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Old Sunday, March 27, 2011
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Default International Relations: Theories and application

I am an active member of Academia-research, a UK based research academy. I provided them with this article which i share here as a help to candidates who opt for IR. I took help from some books while preparing this article. I have also included a page of works cited at last.

International relations: Theories and Applications

International relations is a subject on which scholars have different views. Some consider it a perfect discipline while others perceive it otherwise. Whatever the perception regarding international relations remains, it has assumed an overriding importance after the emergence of Nation-state system. It seeks for contacts among nations worldwide. Again question, regarding which contacts are international relations, arises and scholars also have difference of opinions on the issue of relations in real sense. For better comprehension of these relations, scholars have proposed various theories. In fact, these theories are approaches towards understanding of international politics among the nations. These theories offer intellectual capacity to analyze international relations through rationale. Moreover, these theories have relevance to international arena and importance can be gauged from their application to it. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate these theories and their applications in this pretext.
For this reason, I have structured this paper into main sections in which international relations, explanation of theory and core popular theories are discussed, and various sub sections of the core theories and other conflicting ways of thinking which are increasingly gaining recognition to have conceptual framework of international relations. Furthermore, I have also discussed applications of these theories after their detailed description. I end this work with latest applications of these theories to their significance with modern state-system and international relations as a whole. Prior to elaborate theories, it is important to have a look at what international relations are.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

International relations are relations, contacts or dealings of one state with other states for mutual benefits at international arena. “The study of International relations can be traced to E.H. Carr's The Twenty Years Crisis which was published in 1939 and to Hans Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations published in 1948” (Burchil et al. 1). Not only diplomatic relations, but also economic, social and cultural associations fall within the purview of international relations in this highly globalized world. Scholars, being at variance in this regard have taken narrower and broader view of it. Those who take narrower view consider international relations purely diplomatic interaction among nations whereas scholars who take broader view include social interaction, trans-cultural intercourse and economic dealings within the limits of international relations. To have grasp of all kind of contacts among nations, scholars have proposed theories.

THEORY
A theory is a set of ideas, a perception or speculation as opposed to action based on profound observation by significant scholars and philosophers. It is instrumental for a certain concept to be established as an established fact. Philosophers professing respective theory make out only positive side of the theory and ignore dark side of their respective theory altogether. Similarly, in international relations scholars consider their respective theories as applicable to the discipline and negate other school of thoughts.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORIES

