Presentation 28 Sept

Social Forces, States and World
Orders: Beyond International
Relations Theory
Robert W. Cox
Neorealist Assumptions
• Human beings are in a perpetual state of
conflict and desire for power
• The actions of states are guided by a
monolithic conception of national interest
• The relations between states are governed
within a ‘balance of power’ framework
Critical Theory
• Problem-solving theories can only approach
solutions within the existing framework,
helping to legitimate dominant perspectives
• Critical theories allow us to question the
perspectives themselves, and offer a wider
range of insights and solutions
State/Society Complex
• Neorealism is ill equipped to study the
state/society complex, which runs counter to the
assumption that the state is an ahistorical,
monolithic entity
• Historical Materialism offers us a better insight
into the dynamic relationship between inter- and
intra-state relations, by situating state/society
activity in a particular historical, material,
ideological and structural context.
• HM pays particular attention to the relations
between productive forces
Structures, Historical Structures
Historical Structures
Social Forces
Forms of State
World Orders
Hegemony, Imperialism and Social
• Hegemonic power is a product of the material
capability/idea/institution dynamic
• The nature of Imperialism is historically contingent
• Imperial social forces do not necessarily stem from a
state in itself, but from specific forces within and
between states
• Petras argues the current imperial system is dominated
by transnational capitalist interests, and that the
individual states within that system are not only
differentiated by power, but by function
How do Cox’s concepts of
hegemonic power and the
state/society complex apply to the
Iraq invasion?
• Through the internationalization of the state and
productive forces, neorealist conceptions of
hegemonic power which emphasize the
competing national interests of sovereign states
start to break down
• Organizations such as the World Bank, the IMF,
and the OECD play a key role in the transnational
harmonization of policy
• The internationalization of production has
created global class interests that transcend state
How accurate is it to say that the
new imperialism is transnationally
economic rather than state-driven?
Has the expansion of international
capital caused marginalization? If
so, what have been the
R. B. J. Walker
Walker’s Three Broad Conclusions
• History should be given priority
• The differences in approaches to world politics
need to be looked at from the level of their
basic developmental assumptions
• Contemporary analysis of world politics poses
fundamental questions about political theory
Keohane argues we need to
incorporate history into the
rationalist approach.
Walker believes that if we need to
adapt the rationalist approach, we
need to rethink everything about
International Relations.
Puzzles in Historical Narratives
• The contrasting narratives of history.
• Competing accounts of when the modern
states-system arose
• The ‘Great Tradition’ of International Relations
theory claims unchanging truths about the
“eternal game of relations between states”.
• The fact that concepts which we see as natural
and inevitable were once contested.
How have competing historical
narratives played a role in specific
international political issues?
• Do structures really exist in concrete form or only
in theory?
• Metaphors are used to help clarify certain
concepts but sometimes do not take into account
cultural and political contexts.
• Is human action more a product of structures or
are structures more a product of human action?
• Structural terms are informed by historical
How are history and structure as
outlined by Walker relevant to the
Israeli/Palestinian statehood debate?
How do Walker’s ideas about
structure coincide with or differ
from Cox’s perspective on
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