POL B80 Tutorial Notes Package
POL B 80 – Tutorial 1
Structuring an Essay / Realism
I: Basic Structure of an Essay
A – Introduction
Should be a length in proportion to the length of your overall paper – e.g., for a 12-page
paper you are looking at around 1- 1 ½ pages.
Should begin by introducing the topic in an engaging way. No need to go on at length,
you have the rest of your paper for that.
Should clearly provide a thesis statement – i.e., the argument that the paper will be
To make your thesis statement clear, you could say:
This paper will argue....
In this paper, I will be arguing....
Or whatever. Just be sure to state your argument clearly. And try to do it in the first page.
Introduction should provide you and the reader with a basic road-map of the paper. This
will help prevent both of you from getting lost.
For example you might write on the first essay topic regarding the obsolescence of war.
In this case, you might include the following somewhere in your introduction:
Incorporating a positivist methodology, this paper will conduct a survey of major armed
conflicts over the 20 century. Of particular interest will be the types of actors involved
(i.e., states and/or sub-state actors), the level at which conflict occurs (i.e., inter- or intra-
national) and the relative frequency with which such conflicts have occurred over time.
However, prior to proceeding it is useful to provide a brief literature review.
B - Literature Review / Justification
Should not cover every single article and book that you are going to use.
However, it should provide a concise summary of the general state of the literature
regarding the topic that you are examining. This might include: A mention of Prominent articles/books that have been written on the
topic and a brief overview of the argument(s) that this literature presents.
Any major disagreements that appear to exist between the authors of this literature.
Any “gaps” in the literature – e.g., interesting aspects of the topic, or facts about the topic
that the literature has not yet examined.
From this discussion of the literature, you should be able to draw a justification for your
For example, if very little has been written on the topic, this could be a justification. Or if
the literature has failed to address something about the topic that you think is important,
this could be a justification. Or some new facts could have come to light since anything
serious was written on the topic. Or whatever.
C – Methodology
A brief discussion on How you are going to go about researching the topic.
This should include:
The basic theoretical approach you are going to take (see Ch. 11 of Jackson & Sorenson)
Why you think this approach is useful and more appropriate than other potential
approaches for the topic you are covering and the things you are trying to learn about that
Mention of the specific things you have done to gather information (e.g., media analysis,
tracing a certain bureaucratic process, analysing government documents, using a
statistical database, etc.) and some justification of why these things are useful in
examining your topic.
D – Empirical Presentation
This is where you present the information that is relevant to your argument.
Of course, focus on the information that tends to support your argument.
However, try to be fair and honest in your presentation. If there are important facts that
tend to contradict your argument, discuss them too.
E – Analysis This is where you take the empirical information presented above and discuss it in a way
that supports your argument.
However, if there are certain facts that appear to contradict your argument, you might
want to either show that, when examined in another way, they actually do not contradict
your argument. Conversely, you could accept that they challenge your position and posit
a potential revision to your initial argument.
Note: D and E could be combined into one section.
F – Conclusion – Provides a brief re-statement of your argument and the information you
have presented in its defence. Should provide the reader with enough information that
they can finish with a complete “picture” of what the paper was all about.
II – Realism
Contemporary realism borrows its understanding of human nature from classical writers
such as Hobbes and Machiavelli
Thus, people are seen to be basically selfish in their goals and, as a result, insecure in
their relations with others.
The best way to achieve one's goals is to increase one's power. However, if everyone is
out to increase their power, then the problem of mutual insecurity persists.
One solution to this problem is for people to bind themselves and each other to the
authority of the organized state.
By extension, this implies that outside of the state the drive for power and resulting
This is what is termed “Anarchy” - i.e. The absence of overarching authority – NOT the
absence of any co-operation at all.
Thus, early 20 Century realists such as Hans Morgenthau draw an important line
between the private and public spheres.
That is, the rules of morality that hold between private citizens should be neither
expected nor desired in relations between states, which have a responsibility to protect
their citizens from the security threats posed by other states.
Thus the emphasis on the balance of power in international relations – i.e., to discourage
any one state from driving towards world domination and provoking violent responses.
Another important line is drawn between affairs regarding security (i.e., “high-politics”)
and economics (i.e., “low-politics”). That is, realists believe that security concerns will always take priority over economic
Thomas Schelling was an early proponent of making political analysis a true science, in
which subjective understandings are not an important consideration.
