Theory of International Relations Class 2: Three Theoretical Perspectives What is a theory? • Simplification of reality • Perspective – tells you where to look • Statement about cause and effect – Which variables go together? (correlation) – Why does this regularity occur? (causal mechanism) • Independent/explanatory variable = cause • Dependent variable = effect/outcome Why theories are necessary • Too much information available to be able to process it without guidance about what is relevant or irrelevant • No rational action without hypothesis about cause and effect What is a hypothesis? • A hypothesis is a testable implication of a theory. • Each theory generates many hypotheses. • Evidence in favor of a hypothesis supports (but does not prove) the theory. • Evidence against a hypothesis requires modifying or abandoning the theory. – Theories should only be abandoned in favor of other theories. Acceptable Theories • All theories must be falsifiable. – How would you know if the theory were wrong? • All theories must be logical. – Internally coherent – Conclusions follow from premises Evaluating Theories • Generalizability: applicability to many times, places, and issues • • • • • Parsimony: simplicity; few independent variables Empirical validity: accuracy of predictions Leverage: wide scope of validity for relative parsimony Fruitfulness: number of hypotheses it generates Progression: whether it expands to new predictions or degenerates by excessive modification The Three Theories • Realism • Liberalism • Constructivism • Others – Marxism – Post-modernism and post-structuralism Realism • Classical Realism – Thucydides – Machiavelli – Morgenthau • Neo-realism Thucydides • Major Work: The History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BCE • Explains war between Athens and Sparta, the two poles of the Greek system • Cause of war - the rising power of Athens and the fear this caused in Sparta (distribution of power) • Melian dialog – rejection of justice claims in international politics Nicolo Machiavelli • Major Work: The Prince, 1513 • Written as diplomat advising ruler: – Seize all the territory you can – Maintain friendly relations with minor powers but keep greater powers down – Self-help is preferable to alliances – Traditional morality can be abandoned for the state Hans Morgenthau • • • • Major Work: Politics Among Nations, 1949 “Objective laws” in political science All actors seek to maximize their own power Effective, unemotional policy requires evaluating policy by its effect on power, not other moral standards Critiques of Classical Realism • Ignores important issues • Inability to distinguish between prescription and prediction • Uses a constant to explain a variable Neo-realism • Major Work: Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics, 1979 • Anarchy means that any state could be attacked at any time. • Therefore, security (the survival of the state) is always at risk. • Therefore, states must be concerned with power. – Self-help is best – Alliances to form a balance of power are second-best Neo-Realism • Common pressures produce “like units.” – Specialization is dangerous. – States learn to copy successful states (imitation) or are eliminated from the system (evolution). • Therefore, domestic politics are irrelevant. The Security Dilemma • Because attack is always possible, states build defensive capabilities. • Most defensive capabilities also enhance offensive capabilities. • Rivals can mistake defense for offensive threats. • Rivals respond by building up their own defenses. • States then feel threatened by rivals. • Can escalate to war. Debates among Realists Some disagreement over ultimate goal of state • Defensive neo-realists: states maximize security (autonomy in their territory) • Neo-classical realists: status quo states vs. revisionist states • Offensive neo-realists: all states maximize power Critiques of Neo-Realism • Ignores important issues • Reifies the state • Unable to account for persistence of unipolarity Liberalism • • • • Kant Idealism Neo-liberal Institutionalism The democratic peace Immanuel Kant • Major Work: Perpetual Peace, 1795 • Reason is key • Peace requires: – All states to be representative democracies – International law (not world government) – Free movement of people and free trade Idealism • Response to World War I, a failure of balance of power politics • Decreasing incentives for war – increasing costs of war • New technologies (mustard gas & machine guns) • Increasing economic interdependence – mobilizing public opinion • Resolution through international institutions – League of Nations Neo-liberal Institutionalism • Adds micro-foundations to idealism • States create international organizations to further their own interests. • Despite lack of coercive capabilities, international institutions can – Reduce transaction costs. – Create multi-dimensional issue spaces to facilitate bargains. – Monitor compliance. – Encourage repeated interactions. – Create norms (standards of behavior). The Democratic Peace • Liberal democracies have never fought a war among themselves. • Democracies do fight as many wars as autocracies overall, but democracies only fight autocracies, not each other. – Autocracies sometimes fight other autocracies, even among similar autocratic systems. • Closest thing to a “law” in the study of IR. Why the Democratic Peace? • Information – Democracies’ public debates reveal their true intentions, thus avoiding the security dilemma. • Institutions – Elected leaders will lose office if they lose wars, so they are more careful about initiation. Peace, Trade, and IOs • Some evidence (not quite as strong as democratic peace) suggests that – pairs of states that trade with each other more are less likely to go to war with each other, because the trade they would lose out on makes war too costly. – states that have more common IO memberships are less likely to go to war with each other, because they have non-violent means to resolve their conflicts. • Realists argue that this is backwards. – States don’t become dependent on trade with states they might fight with. – States only join IOs with states that they already trust. Critiques of Neo-liberalism • Democratic peace is coincidence, not causation. – Common Cold War interests, not democratic institutions, explain peace. • Overly optimistic (“All good things go together.”) • States care about relative gains, not