International relation abbreviated to IR when referring to the academic discipline as a subject. International relation best explains interactions of states in the global interstate system and the interactions of others whose behaviour originate within one country and is targeted toward members of the other countries and seeks to understand events describing the relationship between states, individuals and organization at the global stage. the study of international relationships and the real-world events is an attempt to explain behaviour that occurs across the boundaries of the state, the broader relationships of which such behaviour is a part and the institutions who oversee the interactions (Hutchings 2001).
Otherwise, theories of international relation allow us to understand and try to make sense of the world around us through various lenses, each of which represents a different theoretical perspective. To consider the filed. The history of international relation is constructed around the dispute and relationship between theories such as realism, liberalism, Marxism etc. Theories are essential because the subject matter of international relation contains different scholars and different series of world events which cause the disagreement of what to study and over how to study these world events (daddow 2009) the also provide with different ways of interpreting complex issues. (Burchill 2001). All these theories are helpful to gain an insight which allows us to understand and try to make sense of the world and globalization explaining how cooperation, security, power politics and wealth are handled by the state.
Traditionally, realism has been the dominant theory of world politics with great challenge and debate from other theories of IR since the beginning of the academic international relations. devised by Hans Morgenthau, describes world affairs as hard headed so you must do what you can in other to survive. Morgenthau also stressed the virtue of the classical, multipolar, balance-of-power system and saw the bipolar rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union as especially dangerous.
Realism gained momentum during the second world war as it offered a convincing account of how and why the deadliest war in history followed a period of supposed peace. To a realist, the state is the main actor in world affairs and viewed according to Hobbs to reflect human behaviour as selfish and egoistic. Indeed, realism has looked as far back as the ancient world, in which the detected similar patterns of human nature as those evident in the world today. To a realist, power global politics and self-interest amongst states is the main cause of war because of such selfish behaviour’s realist have concluded that wars cannot be avoided between states. Thomas Hobbes is often referred to in realism context due to his description of the brutality of life during the English civil war of 1642-1651. Hobbes has described order less ‘state of nature’ that is perceived as a war of all against all. But in other to resolve this he proposed a social contract between the people and their leaders to maintain a relative order whereby each sovereign territory sets the rules and enforce a system of punishment for those who go against these rules. We accept this so that our lives function reasonably with security and order which is better than a state of nature. For the realist, we live in a system of international anarchy as no such contract existed, there’s no sovereign in charge, disorder and fear rule international relations which is why war seems more common than peace to realist. However, theorist Kenneth waltz came about a more advanced realism which he called Neorealism explain the conflict in terms of anarchy at the international level shifting interest away from the state and emplacing on international anarchy and leads towards tension and conflict between states with egotism and anarchy leading to power politics. The realist idea of competition between states portrayed hugely on the American Soviet rivalry as the neorealist theory also helped explain the war but in doing this it ignored the human behaviour and focused on the idea of anarchy. The realist defensive theory helped analyze the involvement of alliances during the war as it took it to be the method that states used to guarantee the security amongst other states. The security dilemma in realism would best describe the issue of arms race during the war that reflected in the defensive realism theory where it showed that states build up their military as a way of security.
Secondly, liberalism another theory of international relations to some degree is still recognised as a utopian theory. Liberals share an optimistic view of IR that the world order can be improved with peace and progress in which war is replaced while realist tends to eradicate optimism as a form of misplaced idealism and arrive at a more pessimistic view. As a result, realist reaches an account that the describe IR as a system where war and conflict are common and periods of peace are mostly the time when states are preparing for future conflict. Liberalism contrast realism giving a more positive view of the world. It proponents view human behaviour as innately good and believe in harmony and peace between states is desirable. They believe international relations can be cooperative rather than conflictual dividing itself into three, republican, interdependence and institutional (Jackson and Sørensen, 2007). Independent liberalism portrays how modernization increased the level of interdependence. Implying that the activities that occur in one state are affected by what happens in other states with this trading activity among states reduces the likelihood of wars. Furthermore, independent liberalism has helped fewer wars in the 21st century than before. Republican liberalism on the claim that democracies hold common moral values enhancing peacefulness amongst one another.
Micheal Doyle furthered Immanuel Kant who developed the idea in the late eighteenth century that states who shared liberal values should have no reason for going to war against each other. To him the more liberal states there are in the world the fewer wars and more peaceful it would become since liberal states are ruled by their citizens by democracy and citizens are rarely disposed to go to war in contrast to non-elected rulers with frequently selfish desires out of step with their citizens. These ideas continue to develop by modern liberals most notable in the democratic peace theory which stands that democracies do not go to war with each other. This theory was applicable in the cause of the second world war as that one of the main cause was the break down of democracy and the rise of authoritarian state who were accused of war. As institutional liberalism explained the fact that international institutions help promote cooperation between states by reducing the issue of trust and fear amongst states. Putting liberal ideas into practice Woodrow Wilson addressed his fourteen points to the US Congress in 1918 with the ongoing first world war. Explaining the international institution system by transforming international relation from a jungle of chaotic power politics to a zoo of regulated peaceful intercourse and setting up national associations such as the league of nations 1920, created for overseeing state affairs, maintaining and implementing international peace (Jackson and Sørensen, 2007). However, the league of nations collapsed due to the outbreak of the second world war (1939) this failure was difficult for liberals to comprehend as events seemed to contradict their theories. And despite the efforts of Kant and Wilson liberalism failed to retain a stronghold. The importance of nato in the cold war is a strong aspect. nato was a proven asset for its members in the cold war it achieved a high Level of institutionalization and ability to maintain security relations amongst its members. it met multiple security challenges and was persistent as an effective actor. (Webber, n.d.). The theory can also be applied in the Iraq war where united nations, an international institution held an inspection program which was successful because it led to a lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (Taylor Academy, 2012). The presence of international institutions helped reduce the level of conflict between states.
