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Theories and Approaches

The Classical Approaches-Realism

and Liberalism.
The Scientific Revolution-
Behavioural Approach, System
Post-modernism, Constructivism,
International society, Feminism.
Key Concepts

What is Theory?
 Theory is speculation/guess about what had
happened and how to explain what happens.
 It is an idea, that attempts to Observe,
describe, and predict in any field of
 Examples – Chinese rise will be countered
Indian Rise has consequences…
 Literal meaning is ‘absence of government’
synonymous to ‘disorder’, and chaos.

 In its formal sense, it designate the lack of a

central authority – killing of Mulla

 It is a feature of int. system in which IR occurs.

Security Dilemma
Steps taken to enhance the security of one state
decreases the security of the other state.

Power (ability to influence)

Military strength, Population, Size, Territory,
Strategic location, Source Endowment, Economic
Capability, political stability, technological
advancement, skilled human resource, etc.
Balance of Power
 “An even distribution of power”.
 “The equilibrium of the power among states in
such a way that no state has dominance over
Why do we need theories in study of IR?
 It attempts to provide a conceptual framework
upon which IR can be analysed.
 IR theories act as pair of sun glasses that allow
where to see anything relevant to the theory .
 Absolute Gains
Assessing the total effects of a decision on
the state and acting accordingly.

 Relative Gains
However, states are also concerned with how
much power and influence other states might

Part A’s win is party B’s loss


 Its roots can be traced to the E.H. Carr’s

“twenty years crisis 1939”, Morgenthau’s
“Politics among Nations 1948”.

 After WWI idealists emerged with the notion

of collective security.

 But, Idealists attracted criticism from the

realists especially by E. H. Carr.
 Realism is the dominant theory of IR.
 It has ancient roots in the writings of
Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and
Hans Morgenthau.
 Early realism can be characterized as the
reaction against the inter-war (1919-1939)
idealists thinking.
 The outbreak of WWII exposed the
deficiencies in idealism.
Realism Defined;

“A theory based on the principle that world

politics is a struggle among self-
interested states for power and position
under anarchy, with each competing state
pursuing its own national interests”.

 Realists claim International System is

Realism defined;
 Realists believe that goal of power, the means
of power and the uses of power are crucial for

 Int. Politics is power politics: where A state has

to defend its national interest to ensure survival.

 National Security and State Survival drive realist

doctrine and realist Foreign Policy.
Basic Assumptions of Realism

 A pessimistic view of human nature.

 A belief that IR are necessarily conflictual and
conflicts are resolved by war.
 Focuses on national security, statism, self-
help, survival.
 States are main actors, in competition with
one another.
 Int. system is anarchic and conflict-prone
where relative gains can be made in zero-
sum situations. (Kashmir b/w Ind. Pak).
 States must acquire power to survive,
gather resources; military and economic
 Int. politics more important than domestic
 Realism values Relative over Absolute
 Human are obsessed about their own
 They love to dominate, hate to be
dominated by others.
 States struggle for security and
 Morgenthau, views men and women
‘power hungry’.
 Politics is struggle for power over
Essentials of Realism (3 S)

 State are unit of analysis (indiv. less
 Sovereignty is necessary feature.
 State is bound to use force when
necessary for the security.
 With out state nothing can be
 Power cannot be exercised in a vacuum.

 Survival is pre-condition to other

 Defensive realist Waltz, believes states
should go for security as principle interest
to ensure survival.
 Offensive realist Mearsheimer, says
states must go for maximum power to
secure survival and hegemony.
Self Help

 In int. system no state can be relied upon for

the security. (1971 .. US Fleet)

 Military preparedness of one country creates

insecurities in the minds of other states,
though defensive in nature.

 States finds it difficult to trust others.

Classical Realism 

“Explanation of IR as the result of Human Nature.”

 It’s a thought of four outstanding realists of the past;
Thucydides (395-460 BC)

 Naturalist in character, - man is a ‘political

 States as animals - animals are not same in size and

 They strive for power and have will to dominate.

