Theories of International Relations

World order is the power and authority distribution on the global stage by political players (Duncan et al. 30). The term "world order" may seem strange in the face of conflicting realities. Although it is assumed that states are the same in a formal sense, there are blatant inequalities between them. And some of these injustices were recognized in the form of a veto granted to five UN Security Council permanent members.  Countries often contend for influence and resources, they suspect each other's ambitions and intentions, and they argue about borders, trade, and many other issues. In fact, a dozen wars are currently taking place in countries in Asia, Africa and Europe that kill millions of people and destroy valuable property. Also, problems arise not only between states but also within states.


According to He, realism was the prevailing theoretical tradition during the Cold War (24). He portrays international affairs as a power struggle between the states concerned and is pessimistic about the prospects of eliminating conflict and wars. Realism dominated during the Cold War because it provided simple but powerful explanations for war, alliances, imperialism, obstacles to cooperation, and other international phenomena and because the emphasis on competition was central to the Soviet-Soviet rivalry (34).

Realism is obviously not a theory, and realistic thinking developed during the Cold War. "Classic" realists like Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr believed that states like humans had an innate desire to dominate others, which led to wars. Morgenthau also emphasized the merits of the classical and multipolar balance of power and considered the United States and the Soviet Union bipolar rivalry to be particularly dangerous (Rice 152). In contrast, Kenneth Waltz's "neorealist" theory ignored human nature and focused on the effects of the international system. For Waltz, the international system consisted of some major powers, each of them trying to survive (Waltz 21). The system is anarchic (that is, there is no central authority to protect states from one another), each state must survive on its own. Waltz argued that this condition would lead to weaker states balancing against stronger rivals rather than being interested. And unlike Morgenthau, he claimed that bipolarity was more stable than multi-polarity. An important refinement of realism is the addition of the defensive theory of the attack, as defined by Robert Jervis, George Quester, and Stephen Van Evera (Brown 49). These scholars argued that war was more likely when states could easily conquer. However, if the defense was easier than the offensive, the security was greater, the expansion incentives decreased, and cooperation could flourish. And if the defense had the advantage and the states could differentiate offensive weapons from defense weaponries, then States could obtain the means to protect themselves without frightening others, thus mitigating the effects of anarchy. For these "defensive" realists, states simply try to survive, and the major powers can guarantee their security by forming balanced alliances and choosing defensive military positions (such as retaliatory forces). Not surprisingly, Waltz and most other neo-realists felt that the United States was extremely safe during most of the Cold War. Their main fear was losing their favorable position through aggressive foreign policy. Thus, at the end of the Cold War, realism had departed from Morgenthau's dark reverie of human nature and adopted a more optimistic tone.


The biggest challenge to realism comes from a broad family of liberal theories. A liberal school of thought argued that economic interdependence would discourage states from using force against each other because the war would threaten the prosperity of any party. A second component, often associated with President Woodrow Wilson, saw the spread of democracy as the key to world peace, based on the assertion that democratic states are inherently more peaceful than authoritarian states (Brown 82). A third theory, which is newer, argues that international institutions such as the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund could help to overcome the selfish behavior of the state, in particular by encouraging States to act immediately Sustainable cooperation.

Even if some liberals flirted with the thought that new international actors, especially multinational corporations, were increasingly intervening in state power, liberalism regarded states as the main actors in international affairs. All liberal theories imply that cooperation is more ubiquitous than the defensive version of valid realism, but each viewpoint offered a different recipe for promoting it.

Radical Approaches

Until the 1980s, Marxism was the main alternative to traditional liberal and realistic traditions (Little and Smith 75). Where realism and liberalism took the system of the state for granted, Marxism offered both a different explanation of the international conflict and a plan to fundamentally change the existing international order. Orthodox Marxist theory saw capitalism as the central cause of international conflict. The capitalist states fought under their incessant profit war and fought against the socialist nations because they saw in them the source of their destruction. On the other hand, the neo-Marxist theory of "dependence" emphasized the relationships between the advanced capitalist powers and the less developed states, affirming that the former, supported by a secular alliance with the ruling classes of developing countries, was enriched by exploiting them. The solution was to overthrow these parasitic elites and establish a revolutionary government committed to autonomous development (Little and Smith 97). These two theories were widely discredited even before the end of the Cold War. The long history of economic and military cooperation between the advanced industrial powers has shown that capitalism does not necessarily lead to conflict.

