Chapt 16: Alternative/Critical Approaches to International Relations
o Neither Marx nor Engels wrote much about international relations, but were very
influential on others
• Dependency theory
• Worldsystems theory
• Critical theory
“Western Marxism” vs. Authoritarian Marxism
o Lenin, Stalin and Mao developed Marxist ideas in a particular direction often
called “scientific socialism”.
o This model was often exported to the developing world from the USSR and
o “False consciousness” of bourgeoisiedominated capitalism spread globally
V.I. Lenin (18701924)
o For Lenin, imperialism was the highest (and final stage) of capitalism
o Characterized by a widening gap between rich and poor nations, and by wars over
land and resources
o Universal class structure sets the stage for a global class war.
o André Gunder Frank
o Explains underdevelopment in poor countries in terms of Western exploitation
rather than local cultural factors
o Independence has not changed much since the exploitative relations of
colonialism still remain
o Places emphasis on “coreperiphery” relationships
World System Theory
o Immanuel Wallerstein
o Broadens dependency theory, calling into question the assumption that the
international system is based on a nationstate model
o Offers a critique of the way social science thinks of “development” only among
very restricted pathways
(people who have become rich based on their relationship with the
core to exploit there own countries and their own resources)
o Offers criticism of traditional approaches (liberalism, realism, conservatism) o Has roots in Marxist thought, but is not strictly speaking Marxist
o Often addresses the effects of capitalism on social life
o Emphasis on emancipation from oppressive social and material conditions.
o CT does not juts offer criticism but can also suggest alternatives as to how things
ought to be
o CT offers a direct challenge to the assumption of neorealism through its emphasis
on the constructed nature of social reality.
Atonio Gramsci (18911937)
o Ruling classes maintain power not necessarily by force but by making inequalities
seem natural – consent of the people
o “It is ‘natural’ that [what exists] should exist, that it could not do otherwise than
o The masses come to agree to their own oppression
o Furthers Gramsci’s ideas of the hegemony of theories and ideas
o “Theory is always for someone and for some purpose” (Cox, 1981)
o Argues that realism is an ideology of the status quo which supports the existing
o Theories reflect subjective values and interest; no ‘valuefree’ theory, no totally
o Argues that there is no “natural” order, and none immune to challenge or change.
o Draws on the work of Durkheim, Weber, and Mannheim on Social theory
o Argues that social order (beliefs, norms, values, interests, rules, institutions, etc.)
is an ongoing human production
o The ontological status of that order is not natural but a product of human activity
o Happens through institutions – processes of habitualization through which social
practices become taken for granted
o Why do we obey traffic? Traffic system regulates our behavior on the roads.
Social order at a domestic and international level are a result of human
production, the norm of human right, against racism, for sovereignty, for
democracy – is not natural, but is a product of human activity.
o These norms and beliefs come about from habitualization, and social practices.
They can sometimes be taken for granted.
o “Social facts” are produced intersubjectively
o Institutions such as markets, governments, states, etc. have no existence or
meaning except in the minds of those who believe in them (they are invented by
o Agents and structures (people and institutions) are mutually constitutions
o Humans shape the world, which in turn shapes them.
o Ex: Patriarchy – not natural, we made it up.
o Ex: Government is not natural. We decided and created it. Alexander Wendt
o Anarchy is “what states make of it” – it is not natural, we make it
• The way we see the world and think about it, changes and alters the way we
act in the world. International politics and state behavior at an international
level, and his argument is that the way we think about the world alters the way
we act in the world. So if a small state thinks its capable of changing the state
in Syria, that changes how it acts on an international level. If another state
thinks it’s capable of invading Iraq, it will act in a certain way at an
o If the US has nuclear weapons, Canada will not be concerned because they are
allies. However, Iran would be concerned since they are not allies. The way we
act depends on our relations with other states at an international level. The way
we see our relationship with one another, changes how we act. Our understanding
of what is happening at the international level.
o Offers challenge to both neoliberal and neorealist assumptions about the state
system and anarchy as given
o The way we think about the world alters the way we act in the world.
o A gun in the hands of