For example, it doesn't really matter whether your opponent is a dictatorial tyrant like
Kim Jong Il, or a nice guy like Obama. So long as your opponent is a rational thinker, he
or she should respond to a given situation in more or less predictable ways.
Thus, unlike earlier realists who were concerned that state leaders should behave in a
certain way, scholars like Schelling were more interested in understanding how such
actors WILL behave. Similarly, rather than the formulation of appropriate goals,
Schelling would have focussed on how goals should be achieved irrespective of their
POL B80 Tutorial 2 – Liberalism
Liberals typically accept the concept of international anarchy, but have different
understandings of how states will potentially behave within anarchy.
Key assumptions shared by liberals / distinguishing liberals from realists:
1. A more positive view of human nature compared to realists – Accept that human's
are self-interested and competitive, but only to a point. Thus human reason can
overcome the drive for power and related human insecurity that, according to
realists, make the threat of conflict and war inevitable and perpetual.
2. A belief in the power of progress to increase the scope and need for co-operation
– here the notion of progress is focused on the individual, which has implications
for liberal understandings of the state.
3. Thus, while realists tend to view the state more in terms of a collective
compromise designed to overcome the security dilemma (i.e., al la Hobbes),
liberals are more inclined to view the state ideally in terms of a constitutional
agreement that protects individual rights and freedoms while facilitating more
efficient co-operation via the institutionalization of norms, rules and decision-
making procedures (a la Locke).
3. The belief that IR can be co-operative as opposed to purely conflictual.
Note the importance of the above understandings for liberal theorists such as Bentham –
who felt that the creation of international law can facilitate co-operation between states
just as it does within states; and Kant – who believed that liberal states with relatively equitable constitutions will be more likely to foster mutual respect amongst their own
citizens and, in turn, amongst each other – thus leading to peaceful international relations.
Note also that the Kantian peace thesis still plays an active role today in the form of
ongoing research into the notion that democracies very rarely, if ever, go to war against
Note also the contrast here with realists, who are more likely to argue that the internal
political orientation of states does not matter as mutual insecurity will persists in any
Of course, not all liberals are equally optimistic about human nature, the ability of
progress to promote co-operation, or the extent to which co-operation between states is
Nor do all liberals emphasize the same factors of analysis.
For example, sociological liberals emphasize the study of individuals, groups and
societies, as opposed to a focus on inter-governmental relations.
Why? Because they argue that overlapping, interdependent relations between states will
promote greater co-operation.
Note the contrast between a “cobweb” model of IR as opposed to the “billiard-ball”
model accepted by many realists.
Note the distinction between sociological liberals and interdependence liberals, who
acknowledge the growing importance of transnational actors, and emphasize the
importance of modernization and the creation of complex linkages between states, but
still focus primarily on states and state-run international organizations.
Note how theory can inform our units of analysis and the things we want to explain about
Note also that “categories” such as the 4 provided for liberalism are rarely clearly
demarcated – i.e., in some ways they clearly overlap with each other, and it is difficult to
sort scholars into one category or another.
Thus, for example, it can be seen how a scholar that is interested in complex
interdependence could also be interested in trans-national societies and international
POL B80 Tutorial 3 - IPE
It is commonly argued that the study of politics seeks to discover who gets what, where,
when and why? Thus, it is in the complex interplay of power and wealth that the study of political
economy becomes relevant.
Why the traditional separation of economics and politics?
Jackson and Sorenson offer two potential reasons:
1. The overwhelming effect of two world wars, and the ensuing cold war, on the
thinking of politicians and academics – i.e., because the use and threat of power
during the hot and cold wars was so apparent, it took precedence over and became
conceptually separated from economics;
2. The Western liberal economic tradition of separating politics from economics in
domestic activity may have led thinkers to separate them theoretically when
understanding the roots of power and conflict.
This separation became increasingly questioned from the 1970s onwards. Why?
A number of reasons related to growing pressure on US relations with its allies and the
Bretton Woods system of institutions they established after WWII (i.e., the WTO, IMF,
This pressure arose from a number of reasons, including growing US financial
commitments to the Vietnam War and the 1973 oil crisis resulting from the formation of
OPEC and resultant price-setting activities.
The US responds to the resulting pressure on its gold reserves and balance of trade by
ending its commitment to the gold standard and unilaterally imposing a 10% tariff on a
broad range of imported goods. Often referred to as the “Nixon Shocks”.