Machiavelli (1469-1527)
 Power (the Lion) and deception (the Fox) are the
two essential means for FP.
 Ruler should seek advantage and defend its
interests to ensure survival.
 Ruler must be a lion, cunning, and Ruthless.
 Ruler must not act according to Christian ethics;
“Love your neighbour”, be peaceful and avoid war,
be charitable, etc.
Hobbes (1588-1979)
 He refers to pre civil condition as ‘state of
 Human circumstances is in permanent ‘state of
war’ of every man against every man’. “War of
all against all”.
Morgenthau (1904-1980)
 Men and women are borne to pursue power.
 They have Lust for Power.
 This lust brings them into conflict with each other.

 “It’s the structure of the international

System that influence the behaviour of the
of the states based on global hierarchy
defined by primarily distribution of power”. 

 Advanced by Kenneth Waltz -1979.

 Highlights relative distribution of power. (UK VS
 States are primary actors in the system and
conscious about the balance of power.
 structure compels states to act in a
certain way, structure determine actions.
(WoT and Pakistan’s inclusion)
 Int. system is anarchic.
 All states do the same job; collecting tax
and giving facilities to its citizens.
 But, … they differ in their varying degree of
capabilities, e.g. US and Nepal…are they
 Great powers rise and fall and balance shifts
accordingly. (USSR’s demise, from Bipolar
to Unipolar)
 Waltz says - formally ‘all states are equal’;
but, through power, powerful state make weak
state obey.
 Security competition, inter-state rivalry in the
absence of overarching authority (anarchy).
Vicious cycle
Offensive Realism

 Great powers always search for opportunities

to gain power - hegemony as their final goal.
 John Mearsheimer - argues that states seek
regional hegemony.
Monroe Doctrine 1823.???
 Hegemon states try hard to prevent the rise
of other competitor in order to stay firm in its
area of influence. (US V/S China)
1. US confronted Imperial Germany in WWI
2. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in WWII
3. Soviet Union during Cold-War.
 If any of these power had gained hegemony
in Europe it would be free to intervene in
US area of influence.
 By this theory US will counter the rise of
China in Asia……..??
Defensive Realism

 Kenneth Waltz - believes that state must seek

power in order to be secure and survive.
 But excessive power accumulation is
 It provokes hostile alliances by other states -
that bring you on your knees.
 Therefore, it is foolish to strive for excessive
power beyond that which is necessary for
security and survival.

 An optimistic approach to global politics

based on;
1. The perfectibility of humankind.
2. Free trade, and democracy.
3. Focuses on individuals rather than states.
 Idealism/utopianism a term coined by
realists to ridicule liberals who believe in
the importance of international law,
morality, and international institutions.
Liberals Assumptions and Liberal Strands

 Positive view of human nature.
 belief that human nature can be cooperative
 Belief in progress.
Types of Liberal
Sociological Liberals
 Highlights transnational non-governmental
ties among societies, individual and groups.
Interdependence Liberals
 Pay particular attention to economic ties of mutual
exchange and dependence between people and
Institutional Liberals
 Underscore the importance of organized cooperation
between states. NATO, EU, SCO etc.
Republican Liberals
 Argue that liberal democratic institutions and forms
of government are of vital importance for peaceful
cooperative relations among states
David Baldwin’s four Variants of Liberalism.

Commercial Liberals
 Advocate free trade and capitalist economy, the way
towards peace and prosperity. Promoted by MNCs.
Republican Liberals
 Democratic states are more inclined to respect the
rights of their citizens and are less likely to go to war
with democratic neighbours.
 Republican and commercial liberalism combined
form the FP of many major powers.
Sociological Liberals
 As transnational activities increase, people
are linked and they become interdependent.
 It becomes more difficult for states to act
Neo-liberal institutionalism
 This believes that independent states are
required to have peace and prosperity so
they can pool their resources together. (EU)

School of liberals that believe in the critical role of

international institutions in promoting global
change, cooperation, peace and prosperity
through collective programs.
Roots of Liberalism

 John Lock in 17th century saw great potential for

Human progress, Civil society, Capitalist

 Liberal revolution was facilitated by industrial

revolution, use of reason, and logic in socio-
political affairs.

