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CARLETON UNIVERSITY / Political Science / PSCI 2601 / Who was the key realist thinker criticized the post war international

Who was the key realist thinker criticized the post war international

Who was the key realist thinker criticized the post war international


School: Carleton University
Department: Political Science
Course: International Relations: Global Politics
Professor: Simon langlois-bertrand
Term: Winter 2016
Tags: political science, Political Theory, and international relations
Cost: 25
Name: PSCI 2601 Week 3 Notes
Description: These notes cover the first two of our political theories, namely classical realism and liberalism.
Uploaded: 01/29/2016
4 Pages 85 Views 2 Unlocks

Classical Realism/Liberalism

Who was the key realist thinker criticized the post war international order?

January 29, 2016

Most political theories are based around the actions of states, seeing as they have a dominance in global  affairs, even with the recent growth in importance of non-state actors. The two largest political theories  are classical realism and liberalism, and both focus heavily on state actions.  

Classical Realism:

Realism has been around for a long time, with famous adherents such as Thucydides and Machiavelli.  People have always seen international relations and wars, and tried to observe it over time. How to  avoid or win wars is always a major driving factor in this observance. Classical realism has existed for  2000-3000 years, so it's an old tradition of thought, the first attempts at trying to understand why states  interact in the way they do.  

What are the three main assumptions of classical realism?

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The first major assumption in classical realism is that the state is a single, unitary actor, and exists in an  anarchic nature with everything else. There is nothing above states to enforce order, so states can do  whatever they please based on their resources and abilities. The ethics and morality of the people can  affect state decisions, but this can get in the way of making sure the state survives. It is not always a  good thing.

Three main elements come out of realism: statism (state-centric outlooks), survival and self-help. States  are trying to survive and it's everyone for themselves, so you have to ensure your own survival.  

Statism is a line of thought associated with classical realism, although it is also relevant to liberalism. The  main focus of everything is on state actors, because politics is based on groups and not individuals. The  state itself is seen as an individual that is self-interested. The internal makeup of a state has nothing to  do with international politics. States are rational actors, they assess situations and consider the facts  before making a decision. A state will consider other states' reactions to their actions. Of course,  information can be misunderstood or just missed, maybe the actors don't have the same information.  Mistakes can be made, and the state is not seen as purely rational and always right. The assumption is  that the state is making the most rational decision it can in its context, with what it has.

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Sovereign states are seen as the "boundary of community". At the international level, the natures of  morality, justice, and other values is very different.  

Realists tend to look at politics in a holistic way, using in-depth case studies of each event and analysing  the actions of each state involved. They see a close relationship between the domestic and international  realms, understanding that the two are closely linked. The danger from this, in a realist's eyes, is ethics  and morality affecting state actors on the international level. History, in this view, is not a changing  thing, but a cyclical nature, the same things happening over and over.  

A major issue in realist views is power. States pursue power to sustain aggrandise themselves. The goal  in the international field is to have power. There's a finite amount of power available so in order to get  some, you have to take it from someone else and stop others from taking it from you. Power is key to  survival. A lot of this school of thought centers around human nature and greed. States take power by  themselves, for themselves. There is no external source of power that will give it to a state.  If you want to learn more check out Who invented a seed drill that was a breakthrough?
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A balance of power is when there isn't just one state with a lot of power. If there are two powerful  states this prevents a hegemony, but a large amount of powers will lead to alliances and coalitions trying  to tear each other down.  

This leads to a security dilemma. Everyone wants power, and everyone wants to protect themselves. If  everyone is also a rational actor, they're going to assume other states are ready to pounce on them. To  ensure stability, you want to make sure your security is a deterrent to other belligerents . If you have a  weak defense, there's a chance that a stronger state will come in and take over. So you build a small  We also discuss several other topics like Why did john adams disagree with thomas paine?

army (militaries are usually called defense forces, not invasion forces). Other states see you building an   PSCI 2601 Page 1

army, and are concerned that you plan to attack, so they build a larger army. Arming yourself causes  everyone else to arm themselves more, and that's the security dilemma. You cant try to get out of it by  researching new technologies no one else has and putting yourself ahead, or by making alliances. Of  course, that's going to have consequences of its own.  

Classical Realism--Case Studies:

First case study: Iraq War. Taking a classical realist perspective, this played out like a Greek tragedy. The  US had a hegemony because after the Cold War they were the only world power. With this hegemony,  they thought they could do whatever they wanted and decided to invade Iraq. The power went to their  

head, you could say, leading to hubris among their leaders. The operation itself was not well thought out, and it was based more on expectation than reason. The results of this point to the classical realist  idea that major powers can be their own worst enemies, and all hegemonic empires collapse.

Second case study: WWI. The war has many, many reasons behind it, and led to so many issues. In terms  of a security dilemma, there were two major alliances, the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. From a  classical realist perspective, the independence movements in the Balkans were a major threat to  Austria-Hungary, who wanted to retain as much power as possible. Russia wanted control of  Constantinople for economic reasons. Germany wanted to gain status as a world power, and France  wanted to regain Alsace-Lorraine, which Germany had conquered a long time ago. Britain wanted to  maintain the currant balance of power. If you want to learn more check out What is an atom with its electrons in the lowest possible levels?

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Black Hand led to an outbreak of tensions.  Austria-Hungary threatened Serbia. Russia had a treaty with Serbia and declared war. Germany had a  treaty with Austria -Hungary and attacked Russia. France attached Germany because they had a treaty  with Russia, Germany went to France through Belgium which drew Britain into the mess.  