Main theories of international relations are realism and liberalism. Theory of constructivism has also gained popularity in recent times in international relations. Further, institutionalism, Marxism, functionalism and feminism are inconsistent ways of thinking, playing major role in international relations’ comprehension. These theories are helpful in making international relations a conceptual domain to understand nature of contacts among nations. They also help shape foreign policies and plan economic interaction.
Realism. One of the dominant theories of international relations since the inception of this discipline is theory of realism. Early writers such as Thucydides, Machiavelli and Rousseau are said to be among the supporters of this theory (Jackson 7). These scholars assume that nation-states, particularly sovereign ones, being unitary in form and geographically based are the main characters of international system having no central authority to govern them. As a result, in the absence of central governing body, there prevails a state of disorder and ushers power struggle among nations in pursuance of their national interests. This power politics leads to lawlessness and anarchism which keeps survival of nations at stake. Therefore, it is of prime importance to safeguard state and for this no nation be relied upon and self help be made key factor to ensure security.
Realism took its advanced form lately and began to be called as neo-realism. It was advanced by Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics. “This strand of theory is also called modern realism” (Lamy 127). In neo-realism, state behavior is explained in terms of effect of structure and structure is defined as ordering principle of international system and distribution of capabilities (waltz Wikipedia.com). Neo-realism emphasizes that there are many factors which determine national power which include tangible and intangible determinants whereas, political realism calls attention to military power alone.
Liberalism. Liberalism has its origin in idealist philosophers or Utopians. Liberalism stands for state’s internal political strength as the key factor for its foreign policy. It further lays emphasis on state preferences rather than national power as primary determinant of state activities. Since different states have different preferences depending upon various factors so, they are bound to perform different behaviors at international arena. It is unlike of realism because realism strictly stands at variance with liberalism so far as question of plurality of activities is concerned. Scholars holding broader view of international relations have similarity with liberals. It is chiefly because liberalism seeks out broader perspective of international relation. Liberals do not confine contacts to security and politics, but look for cultural and economic interaction. Political and security based relations are called high politics and cultural accompanied with economic interaction is called low politics in international relations’ jargon. To them such a behavior can offer more opportunities of cooperation and this could lead to interdependence. Thus peace would be achieved this way.
Another question which has increasingly become an issue of debate lately is: liberal nations are peace loving and hardly go on war with other nations. On the other hand, realists perceive it the other way out. Among liberal nations fewer conflicts have come to surface in global scenario. The rational of this argument is that liberal nations have their own mild way of conducting international diplomacy based on cooperation and
compromise. Conversely, realists conduct diplomacy in the manner which stands far apart from peace loving nations. Further, economic interdependence and mutual cooperation is also viewed as factors making war less probable among liberal
democracies. Economic interaction goes far beyond so far as peace among nations is concerned. Presently, economic strength is considered real strength of any nation and no nation can expand economic spectrum without friendly atmosphere across the nations. Thus, war stands in conflict with economic progress and liberalism supports economic expansion across the globe.
Like realism, liberalism also has an advanced version which is popularly known as neo-liberalism. It has the goal of achieving maximum profit rather than relative gain. For this purpose, they perceive different organizations and institutions instrumental for the extension of mutual profitable ventures. Neo-liberalism is more concerned with mutual wins rather than wars. It visualizes institutionalism as major system which could provide maximum opportunities to states for their economic progress.

CONSTRUCTIVISM

To shake dominance of neo-liberalism and neo-realism theories, constructivism has assumed an overriding significance. “Constructivist international relations theories are concerned with how ideas define international structure, how this structure defines the interests and identities of states and how states and non-state actors reproduce this structure?” (Barnett 162). Constructivism theory has come to surface and rapidly has gained popularity. It argues that credible thoughts, cooperative ideals and social significance are factors which shape intercontinental political principles in actuality and it gives meaning to this material world so far as its conceptual framework is concerned. Its trustworthiness was accepted when theories of realism and liberalism failed to rightly interpret the end of cold war. It was appropriate time for constructivism to assert its credibility. Its foremost emphasis is upon international relations as being social construction. Comparing realism and liberalism with constructivism, it comes down that realism deals with politics and security at international level and liberalism stands for economic interdependence mostly at international arena and domestic domain whereas constructivism appears to have concern with function of thoughts in shaping political affairs across the globe.
Constructionist theory looks at ideas, thoughts and perceptions which encourage nations to establish their relations with other nations at global level. It also argues that fears and threats shape the foreign policy of a country. Nations which are at variance are often related in terms of constructionist theory. Armament in any antagonist country is viewed as highly alarming and thus, foreign policy and defence strategy is reshaped immediately. The Constructivist, for this factor, opine that these fears and threats could have far-reaching effects at international system.
Along with these theories in prominence, there have arisen a number of other conflicting ways of thoughts, which have also gained a great deal of fame only in the wake of cold war.

MARXISM

Marxism is a theory of international relations which asserts that economic considerations are of supreme importance. They precede all other concerns. Marxists believe that class consciousness and elevation of class greatly shape the politics of the world. They accept as true that international system is a system of capitalism and accumulation of wealth. Marxists deny theories which stand for security or even cooperation, but they primarily focus on materialism and capitalism. This theory has achieved prominence and credibility after the fall of communist block and disintegration of Soviet Russia.