The bitter divisions that divided the communist world showed that socialism did not always promote harmony (Art and Jervis 17). The Dependency theory has suffered similar setbacks empirically, as it became increasingly clear that, on the one hand, active participation in the world economy was a better way to wealth socialist, that self-development was; Second, many developing countries have proved capable of negotiating successfully with multinational corporations and other capitalist institutions. As Marxism succumbed to its various failures, its role was assumed by a group of scientists who travelled widely in the wave of postmodern writings in literary criticism and social theory. This "deconstructionist" approach was openly sceptical, which bothered to devise general or universal theories, such as realism and liberalism. In fact, his supporters emphasized the importance of language and discourse in shaping social outcomes. However, since these researchers were initially focused on criticizing the prevailing paradigms, but not them positive Offering alternatives, they remained selfless and conscious minority throughout most of the 1980s (Art and Jervis 66).

Domestic Politics

All Cold War studies on international affairs do not fit perfectly into realistic, liberal or Marxist paradigms. In particular, some important work has focused on the characteristics of states, government organizations or individual leaders. The democratic flow of liberal theory falls into this category as well as the efforts of scholars such as Graham Allison and John Steinbruner to use organizational theory and bureaucratic policies to explain foreign policy behavior, and those of Jervis, Irving Janis and other social and cognitive psychology. In most cases, these efforts have not attempted to provide a general theory of international behavior, but to identify other factors that could cause states to behave in ways that contradict the predictions of realistic or liberal approaches. Therefore, much of this literature should be considered as complementary to the three main paradigms, rather than a rivalling approach to the analysis of the international system as a whole.

New Wrinkles in Old Paradigms

The scholarship for international affairs has diversified considerably since the end of the Cold War. Non-American voices are more important, a wider range of methods and theories are considered legitimate, and new topics such as ethnic conflicts, the environment and the future of the state have been the focus of day researchers from around the world. However, the feeling that has already been seen is equally remarkable. Instead of solving the conflict between competing for theoretical traditions, the end of the Cold War has only triggered a new debate (Hoibraaten and Hille 54). Although many societies adopt similar ideals of democracy, free markets, and human rights, the researchers studying these developments are more ironic than ever (Hoibraaten and Hille 56).

Realism Redux

Although the end of the Cold War has led some to declare that realism was destined for an academic scrapbook, rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated. A new contribution of a realistic theory is their attention to the problem of relative and absolute profits. In response to the declaration institutionalist that international institutions would allow states to forego short-term benefits for long-term gains, realistic as Joseph Grieco and Stephen Krasner emphasize that anarchy states provide power both absolute cooperation and the way revenue distributed among the participants (Elman and Elman 188). The logic is simple: if a state makes greater profits than its partners, it gradually becomes stronger, and its partners eventually become more vulnerable. Realists have also quickly investigated a variety of new topics. Barry Posen offers a realistic explanation of the ethnic conflict, noting that the multiethnic states could place rival ethnic groups in a lawless context, bursting into intense fears and each group attempting to forcefully improve its position. This problem is especially severe when the area of each group contains enclaves inhabited by their ethnic rivals - as in former Yugoslavia - because each side would be (preventively) tempted to "clean" these foreign minorities and integrate others of their ethnic group.

That extend beyond their borders. Realists have also warned that, in the absence of a clear enemy, NATO would likely face growing tensions and that extending its presence in the East would jeopardize relations with Russia. Finally, scholars like Michael Mastanduno have argued that US foreign policy conforms to realistic principles, as its actions are always aimed at preserving US dominance and shaping a post-war order that promotes American interests.

The most interesting conceptual development in the realistic paradigm was the emerging division between "defensive" and "offensive" thinking currents. Defensive realists like Waltz, Van Evera and Jack Snyder believed that states showed little interest in military conquest, arguing that the cost of expansion outweighed the benefits. As a result, they argued that the major power wars took place mainly because domestic groups advocated exaggerated perceptions of the threat and too much self-confidence in the effectiveness of the armed forces.

This vision is now controversial on several fronts. First, as Randall Schweller's assessment, the neorealist assumption that states simply seek to "stack the deck" in favour of the status quo to survive because it prevents the danger of predatory revisionist states - nations like Germany to Adolf Hitler or France of Napoleon Bonaparte (Schweller 108). Second, Peter Liberman, in his book Does Conquest Pay, used some historical cases - such as the Nazi occupation of. They crave much more than what they have "and are willing to risk destruction Western Europe and Soviet supremacy in Eastern Europe is evidence for that the conquest benefits often surpass the cost of the claim, military expansion is not profitable. Third, offensive realists like Eric Labs, John Mearsheimer, and Fareed Zakaria argue that anarchy can encourage all nations to try to maximize their relative strength only because no nation can be sure of the emergence of a genuine revisionist power. These differences explain why realists disagree on issues such as the future of Europe. For defensive realists like Van Evera, war is seldom profitable and usually results from militarism, hyper-nationalism or other distorting domestic factors. Believing that such forces are largely absent in Europe after the Cold War, Van Evera concludes that the region is "ready for peace." On the other hand, Mearsheimer and other insulting realists believe that anarchy compels the major powers to compete regardless of their intrinsic properties, and that security competition will return to Europe following the withdrawal of the American pacifier (Duncan, et al. 30).