This episode raised many concerns regarding the US commitment to the post-War
international economic order, as well as US concerns regarding its place atop the
For example, after more than 2 decades of post-War rebuilding it was increasingly the
case that Europe and Japan were coming to compete with US as exporters of high-end
manufactures. As a result, the US became wary of its past habit of overlooking European
and Japanese “cheating” on their multilateral commitments in terms of the GATT.
The episode also made clear to scholars and policy makers alike the manner in which
political circumstances can alter economic fortunes and vice versa.
Mercantalism Mercantalist thinking arose in conjunction with the emergence of the modern states in the
16th and 17th centuries.
This in turn was connected to the emergence of industrialization as the driver of state
economies and the decline of feudalism.
Discuss the rise of economic specialization and cities.
The increasing connectedness of political units via industrialization allowed from the
greater unification of political power under a sovereign authority.
This in turn required a more sophisticated centralized administrative system, or what we
have come to understand as the modern bureaucracy.
Now, running a bureaucracy of any sort – e.g., a postal service, an army – requires
Mercantalists thus argued then, as certain realists might argue today, that the role of the
economy is to fuel political power, which in turn creates the authority to control more
land and people, and in turn create more economic wealth.
In this view, then, the economy is subordinated to political considerations, primarily that
of enhancing state power. Further, government intervention into the economy in pursuit
of political objectives was encouraged.
Becoming too economically dependent on other states is a risky business, and should be
avoided. Further, because power considerations are primary, economic competition
between states becomes a “zero-sum” game in which states care more about relative
gains than absolute gains – i.e., if the other state gains more, it gets more powerful at
your expense. This tends to make economic cooperation difficult to achieve.
That is, economic self-sufficiency allows for political self-sufficiency, and if it comes
down to trade or sovereignty, the choice will always be sovereignty. Security interests
trump economic interests.
Mercantalist thinking began to give way to liberal economic ideas in many Western
countries during the late 17 and 18th Centuries with the late industrial revolution and the
expansion of international trade. However, it has persisted, particularly among emerging
economies playing catch-up. For example, 19 Century German and American thinkers
promoted government intervention to protect infant industries until those countries caught
up with Great Britain.
However, it should be noted that most realists today are probably at least somewhat
knowledgeable about and supportive of market forces. When people speak of
mercantalism today they are usually referring to government efforts to interfere in the
economy as opposed to complete subordination of economic to political goals. Economic Liberalism
Emerges in the late 16th and 17th Centuries as a response to the regulation – or as
proponents of economic liberalism such as Adam Smith might have argued “over-
regulation” - of the economy by the state.
The key understanding here is that individual rational economic preferences will lead to
optimal levels of supply and demand both domestically and internationally.
Thus, both in terms of domestic regulations (e.g., subsidies to preferred industries) and in
terms of border regulations (e.g., tariffs), the state should back off to the greatest extent
These ideas are intimately connected to that of Free Trade and Comparative Advantage.
That is, even if country A produces both Wine and Wool more efficiently than country B,
it serves both countries' interest for A to focus its attention on producing whichever of
Wine and Wool it produces most efficiently and import the other from B.
In this sense, trade can be mutually profitable to both A and B. If we extend the idea to
the global community of states, it can be see how in the liberal conception free trade can
benefit all states, weak and powerful.
Of course, this assumes that states are not completely pre-occupied with relative gains in
light of security considerations. That is, it assumes that with appropriate institutions in
place states can cooperate in pursuit of mutual absolute gains.
The liberal view also sees individuals and other non-state actors as important drivers of
the economy, as opposed to mercantalists who see the State and its security objectives at
the center of economic activity.
Thus we can see how mercantalism and liberal economic thought diverge along lines that
are very similar to the political theories of realism and liberalism that we have been
discussing. However, it should be noted that not all liberals believe that markets are or
should be entirely free of government intervention. All would recognize that all markets
are, at least to some degree, in fact regulated by states - and many would argue that they
should be regulated in light of market failures.
Marxism, Hegemony & HST
1) Marxism Unlike liberals of his time, the 19 Century German philosopher and economist Karl
Marx rejected the notion of a rationally operating economic sphere that operates best in
the absence of political interference.
Rather, Marx saw economics and politics as being closely intertwined. Who does this
remind us of?
What is the major difference between the realist view and the Marxist view?
