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POSC 2200 – Theoretical Approaches

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  1. POSC 2200 – Theoretical Approaches Russell Alan Williams Department of Political Science

  2. Unit Two: Theoretical Approaches Required Reading: • Globalization of World Politics, Chapters 5, 6 and 7. • Realism: Mearsheimer, Anarchy and the Struggle for Power, (Excerpt available from the instructor.) • Liberalism: Michael Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics”, American Political Science Review, 80 (4), pp. 1151-69. (Excerpt available from the instructor). “Realism” Outline: • Introduction to Realism • Key Assumptions • The Evolution of Realism • Classical Realism • Neorealism • Neoclassical realism • Conclusions • For Next Time

  3. 1) Introduction to Realism: • IR “Realism”is a modern theory . . . . Founding debate – the interwar years (1919-1939) = Two “camps”: • “Idealism”: Approach that emphasized international law, morality and organizations, rather than power • E.g. Hope that League of Nations could prevent future wars • “Realism”: Approach that explained IR mainly in terms of states’ pursuit of power • E.g. States must seek to maximize power or face destruction = WWI was not“war to end all wars” • E. H. Carr (1939) coined terms - Argued that WWII proved that “realism” was the correct theory • Dominant theory until 1990s – particularly in US

  4. However . . . Realism has “historical antecedents”: • Classical sources that warned against “idealism” – still cited to this day . . . . • Thucydides (?) • Machiavelli (?) • Hobbes (?) • Collective insight? – See Mearsheimer for example: • World is dangerous and violent place • “Wise” states pursue own power and security • Morality and trust of allies can be foolish • Three major types of “Realism”: • “Classical Realism” – based on danger posed by other humans • “Neorealism” – based on the structure of international system = “Structural realism” • “Neoclassical Realism” – Combines insights from Classical and Neorealism.

  5. 2) Key Assumptions of Realism a) Humans are potentially“bad” . . . • Inherently selfish and power seeking • E.g. Debate between “Classical Realism” and “Idealism” about human nature • Thomas Hobbes (1642) • Only Leviathan, or strong sovereign government, keeps us from killing one another =There is no “Leviathan” in international politics under normal circumstances . . . . “Anarchy”: A political system that has no central authority – does not equal chaos, but does not have enforceable rules separate from power . . . .

  6. 2) Key Assumptions of Realism b) “Statism”: Realism emphasizes the role of states as the legitimate, rational, and constitutive actors of international politics. • Key concerns of the state: • “Survival” . . . . • Classical realist scholars argue that leaders first and only priority is to ensure the durability of the state (E.g. Machiavelli) • “Self Help”: Under “anarchy” states can only trust in their own abilities to ensure survival

  7. 2) Key Assumptions of Realism c) “Power”: the ability to get others to do what you want them to do . . . . • For realists power comes before politics and influence and can be understood in material terms = Military, economic and strategic “capabilities” • Modern realists emphasize the “Balance of Power” above all else

  8. 3) The Evolution of Realism: a) “Classical Realism”: Carr and others drew on inspiration from classical sources . . . • States should be protective of the “national interest” • Leaders should prioritize “raison d’etat/reasons of state” • E.g. Machiavelli's Prince must be ready to do what is necessary, not what is “good” For realists power comes before politics and influence and can be understood in material terms. • Deep suspicion of trust in rules and other sovereign authorities . . . as they also (if they are wise) will pursue “raison d’etat” in their strategies.

  9. 3) The Evolution of Realism: a) Classical Realism was largely replaced by “Neorealism” after the 1970s • Desire for more science and clearer variables • Arguments about threats inherent in human nature and rogue states give way to a more “structural” theory (Kenneth Waltz) • “Neorealism”: Used ideas from behavioral science to understand state behavior, given the structure of the international system. • Two variables: • “Anarchy” • Distribution of power (military and economic abilities) • Internal characteristics of states (Democracy versus non-democracies etc.) are NOT important, as all states seek the survival under “anarchy”

  10. 3) The Evolution of Realism: “Neorealism” directed focus to: “Relative Gains”: International politics is a “zero-sum game”, in which states must be concerned about how much other states gain in relation to them = one state’s gain necessarily means a another state has lost . . . “Security Dilemma”: As states acquire capabilities to make themselves secure, they make others more insecure – leads to a cycle of arms races and growing insecurity • Implications . . . . • Possibility of cooperation is very limited, because of rational self interest - fear of "Relative Gains"

  11. Neorealism: Relative Gains, “Prisoners’ Dilemma” and Nuclear Proliferation • India vs. Pakistan - Both would be better off by not developing “nukes” = cooperation • However, each state most fears cooperating (not developing nukes) while other “defects” and does!!! = hugerelative gainsproblem!!!

  12. India preference = DC>CC>DD>CD • Pakistan preference = CD>CC>DD>DC • If both states are rational, fear of cheating and “relative gains” leads to equilibrium at (D,D) • Key Point: Rational self interest makes cooperation difficult

  13. 3) The Evolution of Realism: “Neorealism” also led to debate between “offensive realism” and “defensive realism”. • Both see states as necessarily focused on maximizing their security, but have different theories about the impact of capabilities . . . .

  14. Offensive vs. Defensive Realism John Mearsheimer – “Offensive Realism” • Assumptions: • All states possess some military capability • All states concerned about survival • All states uncertain of other’s intentions • Friends today can be enemies tomorrow . . . . • Result: • Great powers should think and act aggressively whenever they can • Maximize power & exploit other’s weakness • E.g. Athens and Melos = Culture of fear!

  15. Offensive vs. Defensive Realism Robert Jervis – “Defensive Realism” • Assumption: • If military capabilities favor defense then the capabilities of others are less threatening • E.g. Weaker states can defend themselves against stronger if there is an attack • Result: • States do not need to be so quick to maximize power to survive • E.g. post World War I France • Problems?

  16. 3) The Evolution of Realism: “Neoclassical realism”: Combines the structural ideas of “neorealism” with more classical ideas bout the nature of individual states. • “Neorealism”: Suggested states were the same, and all were threatening • “Neoclassical realism”: Suggests some states are less threatening regardless of their “capabilities” as they are satisfied with the status quo.

  17. 3) The Evolution of Realism: • Key point: Realism needed to move beyond just thinking about military capabilities and think about the goals of individual societies and states. • “Revisionist” states are the ones that should be feared . . . .

  18. 4) Conclusions - Realism • View of individual: • Power seeking, selfish and antagonistic • View of state: • Unitary, rational and power seeking • View of international system: • Anarchic, conflict constant (only inhibited by “balance of power” – E.g. conflict less likely under “Hegemony” or “unipolarity” “Neorealism” has tended to play down individual and domestic politics explanations of state behavior

  19. 4) Conclusions - Realism: • Strengths: • Clearly stated & small number of variables = clear predictions • Reflects much of what we observe (?) • Problems: • Most realists are “offensive” - should equal more war? • There seem to be many rules and morals in international politics • Hard to explain some behavior from realist perspective: • Decolonization? • USSR "gave up" the cold war? • Unclear role for economics – Realism has hard time explaining economic cooperation and “globalization” = GREAT DEAL OF COOPERATION

  20. 7) For Next Time . . . Unit Two: Theoretical Approaches “Liberalism: Idealism – Institutionalism” Required Reading: • Globalization of World Politics, Chapters 5, 6 and 7. • Liberalism: Michael Doyle, “Liberalism and World Politics”, American Political Science Review, 80 (4), pp. 1151-69. (Excerpt available from the instructor).