POL208Y1 Lecture Notes - Siege Of Melos, Mechanical Equilibrium, Security Dilemma
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Tutorials start next Monday
The Different –isms
- Liberalism, etc. are paradigms; big theories about the way international relations works; group of theories
combined together is usually considered a paradigm
- How do we deal with threat? Is cooperation possible? What do actors want? What is most important for
understanding international politics? Is there possibility for change?
E.H. Carr; Twenty Years’ Crisis,, 1919-1939
- Realism: ‘places its emphasis on the acceptance of facts and on the analysis of their causes and consequences’
o Opposite to idealism; Carr coined the term realism
- Realists (Carr) believes Idealism is disconnected from facts and naïve
Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679
- English philosopher; born and lived in the time of war
- Wanted to organize social science the way Galileo understood geology; wanted to sum human relations with
- Leviathan (1651); book on groups of people
o Starts from a thought experiment; how did society look like before society existed? (Nature and men)
o The State of Nature:
“A war of every man against every man”; hardly able to sleep for fear of attack
“Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”
o The solution -> The State
- **The Logic of Hobbes’ Argument
o Man is selfish hedonist: “of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself;
He thinks that man is selfish, self-motivated only interested in our own well-being
o All people are equal, rational, and possessing a passionate love of survival (right of nature).
Right of nature = right to survive; only right we have
The protection of our own survival justifies violence against anyone
o In the interests of personal survival, people will come around to agreeing that they should renounce
their right to use violence
Agree collectively to stop violence; however, there is no one to enforce this rule
The fear of one person violating the rule is enough to prevent us from making this agreement
o This is an unstable equilibrium. The moment one party deviates from their promise, all will deviate
and war restarts.
o The creation for the Leviathan (state) enforces stability-citizens give up their independence to buy
If you deviate from the agreement, you get punished
There is a contrast between us as individuals and the leviathan (state); in this agreement, we
give up our right of nature and the leviathan enforces it
o The Leviathan gets ultimate authority and a monopoly over the use of violence
o Morality, justice, property-are social constructs imposed by the state and exist only so long as the state
is strong enough to impose them-they are tools for maintaining stability rather than inherent rights
Once the Leviathan is gone, all these socially constructed rights disappear as well
o Law is dependent on power. “Legal positivism”: justice is whatever the law says it is. An ‘unjust law’ is
There is nothing inherent, nothing natural, about law. The law is imposed by the state and the
law can be taken back from the state.
Justice is whatever the law says it is. There is no ‘unjust law’; it is an oxymoron
o *Bull: the Domestic Analogy
Domestic analogy: to take Hobbes’ story and take it one level up; instead of talking about
individuals, you talk about states in the state of nature.
From domestic level to international level
We should expect a war of everyone against everyone; the states are in a state of nature; war
should not surprise us. In absence of Leviathan, there should be war; nothing to stop
individuals from using violence against any other individuals
The only right: the right of nature (right of survival); using violence is natural; only thing that
motivates the state
o Realists see states as operating in this state of nature
o Democracy is not important for realists; they don’t care what happens inside the state; what happens
inside the state is not important for what’s happening outside the state.
Hobbes and International Relations
- The international system in a Hobbesian state of nature; individual-state/unitary actor
o Treat state as an unitary actor
- Anarchy: ‘Without leader’; the absence of higher governing authority beyond the state; no world government
o A system that lacks a leader; this is why the international system can be imagined in a state of nature;
o Anarchy does NOT mean chaos and lack of order. If you write chaos you lose points on a test
- Survival; self-help; self interest; constant potential for violence; life is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’
o Does not mean that violence happens all the time, but the potential for violence is there. At any time,
war could happen. There is nothing to stop war if state decides to start a war.
o Limited ability for cooperation, culture, prosperity, etc. with international relations
o We can never truly trust anyone else but ourselves
- Very limited potential for cooperation-unstable equilibrium-fear of defection
- No Leviathan=no room for moral considerations. Survival and self-interest are moral under anarchy.
o Human rights can distract us from the important thing (survival).
The Security Dilemma
- Time 1: Constant fear and insecurity; ‘Because any state may at anytime use force, all states must constantly be
ready either to counter force with force or to pay the cost of weakness’ (Waltz).
- Time 2: Actor A: seeks to increase her security by buying weapons/building a defensive wall/gaining allies
o By Actor A making herself more secure, it makes Actor B more insecure
- Time 3: Actor B: fears A’s improved position-enhanced sense of insecurity; forced to invest in
- Outcome: A and B are as insecure in Time 3 as they were in Time 1-only poorer; Arms race.
- The Security dilemma: how can we increase our security without threatening others?