Where realists see economics as a tool of politics that will always play second fiddle to
political interests (e.g., security), Marxists see economic interests as primarily influencing
What was the key unit of analysis for classical Marxists?
What are the classes most often associated with Marx? The Bourgeoisie (Capitalist class)
and the Proletariat (working class).
Thus, under a capitalist economy, which combines industrial machinery (forces of
production) and private ownership (relations of production), the Bourgeoisie is able to
control the political sphere through their control over capital and the subjugation of the
However, Marx anticipated that eventually the proletariat would rise up to demand
greater control over social forces of production, just as the peasant class rose up to claim
ownership over their labor during the revolutions of the 17 and 18 Century that
changed the face of Europe.
Thus, for Marx capitalism was not necessarily a bad thing, but rather a imperfect step on
the path to a better future in which more equitable relations of production supported by
collective – as opposed to private – property rights would prevail.
Was Marx right?
In some ways perhaps, but in his major predictions, no. There are some fairly substantial
empirical facts standing in the way of classical Marxist theory, including the
collapse/transformation of most of the worlds major socialist systems, as well as the
historical deal struck between labor and capital after the second World War, which saw
the rise of the welfare state. Thus, the revolution as Marx predicted it, never came.
However, important themes of Marxism have persisted to influence IR theory. Primary
here is the notion that states are not entirely autonomous as political units. Rather they are driven in their actions by the interest of the ruling class. Similarly, conflict and
cooperation between states should be examined in the context of competition between
Also, interesting to note that much post-positivist scholarship – e.g., critical theory, post-
modernism - has emerged from earlier Marxist scholarship. However, this kind of
thinking represents a distinct break from the highly materialist nature of earlier Marxist
work – i.e., political outcomes are based on class preferences, which are in turn based on
economic/material incentives. These newer schools of thought maintain the Marxist
understanding that political theory is always for somebody (e.g., the bourgeoisie) and can
never be entirely objective, but are interested in the power of ideas in a way classical
Marxists were not.
2) Hegemony & Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST)
What is a Hegemon? It is a state with both the means and the will to establish a preferred
system of economic and political cooperation within its sphere of influence.
Note that being wealthy and powerful is not sufficient for Hegemony. In a primary sense
this because a state must be willing to play the role of Hegemon. For example, some have
argued that the collapse of international order between the WWI-WWII was due to US
isolationism – i.e., it was the only state powerful enough to support international regimes
in trade, finance, security, etc., but at that time it was not interested in doing so.
What kind of means does a hegemon need? Power. What kind of power? Military might
is not necessarily enough. Unless the system is one of pure domination, may also need
economic power (e.g., a large domestic market, attractive exports, lots of capital) to
attract other states to your preferred institutions. Some (e.g., Nye) also argue that soft
power is becoming more important towards maintaining hegemonic influence.
Note also that Hegemonies do not necessarily have to be global or liberal. For example,
prior to the 19 Century China was at the center of a regional hegemonic order in East
Asia that was based on tributes to the center as opposed to free trade and financial
However, the two hegemonies most often discussed in Western IR theory are the British
and the American, both of which were more than regional, if not global (e.g., the US
system did not include the USSR), and promoted liberal economic systems.
Of course, this is not to argue that hegemonic systems are best explained by liberal
scholars. Quite to the contrary, some of the earliest thinking on the role of Hegemons in
IR was produced by realists in the form of HST.
What is HST? At its core it suggests that global or regional systems of institutional order
require the stabilizing presence of a Hegemon – not only to be created but also to persist.
This role is primarily related to discouraging other states from “cheating” on rules/“free- riding” on the benefits (i.e., public goods) of the system while not contributing
significantly to its maintenance.
For example, by the 1950s-60s the economic dominance of the US over trade competitors
had begun to diminish as European economies and Japan began to flourish in light of
post-WWII rebuilding efforts. Some proponents of HST tied these events to a weakening
of the benefits the US could accrue from the system it spearheaded at Bretton Woods and,
as such, a weakening of US commitment to maintaining the system. This, they argued
could help explain US unilateral movements away from the system (e.g., the Nixon
Counterarguments? Some realists and other scholars debated whether or not the US had
actually experienced a significant decline vis-à-vis competitors. However, others – and
particularly liberals like Keohane – argued that international regimes need not decline
alongside Hegemonic decline.
Why? Because after they are created, international institutions designed to lower
transaction costs in international exchanges can