “periphery”. And the periphery finds it difficult to
escape this situation of economic exploitation.

1 Key Marxist Concepts

• Key unit for Marxism is social class. Political conflict arises from struggle between social classes. In contrast
to Liberal argument that there is a “harmony of interests”, Marxists argue that capitalist economic relations are
fundamentally about exploitation of the workers, leading to continuing conflict between them and the owners of
capital. Increasing exploitation / misery /suffering would lead workers to gain a revolutionary consciousness. End
result is the overthrowing of capitalism by the workers and the establishment of a class-free (“Communist”) society.
Political conflict will only disappear with the elimination of capitalism, the market, economic exploitation, and a
society based on classes.

2 Marxism and the State

• If Marxism rejects the Liberal view of a “harmony of interests” within society, it also attacks the Realist school of
thought. Marxism rejects the notion of a “national” interest, and argues that the state mirrors the preferences of
the capitalist class. In The Communist Manifesto, the state is effectively an “executive committee” which defends
the “common affairs of the whole of the bourgeoisie”.
Marxism and World Politics
• Much of Karl Marx’s arguments based on the development of capitalism – the “Industrial Revolution” – in Britain
in 19th Century. • Industrial Revolution had massive impact on the structure of the economy and, as a result,
on society as a whole. Britain eventually joined by other powerful capitalist competitors undergoing their own
Industrial Revolutions: Germany, France and the USA.
Though Marx himself generated his arguments by analysing a single case (Britain), he fully expected capitalism to
spread globally.
So key part of Marxist thinking on international relations is that for capitalist countries, foreign economic expan-
sion is necessary. Late 19th Century / early 20th Century: economies of core capitalist countries became increas-
ingly sophisticated. As a result, their need for foreign resources and materials also increased and powerful capitalist
countries built foreign empires – they became Imperial Powers. Lenin (Imperialism, 1917):

• Overseas imperialism enables advanced capitalist countries to acquire cheap resources

• Brutal exploitation of colonies provided capitalist powers with economic surplus and profits to use “back
home” (for example, “buying off” their own workers, and avoiding internal revolution)

For Lenin, colonial imperialism had become necessary feature of advanced capitalism. • As its productive forces
developed, capitalist economies had to expand abroad or else suffer economic stagnation and internal revolu-
tion. Advanced capitalist countries had huge appetite for raw materials and resources to be found in the colonies.
Crucially, this process creates international conflict. Resources limited! So for Lenin, World War One is a fight
between the Imperial powers for control and exploitation of resources found in the various colonies.
For Liberalism, expansion of trade, international economic relations, are forces for peace and stability in world
politics. For Lenin, international capitalism was a war system: as capitalist economies developed, they were com-
pelled to seize colonies to serve as new markets, sites of investment, and sources of food and raw materials. In
competition with one another, they divided up the colonial world in accordance with their relative strengths: im-
perialist conflict inevitably leads to war among rising and declining imperial powers. World War One was a war of
territorial redivision of colonies between Britain and rival Imperial powers (above all, Germany).


3 After Imperialism
Old Foreign Empires of European powers of late 19th Century / first half 20th Century have disappeared. Nonethe-
less, later Marxist scholars of 2nd half of 20th Century argue that while Empires have vanished, the fundamental
divide between the rich, advanced, powers of the “core” and the poor, underdeveloped countries of the “periphery”
remains in place: world politics are still defined by the unequal nature of international economic relations.
Argument in two parts:

1. No longer any need for an Empire. International capitalism (businesses, multinationals etc.) is now so power-
ful that it can act informally, and that this is sufficient to effectively control and exploit the resources of other
countries. It does not need the military support of an Empire. Instead, international capitalism represents an
“invisible Empire” of its own After Imperialism / cont.
2. Effect of this private international economic power is the same as that of the old Empires, i.e.: to freeze the
economic development of poorer countries at relatively low levels. In general, poorer countries of “periphery”
remain as suppliers of raw materials for more developed countries of “core”. They are essentially “shut out”
from the benefits of economic development themselves.

