Idealism in international relations - Wikipedia
John H. Herz, Political Realism and Political Idealism: A Study in. Theories and tion are to be found in all human and intergroup relations.6 Even enemies in. of J. A. Hobson and its relation to idealism as a category of international relations . While Cobden blamed aristocratic meddling in the political affairs of nations. International relations, the study of the relations of states with each other and with The newly created League of Nations, which ushered in the hope and . the debate between realism and idealism gradually faded, only to be revived in a.
Realists contend that, as long as the world is divided into nation-states in an anarchic setting, national interest will remain the essence of international politics. The struggle for power is part of human nature and takes essentially two forms: Collaboration occurs when parties find that their interests coincide e.
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Rivalry, competition, and conflict result from the clash of national interests that is characteristic of the anarchic system. Accommodation between states is possible through skillful political leadership, which includes the prioritizing of national goals in order to limit conflicts with other states.
In an international system composed of sovereign states, the survival of both the states and the system depends on the intelligent pursuit of national interests and the accurate calculation of national power. Realists caution that messianic religious and ideological crusades can obscure core national interests and threaten the survival of individual states and the international system itself.
Such crusades included, for Morgenthau, the pursuit of global communism or global democracyeach of which would inevitably clash with the other or with other competing ideologies.
The attempt to reform countries toward the ideal of universal trust and cooperation, according to realists, runs counter to human naturewhich is inclined toward competition, conflict, and war. Realist theory emerged in the decade after World War II as a response to idealismwhich generally held that policy makers should refrain from immoral or illegal actions in world affairs.
As no impressive new formulation of political idealism appeared on the international scene to reply to realist theory, the debate between realism and idealism gradually faded, only to be revived in a somewhat different form in the final decades of the 20th century in the disagreement between neoliberal institutionalists and neorealist structuralists. Many international relations scholars neither rejected nor embraced realism but instead were engrossed in other aspects of the broadening agenda of international relations studies.
Beginning in the s, as the United States became more fully engaged in world affairs, the U. In order to understand the major forces and trends shaping countries such as the Soviet Union and China or the regions extending from Africa to Northeast Asia, the United States needed to recruit greater numbers of specialists in the histories, politics, cultureseconomies, languages, and literature of such areas; the Soviet Union did likewise. Theoretical concerns generally played a marginal role in the growth of area specialization in the West.
The behavioral approach and the task of integration In the s an important development in the social sciencesincluding the study of international relations, was the arrival of new concepts and methodologies that were loosely identified in ensemble as behavioral theory. This general approach, which emphasized narrowly focused quantitative studies designed to obtain precise results, created a wide-ranging controversy between theorists who believed that the social sciences should emulate as much as possible the methodologies of the physical sciences and those who held that such an approach is fundamentally unsound.
In addition, the great number of new topics investigated at the time—including cognition, conflict resolution, decision makingdeterrencedevelopment, the environmentgame theoryeconomic and political integrationand systems analysis—provoked some anxiety that the discipline would collapse into complete conceptual and methodological chaos.
This task proved to be a difficult one. Indeed, some scholars began to question the necessity—or even the possibility—of arriving at a single theory that would explain all the varied, diverseand complex facets of international relations. Instead, these researchers suggested that a number of separate theories would be needed. At the same time, theories that trace the forces of international relations to a single source were increasingly viewed as unsatisfactory. The struggle for powerfor example, was accepted as a fact in past and current international politics, but attempts to make all other factors subordinate to or dependent upon power were thought to exclude too much of what is important and interesting in international relations.
Similar assessments were made of the theory that asserts that the character of a nation—and hence the character of its participation in international relations—is determined by its child-rearing practices, as well as of the Marxist theory that international relations are solely the historical expression of class struggle.
The general attitude of the behavioral decade was that the facts of international relations are multidimensional and therefore have multiple causes. This conclusion supported, and in turn was supported by, the related view that an adequate account of these facts could not be provided in a single integrated theory and that multiple separate theories were required instead.
By the s, for example, studies of international conflict had come to encompass a number of different perspectives, including the realist theory of the struggle for power between states and the Marxist notion of global class conflict, as well as other explanations. At the same time, conflict theory coexisted with economic and political integration theory and game theory, each of which approached the phenomena of international conflict from a distinct perspective.