FUNCTIONALISM

This theory is an outcome of European integration. Functionalists while considering motivating forces for achieving national interests, consider common interests among nations as supreme. Comparing with realists, it is unlike of them because they consider self-interests prime and deny other factors. Functionalism, in this sense, is less commonly used in international relations. It is viewed as concerns with functions of a system. On the other hand, functionalism, if visualized in its theoretical sense, determines that once attention towards common interests increases, it becomes less possible to resist this flow. Its progress, though sometimes be slowed, yet mark its existence because it gives numerous other rounds of common ventures to go on.
Along with these approaches, feminism, institutionalism, post-structuralism, green theory, regime theory, are some approaches to be taken into account. They are theories in no strict sense so; I do not discuss them here in detail. Theories discussed above have a profound impact on international political arena. They play pivotal role in making and remaking of defence strategies and shaping and reshaping of foreign policies provided necessity of the hour. Turning towards applications of the international relations, it is of prime importance to understand what application actually mean. To put it simply, it is function of the discipline or the purpose which this subject serves in academic institutions of the world. Importance of international relations can be well elaborated through its applications and relevance to international political field.

APPLICATIONS

International relations help understand the basic motives underlying the policies of various countries in the international sphere and the reasons which contribute to their ultimate success or failure. Nations which succeed to steer strong foreign policies seems to have good international relations with other nations as a result eventual friendly relations come into existence. These policies seek to pursue economic cooperation, cultural transaction, social interaction and diplomatic dealings. For instance, economic cooperation between USA and India, diplomatic contacts between England and France and cultural intercourse between western countries are glaring examples in this regard.
Another application of international relations is: it provides an opportunity to have an insight to the problems facing the world and to face them. Problems in the fields of economy, trade, military and social spheres are deeply analyzed through theories of international relations. Furthermore, to face these problems effectively, nations, governments, Non-government institutions and multi-national companies endeavor to follow course of action offered by international relations’ theories and principles. Military threats, economic sanctions and social barriers are the problems present day nations are confronted with. Thus, international relations are instrumental in successfully dealing with these troubles.
This discipline also helps understand that narrow nationalism is the bane of humanity and possess a serious threat to the world peace. Since nationalism instigates people of a nation to achieve national interests on any cost, they even follow realism for this purpose. Their policies are guided by feelings of superiority and excessive individualism. International relations, in this pretext, aware nations that such exclusiveness leads to violence and war so, such behavior must be done away with to avoid confrontations and hostilities.
Study of international relations further signifies that conflicts are bound to arise so long as nations try to view problems subjectively and give precedence to national interests over all other considerations. Nations tend to behave in a hostile manner when it comes to national interests. In connection with achieving these national interests, states try to increase their national power which ultimately leads to hostilities. International relations help understand that if peace is desired an objective outlook is necessary so long as problems at international arena are concerned. An objective stance would plunge nations into confrontations because nations tend to behave aggressive under such behavior.
Another application of international relations is that traditional relations between the nations have become outmoded and need modification. It further signifies that relations in past had only diplomatic foundations while, presently, the world has become highly globalized and contacts among the nations are not based not political fronts, but on economic, cultural and social spheres. Therefore, modern theories of international relations also assert that interaction among the nations be modified on modern lines.
Study of international relations has greatly contributed to strengthening the feeling among member states that they must try to conduct their relations along peaceful lines and avoid military pacts and alliances. Earlier relations among the nations used to be conducted on security lines which often would lead to conflicts. Nations with similar ideologies would form alliances to clash with adversaries unilaterally. With the emergence of international relations as a set of principles and conceptual frameworks, nations have realized that conflicts and enmity leads to violence and ultimate destruction whereas peaceful coexistence could only be achieved through nonviolent means. To achieve this goal, states reshape their foreign policies thereby altering their relations from traditional ones to modern ones.
One of the major applications of international relations is international law. International law is a body of rules and principles to govern states’ activities across the globe. International law started to be studies under international relations properly after the establishment of United Nations Organization. This body governs all type of actions of nations and seeks to correct them in case of failure to meet peaceful lines. Though international relations are some times conducted brushing aside principles of international law, this application has controlled conflicting behaviors through prescribed yardstick. For example, jurisdiction of the members of the international community is largely regulated by international law. Further, problems relating bilateral relations, flights and technological assistance, international law has played pivotal role.
