International Relations 105
A Study of International Politics
International Relations: IR Theory
Generalizable Explanations: All theories must be explicitly generalizable to all theories being
Theories will not apply to one hundred percent of cases; however they should be able to apply to
most cases. The theory must have logic, however logic alone is not enough, a logical theory must
have empirical evidence to support it.
THEORIES MUST APPLY TO A MAJORITY OF CASES.
A theory functions to explain past events and further serves to solve/predict future problems to
improve the world. It does this by providing a causal(XY) explanation using empirical
(------) Is the causal chain, the chain of logic from the cause to the outcome.
Theories should not be degenerated, do not add variables to a theory. With multiple causal
variables it is impossible to know which variable has the greatest effect.
Parsimony – The least amount of variation in the outcome, the lowest number of independent
variables applying to the largest number of outcomes.
Theoretical Degeneration – to add to the independent or add more independent variables – hurts
the strength of the explanation, hurts parsimony. Trying to explain every case leads only to a
theory which explains everything using everything.
Anarchy – Not Chaos, but the absence of any known authority over the concept of the sovereign
state: Anarchy implies there is no possibility of world govt.
State – Sovereign territories that have political and territorial autonomy and integrity. The state
makes its own political laws; territorial autonomy is defined by the creation of borders that are
respected by other states. A state is defined by its sovereignty, self-rule/self-determination. The system of international sovereignty was founded by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, these
treaties began with a rejection of the idea that the church ruled the decisions of the state. 1815 is
the first sign of true nation-states, this movement was in part spurred by the French and
American Revolutions. Anarchy – Not Chaos, but the absence of any known authority over the
concept of the sovereign state: Anarchy implies there is no possibility of world govt.
Systems Structures, and Actors
A system is a group of states that can be grouped together as a result of geography, exports,
religion, population, etc.
Structure: The way in which a system is ranked, typically power, however participation in
international institutions, compliance with international treaties, etc. Structures server to order
and organize the international political system.
Individuals: Are the ultimate decision makers for states, however the effect they have and the
power they wield is under debate.
Levels of Analysis
st nd rd
Kenneth Waltz: Man, the State, and War, theorized that there are 1 , 2 , and 3 Images, which
allow for different viewpoints of an issue.
1 Image: Individuals. Cause is found in individuals or small groups based on characteristics.
Biological or psychological, THEY CAUSE. Not as theoretically as rigorous others. Ex.
Hitler(WWII), Saddam(Gulf War)
Once an individual is identified as a potential cause, the other levels of analysis must be brought
into play to see if the absence of that individual would‟ve had a major effect.
2 Image: States. State centric – whatever goes on in the state is attributed to the state is causal.
What are the attributes of domestic/state level: domestic politics, regime change, crisis or change
WITHIN THE STATE, nationalism – WITHIN THE STATE; ANYTHING THAT IS
CENTRAL TO THE STATE – not an individual or something on the systemic level.
Domestic and Individual levels are considered UNIT LEVEL, not structural, they are
UNITS WITHIN THE STRUCTURE.
3 Image: Shifts in the systemic structure lead to international events. Structure or system wide
causes – power, interdependence, generalized factors that affect virtually everyone. “Systems
theory” means systemic or structural variables are causally superior to factors at the unit level.
The structure of any given system is what matters as an independent variable.
Each Image comes with a set of assumptions, to prove the application of an image, you
must contrast it to the other images. Actors
STATES ARE THE PRIMARY ACTORS IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations,
international organizations are NON-STATE ACTORS.
NGOs cannot control the actions of a state, they can simply attempt to influence the actions of a
IGOs are perhaps capable of independent actions, however a contradicting theory provides the
idea that states join IGOs only because it provides each state with the benefits of an alliance on
both regional and global scale.
Blurred line of state vs. non-state
Non-state organizations such as Al-Qaeda are able to influence foreign policy on a global scale
through minute terrorist actions.
On the other hand, states are further giving up their sovereignty to supra-national organizations
such as the European Union in return for the benefits of mutual alliances and economic strength.
Lepgold and Policy/Theory Debate
Joseph Lepgold – Claimed that the theory/policy debate is illogical and stereotypical, it is
impossible for theory to exist without the existence of policy to base those theories upon in turn
it is impossible to form policies without basing them of off some type of theory.
Realism - Theory
What is Realism?
Pragmatic explanation of the interaction amongst States. Essentially states that if a State wishes
to advance it must seize power and use it to its own advantage.
Stemmed from idealism, which was a set of world views which was a failed idea of the post
WWI period, the views had no logical bases and were normative in essence.
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations; first person to explicitly define realism and speak
on its effects upon nations. Power- The primary force in realism, power is material, it must be quantifiable. Power is
primarily quantified through military strength and economic strength.
Relative Power – The power of a State in relation to another State or system.
1. States are the primary actors in world politics
2. States are rational, they choose the best possible choice
3. States seek more power aka the preference of the state, this desire is logical, ethical, natural.
4. Balance of power is a key determinant of international politics, rapid shifts in power create
The Ascendency of Realism
Realist states rely on themselves, states must rely on themselves.
Distribution of power-or distribution of material capabilities is the independent variable, a shift
in power guarantees the loss/gain to another state.
Any increase in the power/security of a State(A) may create fear in another State(B), that
State(B) will then increase its relative power, making (A) less secure. This continues to spiral
downwards into continually worse situations such as arms races.
Often referred to as structural realism, almost entirely removes First and Second Images from
consideration, leaving only the system. Movement was spearheaded by Kenneth Waltz, “Theory