POLI 243 Lecture Notes - Matthew Kapstein

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22 Apr 2014
Is Realism Dead? – Kapstein
Is realism dead? If the answer is yes, which theories have taken its place? If the
answer is no, what explains its durability?
Although structural realism must be viewed as deeply flawed, it continues to set
the rule in analyzing international relations. It will continue doing so until an
alternative theory that is developed takes its place.
The books reviewed in this article seek to challenge realism on its home ground of
national security. The authors highlight not only the logical flaws of realism, but
also its inability to explain many of the outcomes that are of greatest interests to
contemporary scholars, as the end of the CW and failures of states to balance
against threatening powers.
oBruce Bueno de Mesquita and David Lalman: a perspective that is
attentive to domestic origins of foreign policy demands gives a richer and
empirically more reliable representation of foreign affairs than a realist
oSnyder: that recent proponents of realism in IR have been wrong in
looking at states as irreducibly actors whose power and interest are to be
assessed as domestic pictures tend to outweigh international ones in the
calculations of national leaders.
The works assessed in the article are unlikely to make a paradigm change in IR
for 2 reasons:
oNone of them produces a generalizable alternative theory
oNone of them provides a decisive modification of structural realism
In search of a theory:
If a theory is going to replace or modify structural realism, they must provide
an explicit model of how a given set of domestic factors can produce
international outcomes specially war and peace.
oThey must give explanations of IR that either work from the inside out, or
that specify the domestic process by which uncertain systemic pressures
are translated into particular policy responses.
oThe theories must also be generalizable.
Gourevitch: political scientists have adopted 2 approaches to explain how states
behave with respect to the international environment.
1. Privileges the anarchic nature of the international system and focuses
on the pressures that it puts on every state here, the foreign policies
of states are better explained as a rational response to external pressures.
This coincides with structural realism.
2. Rejects the utility of system level theorizing. In order to understand
states interactions, scholars must reject the “billiard ball” model of
structural realism and begin exploring in the “black box” of domestic
Democratic peace theory: seems to be from a theoretical perspective the
strongest contender to structural realism. A world composed only of liberal states
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