This argument forms the basis of Marxist inspired theories of “dependency”, “underdevelopment” and “dependent
development” to explain core-periphery relations.
Dependency: “strongest” version of core-periphery divide. Applies to countries with either no natural resources,
or very few. Difficult to “break into” international economic system. Vulnerable to barriers established by wealthier
countries (e.g., European Union acting as “Fortress Europe”). Also, poorer countries that export only one or two
products/commodities are economically highly vulnerable to price changes on the world market.
Notions of “under-development” and “dependent development” are “softer” versions of the core-periphery. They
allow for the capacity of poorer countries to develop economically, but in a very limited way, and without escaping
from their location in the periphery.
The basically unequal – and unfair – nature of the international economic system remains in place.

4 Problems of the Marxist World View

1. Lack of a convincing alternative to the international capitalist system

(a) Theoretically: abolition of capitalism leads, eventually, to a Communist society. But Marx himself, and
Marxist thinkers in general, not clear on what Communist society would look like.
(b) Historically: the Communist countries which did emerge in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe always
suffered problems of economic inefficiency and stagnation.

Collapse of Soviet Union and most of Communist world has damaged power and credibility of Marxist anal-
ysis. Marxism still powerful as a moral critique of the evils of capitalism, but as a practical political and
economic alternative, is less covincing.
2. Is the idea of a “core-periphery” divide accurate?
To be sure, huge gap between world’s richest and poorest countries; many countries suffer from high rates of
poverty and high levels of human suffering (disease, malnutrition, lack of education, poor/dangerous work-
ing conditions, unemployment etc.).
But, some countries which used to form part of the “periphery” have developed economically and are no
longer in the “periphery” (for example, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Turkey..) P
So-called “Third World” is therefore no longer a mass of equally poor countries; some have developed more
than others.
Critics of Marxist-inspired notion of coreperiphery divide therefore argue that it is empirically not true and
may be poor, backward, countries of world exist because of poor political leadership (e.g. corruption) rather
than economic exploitation.

5 Conclusion
Are such criticisms of the Marxistinspired viewpoint fair? No one questions the existence of severe global economic
inequalities and injustices.
Is Marxism still relevant and useful for studying and understanding these problems? How can the power of inter-
national economic forces be controlled? Should it be controlled?

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5-Contemporary World Politics.A New Balance of Power?

1 The End of a Bipolar World

Three ways of measuring the resources of one country:
• Population. China has over forth time the population of the USA. Elderly population is slightly smaller in
China and the Chinese working-age population (growth and taxes) is bigger. Projections: greater increase in
the USA
• Economic resources
– (in terms of GDP per capita). In average terms, USA is the wealthier country of the three.
– Growth rates represent the extent of the Chinese growing (10% in 2010, although it is getting smaller).
– Around the 50% of Chinese and Russia GDP is International Trade. The 70% of USA GDP is National
Trade (less vulnerable).
• Military resources
– Russia at the end of the Cold War: 1/4 of its GDP. Not sustainable>USSR collapse.
– But, in terms of total military spending USA 37%.

2 The USA
Since the end of the Cold War in terms of alternates between democrats and republicans in the Congress and the
Senate USA presidents.
SA emerges from the Cold War as the world’s only superpower. President George H.W. Bush: “a new world order”.
In national politics over last 25 years, divided political control of Presidency and Congress for many periods – for
example, now – has complicated conduct of both economic and foreign policy.
Economic “rollercoaster” since end of Cold War: boom years of Clinton; decline and stagnation under Bush; mod-
est recovery under Obama. During this long period, the USA’s GDP as % of World GDP has shrunk from 1/4 to 1/5.
During this period of relative economic decline, USA nonetheless:
• Remains world’s leading military power and spender
• Has been involved in hugely costly foreign wars: Gulf War; Iraq War; involvement in Afghanistan since 2001...

2.1 The USA’s Dilemma

How compatible is this relative economic decline with a continuing commitment to costly military involvement
abroad? Serious national political divisions exist with respect to this question and others (response to regional
conflicts nd hostile regional powers -Iran-, response to terrorism, US relations with its own allies...).