In keeping with the multiple-theory approach, by the end of the behavioral decade there was a growing consensus that the study of international relations should encompass both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Whereas quantitative methodologies were recognized as useful for measuring and comparing international phenomena and identifying common features and patterns of behaviour, qualitative analyses, by focusing on one case or a comparison of cases involving specific research questions, hypothesesor categories, were thought to provide a deeper understanding of what is unique about political leaders, nations, and important international events such as World War II and the Cold War.
The use of quantitative analysis in international relations studies increased significantly in the decades after the s.
This was a direct result of advances in computer technologyboth in the collection and retrieval of information and in the analysis of data.
When computers were introduced in international relations studies, it was not readily apparent how best to exploit the new technology, partly because most earlier studies of international relations were set forth in narrative or literary form and partly because many of the phenomena examined were not easily quantifiable.
Nevertheless, exploratory quantitative studies were undertaken in a number of directions. A growing body of studies, for example, developed correlations between phenomena such as alliances and the outbreak or deterrence of war, between levels of political integration and levels of trade, communication, and mobility of populations, between levels of economic development and internal political stability, and between levels of internal violence and participation in international conflicts.
The later 20th century Foreign policy and international systems The influence of behaviourism helped to organize the various theories of international relations and the discipline into essentially two principal parts, or perspectives: Within each of these perspectives there developed various theories. The foreign-policy perspective, for example, encompasses theories about the behaviour of individual states or categories of states such as democracies or totalitarian dictatorships, and the international-system-analysis perspective encompasses theories of the interactions between states and how the number of states and their respective capabilities affect their relations with each other.
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The foreign-policy perspective also includes studies of the traits, structures, or processes within a national society or polity that determine or influence how that society or polity participates in international relations. One such study, known as the decision-making approach, analyzes the information that decision makers use, their perceptions and motivations, the influence on their behaviour of public opinion, the organizational settings in which they operate, and their intellectual, cultural, and societal backgrounds.
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Studies that analyze the relations between the wealth, power, or technological level of a state and its international status and role provide other illustrations of the foreign-policy perspective. Comparative foreign-policy analysis first appeared during the mids. By comparing the domestic sources of external conduct in different countries, using standard criteria of data selection and analysis, this approach seeks to develop generalized accounts of foreign-policy performance, including theories that explore the relationship between the type of domestic-external linkage a country displays and its political and economic system and level of social development.
Some research also has explored the extent to which certain patterns of behaviour, such as violent demonstrations or protests, may spread from one state to another. Whereas foreign-policy analysis concentrates on the units of the international system, international-system analysis is concerned with the structure of the system, the interactions between its units, and the implications for peace and war, or cooperation and conflict, of the existence of different types of states.
The term interactions suggests challenge and response, give and take, move and countermove, or inputs and outputs. Diplomatic histories feature narratives of action and response in international situations and attempt to interpret the meanings of the exchanges. Balance-of-power theory, which asserts that states act to protect themselves by forming alliances against powerful states or coalitions of states, is another example of the international-system perspective.
Still other examples include explanations and descriptions of bargaining in international negotiations and studies of arms races and other escalating action-reaction processes. The general-system perspective The so-called general-system perspective on international relations, which attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the relations between states, may be compared to the map of a little-explored continent.
Outlines, broad features, and a continental delineation are not in question, but everything else remains in doubt, is subject to controversy, and awaits exploration. The members of a family, for example, interact with each other in ways that clearly differ from the ways in which they interact with other persons, such as colleagues in a place of employment or fellow members of a church. Although systems are definable in terms of units that exhibit certain patterns of interaction with each other, there also may be interaction between a system and its subsystems.
A national political system, for example, may interact with subsystems such as interest groups, the media, or public opinion. Systems and subsystems exist in a hierarchical setting. A department is a subsystem of a corporation, for example, just as a corporation is a subsystem of an industry. In international relations states are considered subsystems, or components, of the entire international system. In analyzing the international system, researchers often posit distinct political, economic, cultural, and social subsystems.
