PS 280 Exam I
-1 Long Essay(30 Points)
-5 ShortAnswers(On potential Essay questions, about a paragraph each)
-10 Fill in the Blank: 2 pts each
Explain and evaluate realism, neoliberalism, and constructivism. Which theory seems most
compelling and why?
Realism is the idea that the world is competitive and conflict-based. Originating as early as the
Greek philosopher Thucydides, who wrote that fear and power govern international relations,
realism was made famous by Niccolo Machiavelli in the 16th century with his book “The
Prince”, a guide to gaining and keeping power through any means necessary. Realism is an
ammoral concept built upon the idea that humans are inherently selfish, and that each state acts
as a rational, unitary actor working to gain power, and is oftentimes characterized by a
willingness to use force.
Neoliberalism is another theory often used while evaluating approaches to international relations.
Neoliberalism is an expansion upon liberalism, or idealism, which believed that there were
morals and values in the world worth striving for. It claimed that democratic states were more
peaceful, that free trade promotes peace, that military power was not quite as salient as realists
might argue, and introduced the idea of human rights. Neoliberalism grew from liberalism to
accept that there were more actors involved international relations than just states; there were
now international organizations and multinational corporations, as well as new transnational
issues that resulted in a complex global interdependence. Neoliberalism also advocated the idea
of absolute gains-- that relationships between states should result in a gain between all states
involved, compared to realism, which was focused upon relative gains, or gaining more than the
other states involved.
Constructivism is a more recent concept of international relations, and one that claims society is
shaped by ideas and culture. This would imply that there are no inherent truths in the world,
because culture is subject to change. It also would mean that anybody can shape international
relations, because anybody can shape culture, from individuals to media to non-governmental
organizations. In constructivism, actors behave in ways that resonate with their socially
All three theories have been criticized on various levels. Realism fails to account for the
decreasing cases of international conflict, and does not offer a definition of the power or self-
interest that it promotes. Criticism of neoliberalism (and liberalism in general) mostly center
around the limitations of international organizations, a key facet in the cooperation between
states strived for by neoliberalists. Constructivism has been criticized as a difficult field to study.
While studying culture, what unit of analysis does one use? Who does one study?
Considering the criticisms of the three theories, liberalism stands out as the most compelling.As
our society grows to be more globally-oriented, the idea that states must cooperate and
compromise to solve complex transnational issues becomes more and more important.As military technology advances and wars can become more and more devastating, the ability to
avoid war becomes more important, and is something laid out in one of liberalism’s key
achievements: the formation of the UN, which states in its charter its hope to “end the scourge of
war.” The longer international organizations like the UN and NATO and the SCO are active, the
more sway and influence they will have over international relations.
Discuss the causes and systemic consequences of World War I. How does it impact IR
o Assassination of AustriaArchduke Franz Ferdinand
o Multipolarity(Many centers of power) > no hegemon(World Leader: Waiing
hegemon(World power that has world strength, military anf financial power and can
generate power) was Great Briatain)
o Alliances: Central Powers(Austiran, Ottomon Empire, Germany)/Triple Entene(France,
o Nationalism: Belief in the superioty of your country. Militarism: Belief that it is good to
use force because it brings out the greatness of your country.
o Europe’s Self Determination: Europe redrawn
-Woodrow Wilson pushing the idea that everyone in Euorpe
-Self Determination did not apply to Asia orAfrica because he did not believe they were
o League of Nations created
-Wilson’s organization that promotes peace, collective security, a forum in which all countries
can express their opinions(precursor to the UN)
o Punishment of Germany/reparations
-Germany must admit fault for the war, pay for the war
-This helps Hitler build a case for German nationalism and give Hitler cause for World War 2
o Marxism in Russia
-Marxist thoughts developed a little before the end of WWI in Russia; has big consequences as
the next few decades come
Impact on IR today
-Europe was redrawn in to separate countries and those are still the boundaries and countries we
are currently dealing with
-The creation of the League of Nations even though it was a failure was still a systemic
consequence because it was a precursor to the United Nations which still exists today and plays a
large part within world politics.
-The punishment of Germany