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Notes on Chapter Two. Paul Bacon SILS IR201. Definitions 1. System – a set of inter-related units International system – the pattern of relationships among states. The structure of a system refers to its distribution of power.

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Notes on chapter two

Notes on Chapter Two

Paul Bacon



Definitions 1
Definitions 1

  • System – a set of inter-related units

  • International system – the pattern of relationships among states.

  • The structure of a system refers to its distribution of power.

  • The process refers to patterns and types of interactions among states.

Definitions 2
Definitions 2

  • The agency-structure debate – neo-realists prefer structural explanations.

  • Counterfactuals – contrary-to-fact conditionals.

  • If… then. But must be plausible to be worthwhile.

  • Proximity of cause – how directly was a major event caused by something?

  • Nye distinguishes between proximate, intermediate and deep causes.

Kenneth waltz
Kenneth Waltz

  • In the first half of this textbook, Nye follows a method of analysis developed by the leading realist Kenneth Waltz.

  • Waltz developed this approach in two books, Man, the State and War, and Theory of International Politics.

  • Waltz identified three ‘images’ or levels of analysis – the system, the state and the individual.

  • Waltz is a neo-realist, and therefore believes that the ‘third’ image, the system, is the most important, and has the most explanatory power.

Nye s additions to waltz s method
Nye’s additions to Waltz’s method

  • Joseph Nye adds three elements to Waltz’s basic framework.

  • At the system level, he makes a further distinction between structure and process.

  • He also introduces two additional concepts, proximate cause and the notion of a counterfactual.

  • Taken together, for the purposes of this class, we can refer to Waltz and Nye’s method of analysis.

  • Nye uses this method to analyze the origins of WWI and WWII, the origins of the Cold War, and the end of the Cold War.

  • It is therefore important for you to understand this way of thinking, and to apply it to your reading of the next three chapters, and your exam preparation.

Economic liberalism
Economic liberalism

  • According to Nye, there are three main strands to liberal thought, economic, social and political.

  • The economic strand focuses mainly on trade. Trade is important not because it prevents states from going to war, but because it may lead states to define their interests in a way that makes war less important to them.

  • Japan is an interesting example of a country which has become more successful through trade than through war.

  • Liberals would argue that Japan has become non-militarist, and that there is no incentive to challenge US hegemony. The benefits of trade have created a social structure that is less inclined to war in Japan.

Social liberalism
Social liberalism

  • Social liberalism argues that person-to-person contacts reduce conflict by promoting understanding.

  • Transnational contacts occur at many levels, including students (SILS?), businesspeople and tourists.

  • Nye is not convinced by this, and says that the evidence for this argument is mixed.

  • Theorists such as Samuel Huntington have argued that people from different civilizations have fundamentally incompatible worldviews.

  • More contact is therefore dangerous, because people from different cultural groups will realize how different they are.

Political liberalism institutions
Political liberalism – institutions

  • A third form of liberalism emphasizes the role of institutions.

  • Institutions allow people to believe that conflict will not occur. They lengthen the ‘shadow of the future’, and reduce the problem of the security dilemma.

  •  Institutions stabilize expectations in four ways:

    • 1. They provide a sense of continuity, regularity and predictability.

    • 2. They provide an opportunity for reciprocity.

    • 3. They provide a flow of information.

    • 4. They provide ways to resolve conflicts.

Political liberalism democracy
Political liberalism - democracy

  • Political liberals believe that there are basically only two different types of state in the international system.

  • These are democracies and non-democracies.

  • If this is true, it follows that three types of dyadic relationship are possible.

  • 1. Non-democracy – non-democracy.

  • 2. Non-democracy – democracy.

  • 3. Democracy – democracy.

  • Can you give me examples of wars for each of these dyadic types of international relations?

Political liberalism democracy 2
Political liberalism – democracy 2

  • Some liberals argue that liberal democracies are more peaceful than other types of political system.

  • Most liberals argue that democracies never, or only very rarely, fight each other.

  • This is known as the “democratic peace” theory.

  • This argument was first made by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. More recently, writers such as Dean Babst, Michael Doyle and Bruce Russett have updated the theory.

  • Because of democratic peace theory, liberals are optimistic about the long-term prospects for world peace.

Political liberalism democracy 3
Political liberalism – democracy 3

  • War is one of the most serious problems in the international system.

  • If democratic peace theory is true, then it provides us with a way to break the realist cycle.

  • This also suggests that domestic politics DO matter. – The domestic politics of a state dictate the international relations which that state is capable of engaging in.

  • Moreover, the number of democracies in the world is increasing, and, if democratic peace theory is correct, this suggests that the number of conflicts will reduce.

  • Theoretically, if all of the countries in the world became democratic, then the threat of war would disappear.

T he liberal zone of peace
The liberal ‘Zone of Peace’

  • Many liberals argue that there is a democratic zone of peace among the consolidated liberal democracies of Western Europe, North America Japan, South Korea and Australasia.

  • However, the expansion and consolidation of this zone is far from assured.

  • There is an important distinction between liberal democracy and electoral democracy.

  • Electoral democracies may not have a free press and effective checks on executive power.

  • There is interesting evidence that young democracies may be warlike (against non-democracies).

Constructivism 1
Constructivism 1

  • Constructivism is a relatively new addition to international relations theory.

  • An important breakthrough was the publication of Alex Wendt’s article ‘Anarchy is what states make of it’.

  • This article argued that individual states do have more choice than realists suggest they do, that agents can re-make structures, and that this may be easier than we thought.

  • Wendt talked about the idea of ‘friendly’ nuclear weapons, and the idea that the US is more worried by small numbers of North Korean nuclear weapons, than large numbers of British and French weapons.

Constructivism 2
Constructivism 2

  • Constructivists argue that:

  • 1. Agents and structures interact in a cyclical and reciprocal way.

  • 2. The identities and interests of agents are not fixed, but are the product of social interaction.

  • 3. Over time, the rules, norms and expectations that make social life meaningful and orderly will change as a result of social interaction.

Constructivism 3
Constructivism 3

  • Constructivism is at the moment more a way of studying and understanding change, rather than a theory in its own right.

  • For example, constructivists have studied the following issues:

    • Why did slavery and apartheid gradually become unacceptable?

    • Why have most countries now abolished the death penalty?

    • Why has Japan become anti-militarist?

    • Why is it now very unlikely that some states, for example member-states of the EU, will ever fight each other again?

    • Why, after the end of the Cold War, have many states become more likely to support humanitarian intervention?

Other concepts issues
Other Concepts/Issues

  • Hard/soft power

  • Dominos and checkers

  • System stability and crisis stability

  • Systems and unintended consequences

  • States, sovereignty and nation-states

  • Definitions of power