GOVT 102 Lecture 21: International Politics Notes

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Danielle Moore International Politics Notes Fall 2013
Week 1: Overview
International Relations: One World, Many Theories (Walt)
Key Point: There is “an inescapable link between the abstract world of
theory and the real world of policy.”
Policymakers rely on their ideas on how the world works in order to make
decisions both domestically and internationally.
Competition between theories helps reveal their strengths and weaknesses.
“The study of international affairs is best understood as a protracted competition
between the realist, liberal, and radial (constructivist) traditions.”
A struggle for power among self-interested states and is generally pessimistic
about the prospects for eliminating conflict and war.
Dominant theoretical tradition throughout the Cold War- provided simple but
powerful explanations for war, alliances, imperialism, obstacles to cooperation,
and other international phenomenon.
Classical realists (Hans Morgenthau, Rein Niebuhr) believed that states had an
innate desire to dominate others, which led them to fight wars, and that the
multipolar balance-of-power system is a virtue in international affairs, seeing
hegemony as dangerous.
“Nonrealism” (Kenneth Waltz)- international system consists of a number of great
powers, each seeking to survive. System is anarchic (no central authority to
protect states from each other) each state must survive on their own.
Offense-defense theory (Robert Jervis, Geroge Quester, Stephen Van Evera)- War
is more likely when states could conquer each other easily. When defense is easier
than offense, security is more plentiful, incentives to expand decline, and
cooperation can blossom.
Defensive realists- states seek to survive; great powers can guarantee their
security by forming balancing alliances and choosing defensive military power.
Economic interdependence discourages states from using force against each other
because warfare can threaten each side’s prosperity.
Spread of democracy is the key to world peace, based on the claim that
democratic states are inherently more peaceful than authoritarian states
(Woodrow Wilson).
International institutions can help overcome selfish state behavior.
Liberalism sees states as main actors in international affairs.
Cooperation is more pervasive than self-interest.
Radical Approaches
Until the 1980’s, Marxism was the main alternate philosophy to the mainstream
liberal and realist traditions. Marxism offered a different explanation for
international conflict and a fundamental transformation of international order.
Marxists saw capitalism as the main cause of international conflict. Said that great
powers exploited smaller powers via trade and resources.
Research shows that capitalism does not lead to conflict, and socialism does not
lead to harmony. Active participation in world economy was a better route to
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Danielle Moore International Politics Notes Fall 2013
prosperity than autonomous socialist development and that smaller, developing
countries are quite capable of bargaining with greater powers.
When Marxism fell, many sought a new way of thinking based on postmodern
writings- deconstructionist” approach is openly skeptical of the effort to devise
general or universal theories and emphasizes the use of language and discourse in
shaping social outcomes.
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Danielle Moore International Politics Notes Fall 2013
Week 2: Realism
The Nature of Anarchy- The Anarchic Structure of World Politics (Waltz)
Political Structures
Key Point: International politics can be understood well through a system
Theory must show how international politics work based on a domain distinct
from the economic, social, and other international domains.
A system is composed of a structure and of interacting units. The structure allows
one to see the system as a whole. The definition of the structure must be distinct
from the attributes and interaction of units.
“Relation” is used to mean both the interaction of units and the positions they
occupy vis-à-vis each other.
Leaving out the personality and behavior of actors in international politics leaves
the positional picture of society.
Three key notes on structure-
1. Structures may endure while personality, behavior, and interactions widely
2. A structural definition applies to realms of widely different substance so long
as the arrangement of parts is similar.
3. Theories developed from one realm may with some modification be applicable
to other parts.
The concept of structures is based on the fact that units differently juxtaposed and
combined behave differently and in interacting produce different outcomes- this
can be examined to draw a distinction between expectations about behavior and
outcomes in internal and external realms.
Structure defines the arrangement or ordering of parts of a system- the
constitution of a state describes some parts of the arrangement but political
structures as they develop are not identical with formal constitutions.
Units (institutions and agencies) stand vis a vis each other in terms of super- and
subordination; political actors are also formally differentiated by degree of
A domestic political structure is defined-
1. According to the principle by which it is ordered
2. By specification of the functions of formally differentiated units
Ordering Principles
The parts of international-political systems stand in relations of coordination-
each is the equal of all the others and are decentralized/anarchic.
Authority quickly reduces to a particular expression of capability
Character of the Units
Functions of different units- hierarchy implies differentiation
States that are units of international-political systems are not formally
differentiated by the functions they perform.
International structures vary only through a change of organizing principles or
through variations in the capability of units.
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