3 Russian Federation
Emerged in 1991 as successor to Soviet Union. Other member states of the USSR became newly independent na-
tions. Presidents: Yeltsin: 1991-1999. The 21th of Russian politics is lead by Vladimir Putin (Putin was Medvedev’s
prime minister during his term).
On paper, Russia a functioning electoral democracy, with President (Head of State), Prime Minister (Head of Gov-
ernment), and Parliament (Duma). In practice, Russia is an increasingly authoritarian Presidency, at expense of
Parliament that has a lack of effective political opposition. Other problems: corruption, crime, lack of genuine
press freedom...
Therefore, many scholars argue that the transition from authoritarian Soviet Union to Russian democracy is “in-

3.1 Russia and the World Economy 5 COMPETING PRIORITIES?

3.1 Russia and the World Economy

The severe economic decline and collapse following the end of the Soviet Union has been followed by an uneven
economic recovery since the start of the 21st century (Putin. Economic Growth in 1998: -5,3%; in 2000 +10,0%).
Erratic, “up and down”, economic performance, has generated many winners and losers in Russian society. Without
doubt, Russia is a much more unequal country, in socioeconomic terms, than the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, with massive resources of oil and natural gas, Russia is the fifth larget economy in the world, and its
share of the world economy remains quite stable (2-3%).

3.2 The Russian Dilemma

Collapse of Communism led to “loss” of former satellite states of Eastern and Central Europe. All these countries
have since joined European Union: they no longer form a Russian “sphere of influence”.
The “superpower” Soviet Union was transformed into far less powerful Russian Federation . Loss of Soviet-era
“spheres of influence” has led to increased national security concerns in postSoviet Russia
For Russian leaders since early 1990s, task has been to regain power on a global level (or at least some of the power
it had before) in order to protect its national security interests, but without provoking a costly confrontation with
the West in general and the USA in particular.
Russian intervention in Ukraine shows, for example, difficulties of the situation. On one hand, Putin justifies in-
tervention on two grounds: totally pro-West/pro-Europe Ukraine is not in Russia’s national interests; and half of
Ukraine’s population (in the East) identifies more with Russia than with Europe. On other hand, Russian interven-
tion in Ukraine has provoked furious reaction in both USA and European Union, with economic sanctions, and
real danger of major military conflict.

4 China
Political continuity: People’s Republic of China founded in 1949, when Communist forces of Mao Zedong defeated
Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek. Communist Party has ruled China ever since Cold War ended, but Commu-
nist rule of China has remained in place In 1989, as Soviet Union was collapsing, student protests in Tianenmen
Square in Beijing were brutally repressed. Communist Party remains firmly in control.

4.1 China and the World Economy

In comparison with political continuity, China’s economy has been transformed and developed dramatically. Key
turning point came with death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and his replacement by Deng Xiaoping. State socialism
of the Mao era was replaced by major structural economic reforms under Deng, leading to more market-based,
capitalist system. Dramatic results in World Economy terms: from 3 to 15% in 25 years (2013).

4.2 China’s Dilemma

Compared to USA and Russia, China’s expanding international economic power means it does not face such an
acute dilemma with respect to the costs of maintaining military power. Its wealth enables it to have the world’s
second largest military budget (slide 10) and the world’s largest standing army.
Dilemma for China’s leaders is more national, or domestic, in nature. China’s staggering economic development
has transformed its society (huge social inequalities emerging, extensive rural poverty, migration to polluted cities...).
There is some evidence of increasing social unrest. These factors could eventually challenge Communist Party rule.
China’s Dilemma, therefore, is how to maintain economic development and single-party rule at the same time

5 Competing Priorities?
Political differences between world’s three major powers: USA (democratic); China (authoritarian); Russia: (semi-
authoritarian [?]) But are they also on different paths, too?:
• USA: still the world’s greatest economic and military power, but in relative decline. How does it react?
• Russia: the defeated “superpower” from the Cold War. Though still a major military power, it is economically
weaker than both the USA and China. Can it, therefore, regain its influence?
• China: the world’s emerging economic “superpower”, directly challenging the 20th century dominance of the
USA. Is it unstoppable? Will the 21st century be the “century of China”

2 Pablo Brugarolas WP05