Moreover, international economics also began to be studies and controlled under international relations. World trade organization, international monetary fund and other economic organizations are studied and regulated under international relations’ assumptions and policies. Besides, economic assistance and cooperative ventures find their existence with reference to applications of international relations. Situations and conditions for loan, aid and assistance are also determined with reference to international relations and their impacts on international economic scene. International relations also provide a ground for economic sanctions on nations provided they violate international code of conduct and disturb peace globally.
Besides these applications, international relations are also significant in regards to national and international organizations. National organizations though having domestic area of influence are supervised by international set of laws. They cannot function without restraints worldwide. Nations, in this pretext, are made bound to administer activities of their respective national organizations for smooth functioning of policies internationally. Barring national organizations, international organizations also draw their management from international regulatory authorities. These organizations, being of worldwide nature, also have to observe and follow international relations’ assumptions and theories.
International relations also provide extensive ground for establishment of regional blocks. Though these regional blocks are outcome of military, political, economic, social and cultural compulsions yet they are regulated by international law and international inspectors. For example, Shinghai Cooperation Organization was established to follow their motive professing anti-extremism, anti-terrorism and anti-separatism. It has international obligations and international law has its profound impact on functioning of the same. Association of South East Asian Nations, European Union and Organization of Islamic Countries etc are also glaring examples in above connection.
Study of international relations also has significance with respect to nature of relations a nation has with other sovereign states. Not only nature of relations but also formulation of foreign policy for persistent pursuance of these relations are made worthy by international relations. International relations further determine the implications of military ties and alliance between two nations around region. International relations also guarantees that conflicts between two neighboring countries should not disturb balance of power in the region thereby upset international peace till conflict is resolved through peaceful negotiations.
Together with other applications, international relations also have put forward principles of effective diplomacy. Diplomatic emissaries’ appointment, their privileges and indemnities are managed by international system. For conflict management among two warring nations, international relations offer various grounds and forums under the supervision on internationally approved governing bodies. Through diplomacy, relations between nations are established and maintained along peaceful lines.
Furthermore, military strategies and their implications are also taken into account by international bodies. Any nation posing serious threat to international harmony is dealt with table talks in the inception and then with an iron hand provided failure of diplomatic talks. This behavior of international relations justifies peaceful coexistence impartially. No nation is allowed to either further their military might or arms accumulation. Thus the subject deals with violence and militarism with stiff behavior to keep balance of power constant.
Nuclearization, lately, has assumed profound importance in international relations. Nukes are a peril if utilized for the destruction of world peace and security and a boon if used for easiness in many ways. Horrible incidents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still alive as alarming sirens at international political scene. Usage of nukes for this purpose has strictly been checked by international arrangements. Treaties to reduce accumulation of nuclear weapons and armament have proved to be essence of global security. Non-proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are shining examples to worth name.
Ideological warfare is another front which international relations have successfully dealt with. Ideological blocks are even worse then military ones. They stand for extreme dogma of being exclusive. This has been a dangerous predisposition. To put this tendency international relations has evolved codes of conduct to assuage extremist feelings of nations with similar ideologies. It is also instrumental in making sovereign nations aware of the farcical dogmas and their perilous impacts on international peace and security.
Finally, international relations propose various implications so long as contacts and dealings among the nations are concerned.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, it can be asserted that theories, proposed by scholars of the subject, are helpful in having a comprehended approach towards assumptions of international political system. They offer deep and profound conceptual framework for analytical judgment of the subject. Along with theories, applications of the discipline lead to maximum approach towards relations among nations and problems they are confronted presently. Well calculated solutions of the troubles overwhelmingly signify importance of the subject and its applications.


Works cited

Burchil, Scott., Linklater, Andrew. "Introduction" Theories of International Relations, Palgrave, 2005. Print
Jackson, Robert. Classical and modern thought on international relations. Print
Lamy, Steven, Contemporary Approaches: Neo-realism and neo-liberalism in "The Globalization of World Politics, Baylis, Smith and Owens, OUP, 4th ed, Print
Barnett, Michael. "Social Constructivism" in The Globalization of World Politics, Baylis, Smith and Owens, 4th ed, OUP, Print
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