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University of Toronto Scarborough
Political Science
Waldemar Skrobacki

Week 3 Outline I. Theories of Global Politics A. Liberalism B. Realism C. Radicalism D. Alternative Theories II. Social Scientific Study of Global Politics A. Comparisons B. Generalizations III. Theory and Evidence A. Hypotheses and Assumptions B. Specifying and Testing Hypotheses IV. The Study and Practice of Global Politics A. The Question of Policy Relevance B. The Question of Values 1. Empirical Theory 2. Normative Theory Summary I. Theories about Global Politics. By the end of World War II, three general perspectives on Global Politics had emerged: liberalism, realism, and radicalism. The perspectives lead their proponents to ask different questions, and they stress different levels of analysis in their explanations. Nevertheless, they often lead to contrasting explanations or predictions that can be tested and found to be more or less correct. The book aims to contrast explanations or predictions derived from the three perspectives. A. Liberalism. Liberals highlight representative forms of government and respect for individual rights and hope that the spread of democracy would lead to peaceful relations among states. Liberalism emphasizes the benefits of collective security and rule of international law which limits countries actions. Liberalism maintains faith in human progress and social harmony society of states. Liberalism argues that ideas, norms, and rules, as well as power and interests, determine international outcomes. B. Realism. Realists are more skeptical and believe that people are self-interested, often selfish, and seek to dominate others. They consider nation-states the most important actors in Global Politics in a self-help system where there is no higher world authority to guarantee national security. Realism is an approach to the study and practice of international politics. It emphasizes the role of the nation-state and makes a broad assumption that all nation- states are motivated by national interests, or, at best, national interests disguised as moral concerns. Realism is school of thought that explains International Relations in terms of power. This school has a long history of development and widespread geographical proponents, including Sun Tzu from China, Thucydides from Greece, and Machiavelli from Italy. The underlying assumptions of realism are that human nature is essentially selfish, that states are the most important actors, that states act like rational individuals in pursuing national interests, and that states act in an anarchic international system (with no central government). 1 C. Radicalism. The radical viewpoint stems from Marxist thought. Along with realists, radicals believe that people are motivated by self-interest and are ready to dominate others, but they concentrate primarily on economic relations. Radicals consider states to be important actors, but they also emphasize the conflicting interests of social classes. D. Alternative Theories. The three views (liberalism, realism, radicalism) form Global Politics' dominant paradigms, but they have been challenged in various ways by new perspectives like critical theory, feminism and social constructivism. These new perspectives do more than challenge the typical explanations of Global Politics offered by realism, liberalism, and radicalism to describe what states and other international actors do, and why they do it. They often reject the modes of theorizing and research that have become so commonly accepted in universities, research institutes, and policy circlesthat is, the fields dominant epistemologies. Critical, postmodern, and some feminist theories explore the implications of asking some questions and not others, of gathering some types of evidence and not others, and of evaluating that evidence in some ways and not others. In examining such previously unexamined issues, they hope to shed new light on the incompletenessor worse, the bias of our current understanding of Global Politics. 1. Social Constructivism. Constructivists recognize many of the same patterns and practices in Global Politics as do realists, liberals, and radicals, but they are wary of the tendency of mainstream perspectives to objectify these patterns and practices. Constructivists suggest that we need to recognize that established diplomatic practice, international law and organization, even what would appear to be obvious national interests like political independence and secure borders, all are socially constructed. This does not make them nonreal, but it does lead constructivists to ask and try to answer questions that are usually neglected by traditional approaches. Why do states define their interests or indeed their identities as statesthe way they do? The power of ideas is, not surprisingly, central to the constructivist approach to Global Politics. Constructivists remind us of the intersubjective quality of our images of the world. Awareness of how our understandings of the world are socially constructed, and of how prevailing ideas mold our beliefs about what is immutable and what can be reformed, allow us to see theories of Global Politics in a new, critical light. II. Social Scientific Study of Global Politics. Just as there are different views on Global Politics, there are different opinions about how Global Politics should be studied. Post-World War II thought turned to the social scientific approach, which investigates patterns of social behavior. State and non-state behavior can be compared from place to place or from one time period to another. The social-scientific approach to Global Politics assumes that patterns of behavior will become apparent, transcending the specific times, places, and people involved. Given the crucial world problems that appeared after 1945, many scholars and analysts felt that only a more systematic understanding would lead to solutions. One postWorld War II intellectual reaction to the earlier approaches was to study international relations in a scientific manner, using procedures and methods borrowed from the physical sciences. Other disciplines of study, such as economics and psychology, had borrowed from the physical sciences, and the tactic seemed to be paying off in the accumulation of knowledge. The idea was to stress comparability rather than uniquenessto look for recurring patterns and to understand particular events a emerging from these larger patterns or processes. A. Comparisons. The new social scientific approach, then, assumed that knowledge could be acquired by investigating patterns of social behaviorwhich is why the social sciences are 2sometimes called the behavioral sciences and that includes international behavior. These patterns may be investigated cross-nationally (that is, by comparisons of several states at a particular time) or longitudinally (by comparisons of conditions in one or more states at several points in time). B. Generalizations. Denying the existence of regularities would leave us to study only specific cases or to produce detailed descriptions, with no accumulation of knowledge for the scholar or policymaker. If every historical event is truly unique, and thus incomparable, the gulf between the social scientist and the critic is indeed unbridgeable. Everyone has compared two events at some time. By comparing things, we admit the possibility of certain similarities across events. Using a single event to illustrate some more general phenomenon reveals the same agreement with the principle of comparison and the possibility of patterns (generalizations). The most basic rationale for the study of social relationsthat the past can be used as some sort of guide to the futuremust also rest on the similarities of events and the existence of regularities: in short, on the possibility of comparison. While scientists believe that things are comparable and that we should search for explanations that cover many cases, it is not true that science (even the physical, or hard, sciences) promises general laws that will explain everything and predict exactly what will happen. All science is based on models, propositions, or laws that are contingent those that will hold only under certain conditions. To understand Global Politics we need to have a high tolerance for uncertainty, the imperfect state of human knowledge, and the whys of human society and politics. The phenomena are extraordinarily complex, and we know far less than we would like. III. Theory and Evidence. Research involves theories, intellectual tools that provide a way to org
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