New Life for Liberalism

The defeat of Communism in the West sparked a series of self-gratifications that expressed Francis Fukuyama's notorious claim that humanity had now reached the "end of history." History has paid little attention to this boasting, but the triumph of the West has given the three currents of liberal thought a notable impulse (Little and Smith 37). While the latest phase of this argument began before the collapse of the Soviet Union, it gained momentum as the number of democracies increased, and evidence of this relationship began to increase.

Constructivist Theories

While realism and liberalism are more focused on material factors such as power or trade, constructivist approaches emphasize the impact of ideas. Rather than taking the state for granted and assuming that it is simply trying to survive, constructivists see states' interests and identities as a highly malleable product of specific historical processes (Hoibraaten and Hille 16).  They pay particular attention to dominant discourses in society because discourse reflects and shapes convictions and interests and sets recognized norms of behavior. Constructivism, therefore, pays particular attention to the sources of change, and this approach has largely replaced Marxism as an outstanding radical international affairs position. The Cold War end played an important role in legitimizing constructivist theories in because realism and liberalism have failed to anticipate this event and have struggled to explain. Constructivists had a statement: in particular, former President Mikhail Gorbachev revolutionized Soviet foreign policy because it introduced new ideas such as "common security". Since we live in a time when the old standards are in question, as soon as the clear boundaries dissolve and identity issues become clearer, it is hardly surprising that the researchers have been attracted to these questions. In a constructivist view point, the central theme in the post-Cold War world is the way different groups perceive their identities and interests (Brown 17). Although performance is not irrelevant, Constructivism emphasizes how ideas and identities are created, how they develop. It is therefore important for Europeans to define themselves primarily at national or continental level. When Germany and Japan redefine their past in a way that encourages them to take more active international roles; and whether the United States accepts or rejects its identity as a "global policeman".

Constructivist theories are very diverse and have no consistent prediction on these topics. On a purely conceptual level, Alexander Wendt argues that realistic anarchy is not enough to explain conflict between states. The real problem is how anarchy is heard. In Wendt's words, "Anarchy, Doing What Says" Another component of the constructivist theory focuses on the future of the territorial state, noting that cross-border communication and common erosion of bourgeois values are traditional and radical national loyalties to new forms of political association create. Another constructivist focus on the role of standards and argues that international law and other normative principles have undermined previous notions of sovereignty and the legitimate goals have changed may be used state power (Art and Jervis 43). The common theme in each of these areas is the capacity for discourse to shape the way political actors themselves shape and define their interests and thereby change their behavior.


The complexity of contemporary world politics can never be captured by a single approach. Therefore, we are better off with a multitude of competing ideas than just a theoretical orthodoxy. Competition between theories helps to reveal their strengths and weaknesses and stimulates subsequent refinements while exposing deficiencies in conventional wisdom. While we should be careful to emphasize invention versus insult, we should welcome and promote the heterogeneity of contemporary science.

The study of international affairs is better understood as an ongoing competition between realistic, liberal and radical traditions. Realism emphasizes the continuing readiness for conflict between states; Liberalism identifies several ways to mitigate these opposing tendencies. And the radical tradition describes how the whole system of state relations could be transformed. The boundaries between these traditions are somewhat blurred, and some important works do not suit them well, but debates within and between them have largely determined discipline.

                                                            Works Cited

Art, Robert J, and Robert Jervis. International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues. Pearson/Longman, 2007.

Brown, Michael E. Offense, Defense, and War. MIT P, 2004.

Duncan, W R, et al. World Politics in the 21st Century. Pearson/Longman, 2004.

Elman, Colin, and Miriam F. Elman. Progress in International Relations Theory: Appraising the Field. MIT Press, 2003.

He, Kai. Institutional Balancing in the Asia Pacific: Economic Interdependence and China's Rise. Routledge, 2008.

Hoibraaten, Helge, and Jochen Hille. Northern Europe and the EU Future: Nordeuropa Und Die Zukunft Der Eu. BWV Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2012.

Liberman, Peter. Does Conquest Pay?: The Exploitation of Occupied Industrial Societies. Princeton UP, 2011.

Little, Richard, and Michael Smith. Perspectives on World Politics. Routledge, 2006.

Rice, Daniel F. Reinhold Niebuhr and His Circle of Influence. Cambridge UP, 2013.

Schweller, Randall L. Unanswered Threats: Political Constraints on the Balance of Power. Princeton UP, 2010.

Waltz, Kenneth N. Theory of International Politics. Waveland P, 2010.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price