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International Relations Theory
Debates and Development within
International Relations Theory
GYÖRGY László, PhD
assistant professor
Budapest University of Technology and Economics
[email protected]
1. The development of IR thinking
2. 1st debate
3. 2nd debate
4. 3rd debate
5. 4th debate
6. Which theory to choose
The Development of IR Thinking
Historical context:
Development and change of sovereign statehood
Theoretical dicussion between IR scholars:
Major debates
Other disciplines
(philosophy, history, economics, law, etc.)
New insights and new methods influence IR
Four Debates of International
Relations Theory
Humanistic, historical
New voices
International Society/IPE)
1. The development of IR thinking
2. 1st debate
Utopian liberalism and the realist response
3. 2nd debate
4. 3rd debate
5. 4th debate
6. Which theory to choose
(Utopian) Liberalism
Woodrow Wilson.
Origins of IR after the First World War
Aim: never let this happen again
Wilsonianism: fourteen-point programme to establish a world ‘safe for democracy’
1.End of secret diplomacy
2.Freedom of navigation on the seas and
barriers of free trade should be removed
3.Armaments should be reduced
4.Self-determination of peoples
5.League of Nations
6.Democracy promotion: the power of
public scrutiny, liberal democracy and
cooperation can hinder wars
(Utopian) Liberalism
Norman Angell.
The Great Illusion (1909)
war is not beneficial
territorial conquest is
extremely expensive and
politically divisive because it
severely disrupts
international commerce
Achievements of Liberalism
League of Nations was established
Great powers took steps to assure each other of their
peaceful intentions
Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928
Failures of Liberalism
US Senate refused to join the League of Nations.
Germany, Russia not involved. Japan quits. France and
Britain never accepted the rules of the League of Nations
Peace was not based on wilsonian (liberal) principles, but
rather on great power politics and revenge aims of the
Wilson: peace without victory. Reality: victory without
The Wall Street crash of October 1929 made an end of
‘rational cooperation’ and opened the era of ‘rational
Realism and the Twenty Years’
E.H. Carr: The Twenty
Years’ Crisis (1964 (1939))
There are profound
conflicts of interest both
between countries and
between people (haves
and have-nots)
Terms: idealism vs.
Realism and the Twenty Years’
Hans J. Morgenthau: Politics Among Nations: The
Struggle for Power and Peace (1948)
1. Human nature at the base of international relations
(Einstein and Freud, Christian religion)
Humans are self-interested and power seeking
2. Nature of international relations
Struggle for power
No world government - international anarchy
Peace is achievable when balance of power
3. Cyclical view of history (same mistakes again
and again as long as sovereign states are
dominant in international relations)
First Major Debate in IR
Utopian liberalism
Realist response
international law
power politics
(balance of power)
international organization
cyclical view of history
progressive view of history
1. The development of IR thinking
2. 1st debate
3. 2nd debate
Traditionalism vs Behaviouralism
4. 3rd debate
5. 4th debate
6. Which theory to choose
Second Major Debate in IR
Traditional approaches
Behaviouralist response
Theorists inside the subject
Theorists outside subject
norms and values
historical knowledge
holistic approach
consideration of the complexity
of the human world
collect empirical data
scientific knowledge
influence of natural sciences
1. The development of IR thinking
2. 1st debate
3. 2nd debate
4. 3rd debate
Neoliberalism/neorealism vs neo-Marxism
5. 4th debate
6. Which theory to choose
Neoliberalism: Institutions and
Neoliberalism: progress and cooperation
Sociological liberalism
Cross-border flows, common values
Interdependence liberalism Transactions stimulate cooperation
Institutional liberalism
International institutions, regimes
Republican liberalism
Liberal democracies living in peace with each
Provides an overall consistent argument for more peaceful and cooperative
international relations describing the progression in the West, but says nothing
about the East-West confrontation
Neorealism: Bipolarity
and Confrontation
Kenneth Waltz: Theory of International Politics (1979)
Simple theory explaining ‘few big important things’
Focus on the structure
International system is composed of like units
The only thing that matters is relative power
1.Great powers will always tend to balance each other
2.Smaller and weaker states will have a tendency to align
themselves with great powers in order to preserve the
maximum autonomy
3.States are power-seeking and security-conscious
because the structure of the international system
compels them to be that way
Neorealism: Bipolarity and
Neorealists do not deny the possibility of cooperation
but only for the sake of maximizing their relative
power and autonomy
Supportive historical events (1980s):
Rivalry between the USA and Soviet Union (Reaganera)
Decline in US relative power: ‘trade wars’ between
the Western Democracies
Neoliberalism vs Neorealism
And the winner is: ...