Although interactions between states have varied over time, by the latter decades of the 20th century they had become global in scope and unprecedented in their number and in the types of actors they involved. The volume, velocity, and types of interaction had expanded to include not only the greater movement of people but also trade, investment, ideas, and information—all of which were shaped by technology.
Structures, institutions, and levels of analysis Since the s the study of international relations has been marked by a renewed debate about the relationship between structures and institutions in international systems.
Neorealism represented an effort to inject greater precision, or conceptual rigour, into realist theory. A bipolar system, for example, is a structure in which two states are dominant and the remaining states are allied with one or the other dominant state.
According to Waltz and other neorealists, the structure of the international system limits the foreign-policy options available to states and influences international institutions in important ways. The United Nations UNfor example, mirrors the structure of the existing international system insofar as it is dominated by leading powers such as the permanent members of the Security Council.
Changes in international structure, including the rise of new powers, eventually lead to changes within international institutions. On the other side of the structures-institutions debate have been the neoliberal institutionalists, who contend that institutions matter beyond simply reflecting or codifying the power structure of the international system. Although neoliberal institutionalists accept the realist conception of states as the principal actors in a fundamentally anarchic environment, they argue that state behaviour can be modified by interaction with international institutions such as the European Union EUNATO, the World Trade Organization WTOand the UN.
Such interaction, they contend, reduces the long-term potential for international conflict. Although neorealist structuralists and neoliberal institutionalists generally agree that international cooperation is possible, neorealists are much more skeptical of its chances for long-term success. According to neorealist logic, NATO should have dissolved in the s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bipolar structure that had led to its formation.
Instead, NATO was transformed in the decade following the end of the Cold War, taking on new tasks and responsibilities. This contradiction may be apparent, however, only because such adaptation can be viewed as reinforcing the neorealist thesis that institutions reflect the existing international structure: Thus, NATO was able to survive because it underwent a transformation.
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Thus, NATO countries have altered their policies to take account of the needs of other members, and potential members have undergone rigorous internal reform in order to qualify for membership. Consequently, each theory appears to offer useful insights, and both together can form the basis of a unified approach to the relationship between structures and institutions. Central to neorealist structural theory is the levels-of-analysis question—i. Introduced in the s as part of an attempt to make research in international relations more scientific, the levels-of-analysis question provided a conceptual basis for addressing issues such as the effect of structure bipolar or multipolar on the behaviour of states or other units.
At the same time, it offered a means of distinguishing between different sources of explanation and different objects of analysis. Thus, assuming that the international system shapes the options available to states as actors, it is plausible to suggest that the way in which decision makers respond to such options depends on how they perceive them and on the related opportunities and constraints created by domestic-level forces.
According to them, the peaceful norms that democratic states have developed for resolving differences with each other are an outgrowth of their domestic traditions of law and order, compromise, due processprotection of individual rights—including property rights and the right to freedom of speech—and an independent judiciary.
A world constituted entirely of democracies, according to this view, would be peaceful. It frequently means different things to different people. At the most general level idealism refers to an approach to international politics that seeks to advance certain ideals or moral goals, for example, making the world a more peaceful or just place.
This approach rests on a dual premise. First, that current world political arrangements for achieving such goals are inadequate, perhaps profoundly so. Second, human beings have it within their power to change these arrangements for the better, perhaps radically.
Often in international political discourse idealism is used as a term of disapprobation. It is based on a false estimation of what is possible in international politics, certainly at the systemic level. Letting their hearts rule their heads, idealists underestimate the achievements of the existing international order and fail to appreciate the delicacy of the threads that hold it together.
It is the ideology of those who benefit from unjust arrangements, who find sorry comfort in the thought that all is for the worst in the worst possible worlds, or who lack the moral will to fight for truth and justice. At this general level the contest between idealism and realism is sometimes depicted as a central dynamic of international politics.
General Overviews Most fundamentally, the lack of an agreed meaning for the term idealism is a consequence of the lack of an agreed ontology. That is, there is little agreement, and indeed there has been little attempt to forge an agreement, on precisely what kind of thing idealism is. Given this, it is not surprising that no general overviews of idealism in international relations in contrast to realism are available.Theory in Action: Liberalism
Realism, Idealism and International Politics: Taylor and Francis, Berki, On Political Realism [London: