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Theories of International Relations

Dr. Diana Bozhilova

What is the utility of IR theories?

Ideas (Interdisciplinarity: Pol. Sc., Econ, Soc., Psychology, Law) Organization (foreign policy) Construction Explaining the passage of time State development and collateral damage

A process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities toward a new centre, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over pre-existing national states. The end result of a process of political integration is a new political community, superimposed over the pre-existing ones. Haas, Ernst B., 1968: The Uniting of Europe. 1950-1957. Stanford: Stanford UP, p. 16.

1. To create shared expectations (i.e. world peace; environmental conservation; nuclear nonproliferation; disarmament; free trade zone; trade union; economic integration; political union; human rights, etc.) 2. To illuminate transparency in the course of action of nation states in the international space. 3. To enhance utility maximization, i.e. to reap joint benefits in policy areas (e.g. ideally to pursue a quasi first welfare theorem Pareto optimum or at the very least Pareto improvement in IR).

As International Organizations (UN, WEU) Within the global political economy (e.g. OECD, WTO) As policy-maker (top-down; bottom-up and mixed impact) As Sui generis phenomenon and construct in International Relations theory. (EU)

Sectoral integration policy areas extension Vertical integration competences shift from national to supranational level deepening Horizontal integration territory of integration enlargement
Source: Rittberger, Berthold / Schimmelfennig, Frank, 2005: p. 22.

Schools of IR Theory
Three schools of IR Theory:



Cognitivism/ Constructivism





An international system characterized by anarchy, composed of units that are formally and functionally equal (states). The key variable is the distribution of capabilities across units: how much power does state A possess in state B? Anarchy can produce order, but cooperation between states is always limited by the strive of nation states to survive. Rational states seek to maximize the possibilities for their survival. Interests and actions of the most powerful states constitute the nature of the international system. (Kenneth Waltz in Rosamond, B., 2000, p. 132) Metatheory: Rationalism

Distribution of capabilities amongst actors: Product: Hegemonic stability (bipolarity more stable than multipolarity; the end goals is a system composed of a leader(x2) and followers); International anarchy (fear of partner states cheating leads to a logic of survival of the fittest); States cannot be egoists, cannot gain absolutely from inter-state rivalry and therefore, accept relative gains as well as absolute gains wherever they can. The friendship of friends extends to other friends. Gains (relative/absolute) must the balanced for regimes to be created and remain stable (quasi Pareto efficiency).

International regimes help states realise common interests. International regimes increase transparency by making interstate promises binding. States pursue only absolute gains and cheat to that end. (Hasenclever, et al) Economic interdependence discourages the onset of war since war threatens prosperity. (Walt) From Democratic states are more peaceful than authoritarian states. (ibid.) To Democratic peace theory (democracies do not fight other democracies) IOs encourage states to overcome selfish interests for bigger gains through enduring cooperation. (ibid.) States see regimes as investments. Once invested into cooperation, it is unlikely that they will make a loss. Metatheory: Rationalism

Economic interests amongst states (easier to pursue absolute gains in trade and finance than in security policy); Potential to reduce information and transaction costs; International regimes will hold once put in place in order for participating states to avoid sunk costs, which are always high.

Constructivists hold the view that the building blocks of international reality are ideational as well as material; that ideational factors have normative as well as instrumental dimensions, that they express not only individual but also collective intentionality; and that the meaning and significance of ideational factors are not independent of time and place. (Ruggie, John Gerard, 1998: Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization. New York: Routledge, p. 33)

Cognitivist critique
Realists and Neo-liberalists fail to appreciate the degree of uncertainty in decision-making today; Both schools omit the importance of a lesson-learning approach amongst groupings of states; Dearth vs. influence in issue-specific knowledge the importance of understanding socially oneself and others; There is no top-down or bottom-up approach always mixed approach; Selective vs. maximization approach: role-play (select issue, ask what is appropriate to do, not how to maximise utility for oneself).

Theories of Interdependence: Combining Realism and Neo-liberalism

International Organizations go along with growing international interdependencies due to: 1. Policy areas in which transnational politics and policies are needed (environment, security/terrorism) 2. Institutionalisation of conflict areas (international trade) 3. Exponentially growing number of international organizations since WWII (over 1700 today). 4. Difference between realists and neo-liberalists is that realists are pessimistic about IOs and neo-liberalists are optimistic about the outcome of the IR system.

Coercion (WTO) Competition (Kyoto; GATT) Learning (UNESCO) Emulation (EU) Migration

Federalists plan to form a small nucleus of nonconformists seeking to point out that the national states have lost their proper rights since they cannot guarantee the political and economic safety of their citizens. Spinelli, Altiero, 1972: The Growth of the European Movement since the Second World War

Basic assumption: Integration is based on actions and decision of nation states. Consider: 1. Nature of individual and common interests? 2. Intergovernmental vs. supranational balance? 3. Pooling or sharing of sovereignty?

Government by Policy Networks

Basic assumption: Policy processes and outcomes can be described and analyzed by looking at policy network arenas. Key variables: 1. Stability of network memberships 2. Insularity of networks 3. Relative strength of resources

Classical theory of regional integration that holds that a common need for technocratic management of economic and social policy leads to the formation of international agencies. Such agencies promote economic welfare, thus eventually gaining legitimacy, overcoming ideological opposition to strong international institutions, and in the long-run evolving into a sort of international government, though perhaps not a true state. (Dinan, Desmond (ed.), 2000: Encyclopedia of the European Union. Boulder/London: Lynne Rienner, p. 245)

Basic assumption: Economic integration in one sector will foster integration in other sectors (i.e. economic spill-overs) and will make political integration necessary (political spillover): 1. Which spill-overs will occur and in what order?

Integrate modestly in areas of "low politics" which are at the same time "strategic economic sectors". Create a high authority to promote the integration process. The integration of particular economic sectors across nations will create functional pressures for the integration of related economic sectors. The consequence is the gradual entangling of national economies. Gradually, social interests will shift their loyalty towards the new supranational centre. Deepening economic integration will create the need for further institutionalization. Political integration and supranational institutionalization are a therefore side-effects of economic integration. (Rosamond, Ben, 2000: p. 51-52)

Multi-level governance
Basic assumption: Politics are transferred into a system of multi-level, non hierarchical, deliberative and apolitical governance composed of: 1. Decision-making at various levels 2. Collective decision making 3. Interconnected political arenas.

What next? Fusion theory: Realist constructivism

Studying power in international politics and studying international relations as a social construction (J.S. Barkin, 2003) If we equate realism with materialism/positivism and constructivism with idealism, realist constructivism = the pursuit of idealist goals through materialist means. Example: EU-Russia Dialogue; SCO Energy Club

Fusion framework: New Institutionalism

Basic assumption: Institutions matter! To catch the functioning of institutions, the following have to be incorporated: formal and informal procedures, practices, relationships, norms. Three types of New Institutionalism: 1. Historical: distribution of power through institutions in path dependent developments (constructivist historical impact of ideas) 2. Rational choice: constraints on political action by institutions (metaphysical stance shared by both realism and liberalism) 3. Sociological: cultural explanation of institutions through lesson-learning and sharing (cognitivism).

Francis Fukuyama: The End of History and the Last Man

Liberal democracy is the most evolved system of governance and therefore the end of the Cold War resulted in the de facto end of history as a single, coherent, evolutionary process, taking into account the experience of all peoples in all times. (p. 1) Is this world view of directional history sustainable in the 21st century? Yes, acc. to Fukuyama, because of economics (free market) and the struggle for recognition (enlightened selfinterest). Comparisons: Hegel (liberal state); Marx (communist society), but these world views are utopian. Can the last man as a creature of the end of history (i.e. liberal democracy) battle drugs, homelessness, crime, environmental damage, consumerism? (p. 7)

Huntington: Remaking of World Order Evolution of global politics after the Cold War
The central and most dangerous dimension of the emerging global politics would be conflict between groups from different civilizations. (p. 13) Clashes of civilizations are the greatest threat to world peace, and an international order based on civilizations is the surest safeguard against world war. (p. 13)

Huntington continued
Characteristics of global politics after 1989: 1. Cultural identity is most meaningful to people; 2. Civilization identity shapes cohesion, disintegration and conflict; 3. Global politics is multipolar and multicivilizational; 4. The balance of power is shifting: the West is declining in relative influence: Asian civilizations are expanding; Islam is growing demographically; non-Western civilizations are re-affirming the value of their own cultures; 5. The Wests universalist pretentions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilizations; 6. The survival of the West depends on Americans affirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique not universal. 7. Avoidance of global war of civilizations depends on world leaders accepting and cooperating in global politics. (p. 20-ff)

Major powers
Six major powers post-1990: the US, Europe, China, Japan, Russia, India (plus a multiplicity of medium-sized and smaller countries). The six major powers represent five civilizations: Western; Sinic, Japanese, Orthodox, Hindu. Petropolitics has empowered Islamic states. Local politics = politics of ethnicity; Global politics = politics of civilizations; Rivalry amongst the superpowers = clash of civilizations.

Paradigms of world politics

One world: Euphoria and Harmony (Francis Fukuyama) Two worlds: Us and Them (e.g. Orient vs. Occident; North vs. South; centre vs. periphery; Dar al-Islam vs. Dar al-Harb) 184 States: More or Less (realist theory) Sheer chaos (IR is a condition of anarchy)

Culture and Economic cooperation

Organisations of common values: NATO Organisations of common culture: WEU Organisations based on one civilization: EU Organisations based on multicivilizational commonality: ASEAN (Sinic, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim). Conclusion: East Asia is the test case for developing meaningful organizations not rooted in common civilization (p. 132)

In terms of understanding theory: The starting point is not to be worried too much. Normally, theory is something that will be taught over a much longer period of time than three days. It is understandable to find it difficult/confusing. In terms of helping make some sense of it, I can encourage you to read the following authors in your course pack: 1. Joseph Nye for a general understanding of the relationship between theory and practice. 2. Hasenclaver; Walt; Keohane for the mainstream theories of IR. 3. Ravenhill and Gilpin on IPE. You can continue after that with Kennedy, Price and Sands, as well as Buzan and Finnemore, but this is for a much more indepth study, which is fine in your own time, but not necessary in order to do well in the course.

Rule of thumb : 3 schools of IR thought 1. Realists believe that the international system is a condition of anarchy and is ruled by individual nation-states. IOs are not important for the development of the system of IR. 2. Neo-liberalists believe that International Organizations are driving the system of IR and they are the best way for nation-states to realise their interests. 3. Cognitivists/constructivists believe that both 1. and 2. are wrong because they see the system of IR as functional and omit the importance of psychology and culture. Because 1. 2. and 3. always argue, theorists are now proposing many fusion theories trying to marry components of the above 1. 2. and 3. Example: My personal choice is realist constructivism: International Organisations enable states to pursue material interests through ideas.

Thank you for your attention!