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Lecture 6

Lecture 6b International Relations Theory II.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 2013 II Lecture 6b International Relations Theory Realism - Given the differences between politics in conditions of hierarchy and politics in conditions of anarchy, the following Realist tenets emerge - 1. State - For Realism, the state is the most important actor in the international system - Other actors are subordinate to the state – consider the UN and the Security Council - If you want to understand international outcomes, you should be looking at states, their political interests, and their relative power with respect to one another - A billiard ball model of politics - 2. Survival is the primary motive of every state - Any means to secure this end will be pursued - Military power is the best means to secure this end - Therefore states are constantly trying to accumulate it - 3. Relative Gains - Given the above, states must be more concerned with Relative gains than absolute gains in any agreement - This makes international politics a zero-sum game - Why Cooperation? - 1. Power projection - It might be easier to agree and loose a little than to disagree and suffer a lot - 2. Peculiarities in the Balance of state power - Where a greater third party threat exists, for example - Marshall Plan? - Critiques: - A state which uses realist theory to guide its policy could create the very outcome that realism suggests is innate - Realism can create a self-fulfilling prophesy 1 - Realism has not been very successful in predicting significant alterations in world politics - Most notably, Realism did not predict the end of the Cold War - Liberalism: several variants - 1. “At its core, is a belief in reason and the possibility of progress” - 2. Politics is a “struggle for consensus and mutual gain” rather than for relative power - Absolute gains are more important than relative gains in most instances - 3. International organizations can play a key role in bringing about a more harmonious world order - Neo-Liberal Institutionalism: - Takes most of the assumptions of realism: states are the key actor, and they are rational, unitary and self-interested - Liberal Institutionalism asks the question of how it is possible to create cooperation in conditions of anarchy – where there is no international government to enforce agreements - Recall the Prisoners dilemma once again - If the fear of defection could be eliminated, cooperation would become a rational choice - International organizations can play a significant r
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