 Liberals have positive views, have faith in reason,

 Also believe - individuals share interests and
engage in cooperation domestically and
 When people employ reason & logic they
can achieve mutual benefits.
 Progress is core belief of Liberalism
 Early Liberals (1920-30) were idealists,
therefore they created (LON) etc.
 WWII muted this optimism.
 Yet another surge came in 1945 (UNO)
 Again Cold-War ended this optimism.
 Another tide of resurgence observed with the
demise of USSR and end of cold-war -
universal victory of liberal democracy.
 9/11, 7/7, Madrid Attack was set back for
liberal optimism.
The Scientific Revolution-
Behavioural Approach and System
Behaviouralist approach

 Taking place in the 1960’s, this was essentially a

methodological debate with the Behaviouralist
belief that natural science method should be used
in IR.
 Natural Sciences + Social Sciences
 Behaviourist believed that the field was too
dominated by historians, who they labelled
 The debate was sparked because of fears amongst
IR community that their field of study was losing
its battle to acquire the status of a science.
What is related to modernism?
 Pre-modernism (Beginnings up to 1650's)

 In pre-modern times it was believed that

Ultimate Truth or knowledge – is one
that is revealed from God.

 Sources of authority. The church, being

the holders and interpreters of revealed
Modernism (1650-1950's)

 1 - Empiricism - knowing through the senses.

 2 – Through reason or logic.

 Sources of authority. As the shift in power

moved away from the church to politicians,
philosophers, scholars etc.
Post-modernism (1950's to current times)

 Post-modernism brought with it a questioning of the

previous approaches to knowing.

 They advocate for an pluralistic approach utilizes

multiple ways of knowing.

 Revelation + science & reason + intuition,

Defining Post-modernism
 Jean Francois Lyotard - “Scepticism towards
 ‘meta-narratives’ means any theory that has
clear foundation.
 Post-modernism is essentially concerned with
deconstructing and distrusting any account of
human life that claims to have direct access to
‘the truth’… class activity – “Ideology of
 This approach questions knowledge claims,
and focused on exposing the linkages
between knowledge creation and power.

 This is a concern that reflects the work of the

postmodernist philosopher Foucault, who
discussed the way in which power and
knowledge create each other.
Its significance in relation to IR
 At the core of postmodernist thinking is a belief
that the
person studying international relations cannot be
impartial from other ideas and knowledge.
 Post-modernists claim that neutrality can
never be attained.
 Things like the social class, race and
ethnicity, gender and nationality of the
author all impact in some way on how
knowledge is created.
Social Constructivism

“Ideas define international structure, how

structure shapes identities, interests, and
foreign policy of states and non-state actors, and
how state actors and states reshapes the structure”.
Constructivism on reality
 Reality does not exist independently.
 Reality is constructed. (Iraq WMDs,
Taliban from Mujahedeen to Terrorist).
Logic of Anarchy

“Anarchy is what states make of it.” Alexander


Anarchy is an effect of practice

Leading to conflict leading to
 According to Alexander Wendt,
people act towards objects and people
on the basis of the meanings that the
objects have for them… battle Tank…
Nukes of NK etc.
 States act differently towards enemies
and friends
 Enemies are threatening, whereas,
friends are not.

 States are principle unit of analysis.

 Ideas, norms, identities, and beliefs of value.
 Identities are not determined by Int.
structure rather it is produced by interaction
and institutions.
Class Activity …
 Before 1989, the United States felt threatened by the
Soviet military. Today, not…Why??
 Realism: Russia is weaker.
 Liberalism: Economic ties has eased the conflict.
 Constructivism: Nuclear weapons have not
disappeared, but the threat perception has changed.

US example … they are liberal by heart, believe in

progress and democracy
They act according to realist assumptions and
justify policies in terms of liberal ideology.
International Society

 A historical approach – focuses on human

being and their political beliefs.

 Central point – ideas, ideologies that shape

world politics.

 It is a middle way between realism and

 IR is a branch of human relations.

 Based on values such as independence,

security, justice, and order.

 Accepts anarchy and believe that world politics

is an “Anarchical Society”, with different
Foreign Policy approaches by different states.
 According to IS – IR must be understood as
‘society of states’.

 System of states is a realist concept, the

‘society of states’ is a liberal concept.
Evolution of International Society
 There are many ways to describe and pattern of
relations among different political communities.

 1 extreme: One might be a struggle of all

against all; result war, conquest, conflict,
slaughter, and enslavement of the defeated etc.

 2nd extreme: at the other end we might conceive

a world government in which individual societies
retain distinctions based on language, religion,
 Between these two extremes there emerged
many forms of interactions; empires, dynasties,
kings, theocracies, centralized & decentralized
form etc….

 Int. society is a combination of different political

communities which accept some common values,
rules , and institution.

 Although, originally it was coined for relations

among European states.
 Roots of IS can be traced from the first
organized human community.

 Early forms of diplomacy and treaties

existed in ancient Middle east, city states
of Greece, Persians, Indian and Roman
Medieval Europe/Christianity/Islam

 From 500 – 1500 European society was a

complex of many nations under roman catholic

 Roman Church played a vital role in shaping

the normative/moral side of the society.

 Islam developed its own understanding of

international society.
Holy Makkah has sent a message to Geneva:
Ought there be unity of mankind or unity among t
he nations?
Contemporary int. society

“Contemporary international society

comprises the norms, rules, established
practices, and institutions governing the
relations among sovereign states:
communities occupying a defined territory
whining which they exercise judicial
 “Sex” is the biological difference
between “male” and “female”

 “Gender” is the social difference

“between males’ and females’ roles
or men’s and women’s personalities”
 Feminism as an academic discipline grew out of
Feminist movement of the 1960s &1970s, dedicated to
achieving political, social and economic equality
for women.
 All social relations are gendered.
 Feminist IR scholars have also emphasized the
importance of looking at how gender shapes the
current global political economy.
 It explains women’s subordination, which exist in
varying degree in all societies, and to seek ways to
end it.
Implications of taking gender seriously in IR

 It rejects the assumption that Powers comes

out from barrel of the gun, or ensued from
the declaration of the statesman.
 Feminism reconceptualization of power and
attention to the margin of global politic have
allowed IR to recognize and comprehend
new political phenomena.
 More inclusive view of globalization, where
women have equal role as do men.
 evaluating the role of women in 3rd world
 the effect on women of changed social
policies in industrial societies;
 the gender-particular effects of the activities
of international organizations; and
 the re-institutionalization of rigid gender
divisions in the post-Communist societies of
central and east Europe.
Are the Key concepts of IR
theory gendered?
Man, State, Power,
1. Man. As you know, Realism and Liberalism
see people as rational, self-maximizing
actors. But is this an accurate model of
humanity, ask feminist IR thinkers, or is it
actually a model made by men about how
some men operate in a particular context
of relations between genders?
2. The State. Rather than conceiving the state as a
reflection of sovereignty, some gender theorists
see states as reflective of gender power, which
acts on men and women to socialize narrow
versions of gender identities into them.

 Men are identified with the public realm as

bringers of order, while women are
identified with private thinking.
3. Power. This is typically conceived as "power-
over" in most IR theory: the ability of A to get
B to do something B would not otherwise
have done. But, say feminist IR theorists, this
rests on the male-centered assumption that
autonomy equals being free from the direct
influence of others.
 An alternative view of power is to focus on
the ways in which the rules of the game are
organized in advance of 'power-over'.
4. Security. Security of individuals is
related to national and international

 Security threats include: domestic

violence, rape, poverty, gender
subordination, ecological destruction, war

 Its people, who are insecure by their

state’s security policies.
War and Feminism
 Much of the legitimacy of war is based on that
men fight wars to protect ‘vulnerable people’
 Yet, women and children constitute a majority of
casualties in recent wars

Feminists highlight:

 Militaries are often threats to individuals’

(particularly women security.

 Wartime rape as a deliberate military strategy.

 The three most important points about
feminist IR theory in general:

1. The central claim is that gender is a

social issue and not a biological one;
2. The rejection of structures in IR theory
such as anarchy etc.
3. Passionate interest in the possibilities for
change in world politics.
Questions for probing

 Why do Realists claim that states must pursue

power? and why do power is considered the
solution of all problems faced by the state?

 Why is international politics seen as more

important than domestic politics by Realists?

 Why states are obsessed with Balance of