Thucydides (5th century B.C.); The Peloponnesian War
- Lived in a time when there was a war between Athens and Sparta
- Realists generally believe the rules of international politics are relatively constant due to:
o Human nature is the same
o Structure of anarchy is constant. As long as we don’t have a world government, we have the
implications of anarchy.
- He believed the spark that started the war was when Athens decided to build a wall around its city.
- The Melian Dialogue
o Athens Vs. The people of Melos
o “The standard of justice depends on the equality of power to compel and that in fact the strong do
what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept’
o The Athenians ‘put to death all the grown men whom they took, and sold the women and children for
o International politics is about power; a war in which the powerful do what they want the weak do
what they must
o Athens falls as well…in the end, Sparta won.
Niccolo Machiavelli; 1469-1527; realist
- The Prince (book)
- Discourses (book)
- The Prince was banned from the Catholic Church.
- Machiavelli’s Approach
o Politics has its own laws.
o Understanding human nature is key for understanding politics: humans are selfish and evil;
determination/power prevails over reason
o ‘This may be said of men generally: they are ungrateful, fickle, feigners and dissemblers, avoiders of
danger, eager for gain’
o Hence the sole aim of a prince is to seek power regardless of religious or ethical considerations: ‘…he
will often be necessitated to act contrary to truth, contrary to charity, contrary to humanity, contrary
to religion…if he wishes to maintain his government’
o He disconnects religion and state. The leader need not do what religion tells him to do, but what is
necessary to amplify his power.
o “It is better to be feared than loved.”
o The end justifies the means
- “International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power…whenever [statesmen and peoples] strive to
realize their goal by means of international politics, they do so by striving for power.’-Hans J. Morgenthau
(Politics Among the Nations 1948)
- What is power?
o Morgenthau: ‘man’s control over the minds and actions of other man.’
o Or: A gets B to do something s/he would not otherwise do. How would you measure this?
o Tanks, military expenditure, military personnel, GDP, steel production, population, level of technology,
power production; social indicators: education, infant mortality, rate of tax collection, corruption
o Many hard to measure dimensions: morale, skill, intelligence, quality of diplomacy, and determination.
o Stalin: ‘the Pope! How many divisions has he got?’
If we establish that tanks are important for measuring power, does that mean that the Pope
has no power because he has no tanks? No.
o How to aggregate the measurements?
o Power is a relative term
How much power do you have is a meaningless question. Power is relative to other actors.
How much power does Canada have…in relation to US? To Haiti?
o Power is dynamic
- Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 1979
- How can we make the study of international politics more systematic and rigorous?
- You cannot falsify assumptions about human nature; wants to build a theory without making assumptions
about human nature
- The implications of anarchy (structure of international system that lacks a government)-the need to maximize
security; In the absence of state, conflict may be violent; structure of the system that defines the behaviour of
- Anarchy is constant-it is what differentiates the international from the domestic
- While anarchy is a constant-the distribution of power is not (only major powers really matter)
- Under anarchy-different distributions of power lead to different patterns of behaviour
- To understand international politics we need to focus on the world system level of analysis
- If you are a neorealist, you will always prefer the world system level of analysis
o One great power and a lot of other smaller powers, none of them big enough to threaten the great
o Ex. Rome.
o 2 great powers; allies collected around each of the great powers
o Ex. USSR and USA (cold war), Athens and Sparta
o Several great powers
o Ex. Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Austro-Hungary, Ottoman empire
o Multipolarity can look like bipolarity when states become allied
o Ex. Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy VS. Germany, austro-hungary, ottoman empire
- International relations is an objective field of study where events are governed by universal laws regardless of
religion and time
- The state is the most important actor and it is a rational and unitary actor
- The international system is anarchic (not chaotic; emphasis the lack of world government)
- States seek to maximize security/power; national interest
- The distribution of power (uni-, bi-, multipolarity) is imperative for understanding IR
- States sometimes rely on force or the threat of force to achieve their ends; the potential for violence is always
present; potential for violence forces all countries to maintain an army and always be on guard; makes us
always suspicious; cannot trust all countries all the time
- We should focus on what is, not on what ought to be.
Liberalism, etc. are paradigms; big theories about the way international relations works; group of theories combined together is usually considered a paradigm. Realism: places its emphasis on the acceptance of facts and on the analysis of their causes and consequences": opposite to idealism; carr coined the term realism. Realists (carr) believes idealism is disconnected from facts and na ve. English philosopher; born and lived in the time of war. Wanted to organize social science the way galileo understood geology; wanted to sum human relations with scientific facts. Leviathan (1651); book on groups of people: starts from a thought experiment; how did society look like before society existed? (nature and men, the state of nature: A war of every man against every man ; hardly able to sleep for fear of attack. Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short : the solution -> the state.