International Society
(The English School)
1. Power, national interest (realist)
2. Rules, procedures, international law
(liberal element) Machtstaat vs Rechtsstaat
Norms and historical
Theorists inside the
Martin Wight
3.Universal human rights, one world for
all (cosmopolitan element)
Anarchical Society
Focus on statesman
Hedley Bull
E.g.: UN, “power and law”
1.power: Security Council (USA,
Russia, China, France, Britain) veto power General Assembly - one
state one vote principle
3.cosmopolitan, solidarist element:
promotion of human rights Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (1948)
• defines the basic civil, political,
social, economic and cultural
International Political Economy
1970s: Third World countries
started to press for changes in
the international system to
improve their economic position.
(neo-Marxism emerged to
attempt to theorize about
economic underdevelopment in
the Third World)
Who gets what in the
international economic and
political system
The Three Views of IPE
Capitalist class uses its power to exploit and oppress the working
class (Marx)
Neo-marxists extend that analysis to the Third World
Third World countries are subject to unequal exchange
Only a few can ‘move upwards’
Capitalism is a hierarchy based on exploitation of the poor by the rich,
and it will remain until it is replaced
Liberal view of IPE
Human prosperity can be achieved by the free global expansion of
Based on Adam Smith and his followers
Free markets, private property, individual freedom
Realist view of IPE
Economic activity should be put in the service of building strong state
and supporting the national interest (Friedrich List - historical school of
economic development)
Mercantilist (economic nationalist) type approach
Wealth is an instrument of creation of national security and national
Third Major Debate in IR
“status quo” theories
Capitalist world system
1. The development of IR thinking
2. 1st debate
3. 2nd debate
4. 3rd debate
5. 4th debate
Mainstream theories vs new approaches
6. Which theory to choose
Fourth Major Debate in IR
Established traditions
New voices
International Society
International Political Economy
Post-positivist methodologies
(How to approach IR?)
e.g.: social constructivist
argue that the international
system is constituted by
ideas not material power
Post-positivist issues
(Which issues should be
considered the most important
e.g.: international terrorism,
environment, gender,
sovereignty, changes in
Which Theory....?
Either the question is not meaningful: how to compare
different games, played by different people
Or can we make ‘player of year’ based on the following
Clarity of exposition
"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly
ruined my country. A great industrial nation is
controlled by its system of credit. Our system of
credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation,
therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of
a few men. We have come to be one of the worst
ruled, one of the most completely controlled and
dominated Governments in the civilized world no
longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a
Government by conviction and the vote of the
majority, but a Government by the opinion and
duress of a small group of dominant men."
Established FED on
23rd December 1913
•Independent from gov.
•We don’t know who
the owners are
•Regulates the money
supply of the banking
system and the
economy through the
interest rate
~Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the USA, in
Laszlo Gyorgy, [email protected] -
"The government should create, issue, and
circulate all the currency and credit needed to
satisfy the spending power of the government
and the buying power of consumers. By the
adoption of these principles the taxpayers will be
saved immense sums of interests. The privilege of
creating and issuing money is not only the
supreme prerogative of government, but it is the
government's greatest creative opportunity."
~Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA
Assassinated, 1865
Laszlo Gyorgy, [email protected] -
“Whoever controls the volume of money in
our country is absolute master of all
industry and commerce...when you realize
that the entire system is very easily
controlled, one way or another, by a few
powerful men at the top, you will not
have to be told how periods of inflation and
depression originate.”
~James Garfield, 20th President of the USA
Assassinated, 1881
Laszlo Gyorgy, [email protected] -
“We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New
York Times, Time Magazine and other great
publications whose directors have attended our
meetings and respected their promises of
discretion for almost forty years. It would have
been impossible for us to develop our plan for the
world if we had been subject to the bright lights of
publicity during those years. But, the world is now
much more sophisticated and prepared to march
towards a world government. The supranational
sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world
bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.”
David Rockefeller,
Trilateral Commission meeting, June, 1991
John F. Kennedy
Secret Society Speech
E.g.: UN, “power and law”