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International Relations Theory. Week 2 Contemporary Context: From Cold War to 9-11. Last Week. Lecture slides and other materials will be uploaded here: Read both the module document and the PG handbook very carefully

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International Relations Theory

Week 2

Contemporary Context: From Cold War to 9-11

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Last Week

  • Lecture slides and other materials will be uploaded here:


  • Read both the module document and the PG handbook very carefully

  • Getting key reading skills early on is crucial

  • Theory is useful tool in thinking about IR in systematic way

  • Theory selection and political implications

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Lecture Outline

  • Cold War and IR

  • End of the Cold War

  • End of history and democratic peace

  • Clash of civilisations

  • Neoconservatism and US policy

  • Group exercise

  • Conclusion

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Cold War and IR

  • International affairs and disciplinary development

    • First World War and the rise and fall of Liberal Internationalism

    • Cold War and the dominance of Classical Realism

    • Scientific turn and the birth of Neo-Realism and Neo-Liberalism

    • End of the Cold War and the Constructivist challenge

  • IR theory as European experience?

    • Westphalian system, state-centric nature, diplomacy

    • Is Realpolitik the “common sense” of doing ir?

    • Euro-centricity and postcolonialism

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End of the Cold War

  • End of Cold War and the “unipolar moment”

    • Shift from bipolar to unipolar system

    • Unprecedented US primacy

  • Belief that superpower can impose its solutions at will and ignore restraints that previously modified its conduct

    • “Benevolent hegemony” and American exceptionalism

    • “Empire lite” (Michael Ignatieff)

  • Series of US-led interventions during the Clinton and Bush Administrations

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End of History and Democratic Peace

  • Optimistic response to end of Cold War

  • Fukuyama: end of history

    • CW: clash of ideas

    • Post-CW: triumph of Western liberal ideas  “end of history”

    • Post-CW international relations: cooperation never been better

      • IR to concentrate on technical question of improving cooperation

  • Democratic peace theory

    • Democracy do not fight other democracies

    • High level of political support

  • Globalisation

    • How does this fit with mainstream theories’ state-centrism?

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Clash of Civilisations

  • Pessimistic response to end of Cold War

  • Huntington: clash of civilisations

    • Ir moves out of Western-dominated phase with end of CW

    • Central interaction between Western and non-Western civilisations (and among non-Western civilisations)

    • “Fault lines” between civilisations replacing political and ideological boundaries of Cold War as flash points

  • Huntington’s recommendation for Western policy

    • Western policy makers should cooperate more and unify their own civilisation with this new trend in mind

    • West needs to develop greater understanding of basic philosophical assumptions of other civilisations

  • Re-emergence of culture

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Neoconservatism and US policy

  • Influential body of thought behind Bush’s foreign policy

    • Project for the New American Century

  • Four principles (Fukuyama 2006, 48)

    • Internal character of regimes matters for its external behaviour

    • American power should be used for moral purposes: US has a “special responsibility” in security

    • Scepticism about social engineering

    • International law and institutions are poor generators of peace and security

  • These principles underpin the assertion of the right of the US to take “anticipatory action”

    • To “act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense” (NSS 2002, 18)

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Group Exercise

  • You are a peace activist. You are agitated by the fact that many people are hailing Huntington’s clash of civilisation thesis as “predicting” 9/11 and the following conflict, and you decide to argue against it. Using real-life examples come up with an argument against Huntington.

    • Think about the uniqueness of Huntington’s arguments, comparing it to mainstream IR thinking

    • How can 9/11 and the following developments be captured in IR?

    • Who are the main actors in international relations?

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  • Cold War and the dominance of Realism still sets the tone for IR theories today

  • End of the Cold War had major impact on both the practice of international relations and how we see it

  • 1990s dominated by optimistic response with Liberal views of Fukuyama, DPT and globalisation championed

  • 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq made pessimistic views of Huntington and clash of civilisation difficult to ignore

  • Post-Cold War also saw unprecedented US primacy and the rise of Neoconservatist US foreign policy

  • Next week: Realism