Critical approaches to international theories is a wide spectrum of theories that have Been established in the response to mainstream approaches, as critical theorist oppose commonly held assumptions in the field of IR that have been central since its establishment and the identify positions that have been ignored within IR. Critical theories also give a voice to those who have frequently been marginalized. Marxism would be a great approach to critical theories, a critique of liberalism and realism, based upon the ideas of Karl Marx, who lived in the nineteenth century at the height of the industrial revolution. It is named Marxism because the Marxist view is adopted from Karl Marx. It believes an international system is one eroded by capitalist society and globalisation that industrialised society is divided into two classes: the bourgeoisie who are the business owners or those who control the various system of government and the proletariat who are the working class. Marxist believe the idea for a peaceful better society has been contained with the subordinate class political movement. The proletariat is exploited by the bourgeoisie who control their standard of living and wages and Marxist believe the only way enlightenment of ideal equality and liberty can be achieved through revolution.( Burchill et al., 2001 2nd ed.) Marx hoped for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat and eventual end to the class society. Critical Marxist theorist would argue that international politics around the state has led to a division between ordinary people instead of recognising what they have in common, in other words for this to change Marxist question the legitimacy of the state and dissolved, a Marxist sees the individuals , economics, and social class as the most important because they create the case of inequality and exploitation.(cox, 2011) . An aspect of Marxism was displayed during the Iraq war with the rich top world countries attacking a poor state because of the rich resources in the state. This illustrates the Marxist idea of exploitation of masses by the top class, the desire of control of oil underpins the Marxist idea that history is shaped by the material basis of the society (Taylor Academy, 2012). It is said that ” Marxism is neither solely preoccupied with the economy – it aims at a critical understanding of capitalism as a historically particular way of organizing our social life .”( Dunne et al 2013)
Constructivism, a theory viewed as a centre ground but in-between the critical theories. Constructivists highlight the importance of shared interest and values between individuals on the international stage. A recognized constructivist is Alexander Wendt, he described the relationship between the state and individuals as one in which structure constrain the identities and interest of individuals. ‘anarchy is what makes it’ and that international relation exists in the interaction between people (Wendt 1992). After all, states do not interact it is the individuals of those states such as politicians and diplomats who interact with those on the global stage have accepted anarchy as its principal. However, if anarchy is what we make of it the qualities of anarchy can change over time or different states could; receive it differently and could be replaced by a different system if accepted by other groups. Constructivism is all about understanding the norms as constructivist study the process by which are challenged and replaced with new norms.
Perhaps the most controversial of all critical theories is Poststructuralism. An approach that questions the very beliefs we have all come to believe is real. Poststructuralism questions the dominant narrative the mainstreams theories accepted. Example. Realist and liberals take the state for granted and share the same ideas about the state. such are foundational truths on which both theories rest Becoming structure the build their reality around. So although these two theories differ in some aspect of worldviews. The share a general understanding of the world as none seeks to challenge the existence of the state simply counting it as part of reality but poststructuralism questions these realities, not just the state but also the nature of power. As Michel Foucault contributes to poststructuralism identifying the knowledge of power nexus meaning that leader, politicians, journalist and all others in the position of power have the ability to shape individuals common understanding of an issue. These understandings then become so ingrained that they appear to be in common sense and difficult to think outside the box, leaving the room for only certain kinds of actions. Poststructuralist aim to expose the hidden assumptions it is based upon and open up possible ways of thinking in international politics. ‘power is knowledge and knowledge are power’.
Feminism, another theory that exposes the inequality in international relation, entered the field of theories in the 1980s as part of the emerging critical movement it focused on explaining the reasons why few women seemed to be in positions of power and the implications on the structure of global politics, as noticed the majority of world leaders are men, recognizing this introduces a gendered reading of IR, where we place men at a great distance from women. Feminism challenges those roles in a way that benefits everyone with equality given that those positions involve matters of life and death decisions when it matters to everyone. With that said there is an overlap with constructivism.
In conclusion, all theories are imperfect because if one was accurate in accounting for the actions and behaviours in IR there would be no need for any others. IR theories analyze the events that occur in so many ways exceeding the discussed above, but the mainstream theories are applied to events enabling analyze world events and affairs. For instance, understanding the reasons states are eager for growth and the reasons behind such objective could be because the anarchical nature of the international system trapping the states in a single power and security (Linklater 1993:29). International relation theories could be very helpful in understanding the contribution of the democratic system to the society and analyzing the events.