Classical realism would explain WWI through an examination of the states maintaining huge armies.  Flaws of the specific leaders can be seen as directing the whole nations. The belief that speed was  paramount to success in their militaries created a sense of urgency, although this led to major  miscalculations. Military mobilisation took priority over political discussion, and everything got swept  up. The conflict wound up lasting a lot longer than anyone expected, and led to roughly 17 million  deaths. There were many far-reaching consequences birthed at the Paris Peace Conference, after the  ending of the war.

In essence, classical realism explains WWI through nationalism, basic passions of leaders, and irrational  confidence in one's own abilities. This is interesting, because states are supposed to be considered to be  rational actors in classical realism, but obviously they can be irrational at times too, much like people.

Classical Realism--Overview:

Classical realism is a conservative line of thought, believing that policy should be made to reflect reality,  not to change things. It's very status-quo based. However, realism is not necessarily expansionist, even  though it supports states fighting each other. Realism is based on a state's survival, and an expansionist  mindset can cause many problems for a state.  

There is criticism of classical realism, of course.  

• The peaceful end to the Cold War was very unexpected, and realism had no explanation at the time.  One of two major powers just disappeared without an armed conflict.  

• Regional integration and intervention for human rights, as well as non-state actors, are difficult to  explain in a realist perspective.  

• Civil wars, as well, cause problems for realism (although this is only true to an extent). • Foreign policy-wise, it's hard to balance planning for later consequences with strategising for what is  going on at the time. Alliances with dictatorial regimes for instance, can be good at the time but cause  problems down the road, but they're good at the time. The final criticism, while not necessarily a  problem in the framework, is important. While realism is good at simplifying events, it may be a bit of a  self-fulfilling prophecy. It sees the world as static, making thought of change difficult.  


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The second major theory is liberalism. Liberalists use a lot of the ideas or assumptions that classical  realists do, but have a very different view on what these mean. A major difference is their thoughts on  what causes conflict and what, if anything, can be done to stop it.

There are four fundamental aspects of liberalism: all citizens are equal and have rights. Ultimately it's  about individuals; legislative assemblies only have the authority that the people invest in them, and they  must not abuse these people's rights; the individual has the right to own property and productive forces;  and the market is the biggest system of economic exchange, and it's a possibility of making relationships  without the authorities of states.  

Liberalism considers states to have different characters, instead of all being the same. Some have  different cultures, some are more belligerent, some are more peaceful. Anarchy is present at the  international level, but that isn't what causes strife (although some argue that a world government is  necessary).  

Imperialism is often cited as a cause of conflict, while other authors blame the balance of power or  undemocratic regimes. Undemocratic states are often called more prone to war. Liberalist thought often  looks at how to prevent future conflict. This has led to the notion of collective security as a means to  stop future war. Some say expanded trade relations would do it, some say a world government. But the  idea that it can be fixed is central to liberalism. Liberalism sees peace as something that can be  constructed, rather than seeing history as just a cycle.

Kant is probably the oldest liberalist, having said liberal states would be inherently more peaceful.  Democratic regimes are expected to be better, according to the democratic peace theory. However,  democratic states are more war-prone when dealing with non-democratic states, and this causes a lot of  debate. Common laws and increased trade have been pointed at as leading to peace. Transnational  actors are seen as very important, and in this way liberal thinkers sometimes move away from statism.  

Interdependence is a growing phenomenon that erodes the idea of state distinctions. Two groups can  work together to build each other up, rather than having to take things from each other. This is contrary  to the realist belief that one state must take power away from another.

There's a lot of disagreement over what is necessary to push forward these changes. Many liberalists  want to see a convergence of states and eroding of boundaries. Another major disagreement is on  intervention and restraint, whether it leads to more conflict.  

Liberalism, too, has its criticisms. The 1990s saw a hegemony, with the US being belligerent in general  and dominating much of the world, but it's a liberal democracy. A lot of liberal institutions may have  made things worse by providing aid, or by working with authoritarian regimes. When democracies see  themselves as the ideal form of government, they are sometimes willing to destabilise or invade a state  in order to institute it.

Liberalism--Case Study:

Case study: European Union. This was put together after WWII, in an attempt to break the old pattern of  European nations violently clashing with one another and drawing everyone else in.  

Three basic principles were put forward for the foundation of the EU, based on liberalism.  1. Stable democracy is more peaceful (at least with other democracies). The principle is to make stable  democracies, and root out old authoritarian ideologies (guess who'd won and who'd lost the last war).  2. Economic integration in essential to regional stability. Because the great Depression had caused security  issues and partially led to WWII, a reinforcement of economic relations was thought to make conflict  less appealing during a crisis. This integration began with the European Cold and Steel Community, and  led to nuclear ties and a much more integrated economy, leading to the euro.

3. An international institution must ensure that that the member states share policies and act on the EU's  laws. There are some supernational bodies that can hold EU member states accountable . There are  some limits, but the EU has still seen 50 years of growth, and now it doesn't seem to make sense for the  European states to be at each other's throats and ready to go to war.  

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Overview and Critiques of Both:

These theories have good and bad points. They both provide a good way to simplify things and make it  easy to understand complex issues.  

A critique for realism is that is often takes a static view, that change doesn't happen. In the case of  liberalism, it sees the world as evolving, but it sees strict constraints in the frameworks, with a to of  focus on states. For both, this turns into a critique of the major focus being on states. Sates decide on  actions that states take.  

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