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International Relations Theory. Realism; Pluralism; Globalism And Beyond. International Relations. It is a discipline in Political Science that studies interactions between and among states, and more broadly the working of the International system as a whole.

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international relations theory

International Relations Theory

Realism; Pluralism; Globalism



international relations
International Relations

It is a discipline in Political Science that studies interactions between and among states, and more broadly the working of the International system as a whole.

The discipline acquired its own identity after the first WW.

Its principal branches additional to theory include international political economy; international organization; foreign policy making; strategic studies, peace research.

the questions it deals with
The questions it deals with?

Behavior of Actors.

Why do Conflicts occur?

Is ideology the primary cause OR Nationalism behind the eruption of war?

Or is it the lack of world government?

How can stability can be achieved?

Why a certain international actor took or will take a certain behavior in the system?

Would this actor make this Behavior or not?


the actors in international relations
The Actors in International Relations

The field do not only address the behavior and interaction of states as the primary actor in the international system

The field of (IR) is also concerned with other actors such as International Organizations, multinational organizations, non state actors, all that can be concerned as part of world politics.

the theory of ir
The Theory of IR

Theory can be defined

As a way of making the world or some parts of it more understandable.

Theory can mount to nothing but a mere description of the things we observe; it also help in explaining and predicting

Theory is necessary in that it tells what to focus on and what to ignore in order to make a sense of the world around us.

But international relations theorists tend to be interested in patterns of behavior among various international actors.

In identifying patterns the stageis set for making modest predictions about the possible nature and direction of change.

general assumptions of theory
General assumptions of theory

Theory is constructed firstly by Big general assumptions that turn on to a certain theoretical statements.

Who is the Actor to Focus ON ?

Why this actor the theory focuses on?

What is the Motive of this or that actor that influences its behavior?

realism pluralism globalism
Realism; Pluralism; Globalism

These Mega theories have provided the basis for development of many theoretical works that attempted to explain various aspects of international relations.

These images Bring Order to analyticaleffort and make it more manageable

The 3 major distinctions among them are in the role and nature of actors/units and key assumption about them


Based on 4 key assumptions:

First ; the state is the principal actor or the most important in the research ; it is the key Unit of analysis.

So the study of IR is the study of relations among these units.

In Realism, other actors as the UN; MNCs; non state actors, transnational organizations are of lesser importance.

States are the dominant actors.

Secondly; the State is a unitary actor …. An integrated unit;

That political differences in the state is resolved authoritatively; the government of the state speaks with one voice as a whole.

(A Credible Unit of Analysis in the IR Study)

Thirdly; state is essentially a rational actor.

It will make the most Interest based decision

Fourth; In the hierarchy of international issues – National security comes at the top of the list.

A realist focuses on actual or potential conflict between states and the use of force . How stability is attained or maintained? How stability breaks down?

Therefore Power is a key concept. Military security or strategic issues are referred to as High Politics, were other economic and social issues are referred to as low politics.

pluralism idealism
Pluralism (Idealism)

Often referred to as liberalism or liberal construct ; its assumptions:

Firstly; Non-state actors are important entities in international relations that cannot be ignored.

International organizations can be independent actor in their own right. Their system of decision making and other associated groups could have considerable influence in agenda setting.

Secondly; States are not a unitary actor.

In rather it is composed of individual bureaucracies, interest groups, and individuals that attempt to influence the foreign policy. state is not an integrated entity.( Opposite to Realism assumption)

Thirdly; it challenges the realist assumption of the state as a Rational actor.( Bad decisions happens)

This is from the different and even conflicting standpoints, clashes, compromises among different actors happens which affect decision making concerning Foreign Policy.

Finally; the agenda of international politics is extensive. (Multi Layered Issues)

The pluralist rejects the notion that international politics is dominated primarily by military security issues.


Globalism assumes that the starting point of analysis is:

that states and other entities interact.

Globalists emphasize the Impact of the overall structure of the international system an its effect on international relations and behavior. (The big picture).

That’s to explain behavior one must first grab the essence of the global environment within which behavior takes place. How the structure of system conditions make actors act in a certain way.

Secondly; its is an imperative , and not only useful to view international relations from a historical perspective.

That is Only through examination of history one can understand current environment which international politics takes place.

For example the defining character of the international system is that it is capitalist. This requires the study of the rise of capitalism, its development, and expansion that made us speak of the world capitalist system that conditions and constrains the behavior of all states and societies

Thirdly; although globalists recognize the importance of states as actors, international organizations and transnational actors ……..etc.

The particular focus of their analysis is on how these and other factors acts as mechanisms of domination by which states, classes or elites manage to benefit from this capitalist system at the expense of others.

Finally ; globalists emphasize to a greater extent than either realists or pluralists the critical importance of economic factors when it comes to explaining the dynamics of international system