absolute gains. • Imposes a value system while pretending neutrality. The Rationalist Synthesis Despite their debates, neo-realists and neo-liberals have many points of agreement. • Analysis begins with fixed actors and assumed, fixed preferences. • Each actor is trying to maximize its own payoff. • The outcome depends on both actors’ actions. Game Theory • Game theory is a method for developing rationalist theories that is adapted for both neorealist and neo-liberal assumptions. • It represents the actors’ preferences mathematically, over a simplified range of actions. • One of the most famous games is the prisoners’ dilemma. The Prisoners’ Dilemma Prisoner 2 Deny Deny -2, -2 Confess -10, -1 Prisoner 1 Confess -1, -10 -5, -5 Ways out of the Dilemma • Third-party enforcement • Iteration – Possibility of future losses – Tit-for-tat strategy • Issue linkage and side payments Constructivism • Newest theory of IR • Draws on sociology – Max Weber – Emile Durkheim • Focuses on power of shared ideas Logic of Appropriateness • Rationalist theories follow “logic of consequences”: – Actors strategically calculate costs and benefits • Constructivism predicts behavior based on a “logic of appropriateness”: – Actors behave in accordance with their socially constructed sense of self (identity) • Can be hard to differentiate when identity dictates logic of consequences Identity • Definition: Understanding of who self is in relation to “other” • Inherently social • Identity creates interests Norms • Actors' behavior is guided by norms. – Constitutive norms are standards of behavior that define the identity of an actor. • Sovereignty is a constitutive norm of statehood. – Regulative norms are appropriate standards of behavior for an actor with a given identity. • Calling attention to gaps between espoused norms and behavior can change an actor's behavior. Transnational Advocacy Networks • Composed of NGOs in many states • Try to enforce norms that influence state behavior by – – – – “Naming and shaming” Persuading IOs to change their rules Changing market incentives for MNCs (boycotts) Using domestic politics to get powerful states to enforce • Example: – ending apartheid in South Africa Critiques of Constructivism • Not specific enough to be testable • Not parsimonious • Unclear what factors are cause and which are effect Comparing the Theories: Human Nature • Realism: People are aggressive. • Liberalism: People are acquisitive. • Constructivism: People are shaped by their culture. Comparing the Theories: Supporting Research • Realism: history • Liberalism: economics • Constructivism: sociology Comparing the Theories: Structure • Realism: The anarchic structure of the international system dictates state behavior. • Neo-liberalism: The anarchic structure of the international system constrains state behavior. • Constructivism: The anarchic structure of the international system was created and is perpetuated by the very states it constitutes. Comparing the Theories: Domestic Politics • Realism: Domestic politics are unimportant. States are rational, unitary actors. • Neo-liberalism: Domestic politics determine state attributes such as preferences and credibility. The behavior of domestic actors is funnelled through state hierarchy into a unitary, though not always collectively rational, policy. • Constructivism: Domestic politics are integrated with global politics. Comparing the Theories: Non-state Actors • Realism: Non-state actors are unimportant. • Neo-liberalism: States are the most important actors, but international organizations also matter. • Constructivism: States are the most important actors, but international organizations and nongovernmental organizations also matter. Comparing the Theories: Norms • Realism: Norms are dangerous or unimportant. • Neo-liberalism: Norms are efficient habits. • Constructivism: Norms are part of actors’ identities that shape which actions are desirable or even possible. Comparing the Theories: Key Questions • Realism – How can states best defend themselves? – What kinds of international systems are most stable? • Neo-liberalism – How can states provide global public goods? – How can states maximize their overall utility? • Constructivism – How do actors self-identify, and what action is produced by that identity? – How do identities and value systems change? Comparing the Theories: Systemic Change • Realism: No fundamental change is possible. • Neo-liberalism: International relations can be incrementally improved. Gradual reform is possible. • Constructivism: The international system has been radically transformed before, and it could happen again (for good or for ill). Lessons of 9/11 • Realism – Need for vigilance – Alliance choice dictated by system demands • Neo-Liberalism – Authoritarian states dangerous to democracies – International cooperation valuable on police action to stop terrorism • Constructivism – Non-state actors are consequential – Ideologies not always rationalist Case Study: International Regime on Drugs • Three Major UN Conventions: – 1961 - The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – 1971 - The Convention on Psychotropic Substances – 1988 - The UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances • Requires states to criminalize all non-medical production & sale of marijuana, coca, opiates, etc. • Each has at least 170 signatories. • Question: Why such uniformity? Realist Hypothesis • Drugs are a security threat because they fund terrorism and insurgency. • Therefore, US as hegemon wants to stop drug trade. • Other great powers have similar interests, or can flout treaty without consequences. • Weak states must comply with great powers. – US invasion of Panama in 1989 shows costs to small states of defiance Neo-liberal Hypothesis • Domestic political actors want drugs banned. • If any states allow drugs, the ban is weaker in all other states. • States created international institutions to monitor compliance and share medical information. Constructivist Hypothesis • In late 19th century, religious activists mobilized in the US and Britain against drugs. • Missionaries, especially in China, acted as transnational moral entrepreneurs to get international ban. • Little organized opposition because of perceived association of drug use with politically marginal groups Using Evidence to Test Hypotheses • All three explanations seem plausible. • What information could support or contradict?