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International relations theory

There are excellent books that are worth having a look to get a good overview:

Martin Hollis; Steve Smith, (1991), Explaining and understanding International Relations, CUP. There is an overview about the growth of the discipline and how the theories reflect the time in which they were made. Also lots of literature for further reading given. A kind of goldmine that is also written very well.

For current debates see: Ken Booth, Steve Smith (eds.), (1997), International Relations Theory Today, Polity Press. Articels by most promising scholars in the field. Also critical approaches to IR.

International Relations (IR) and Theory - Some Analysis

IR has evolved through various political and normative concerns. The movements within the discipline are marked by great debates which concerned themselves with a number of goals. The first great debate was one preoccupied with the ontological bases of IR. This involved Realists' and Idealists' competing conceptions of the subjects of IR. The second great debate was between traditionalists and behaviouralists, and focussed on the methods that would be employed to acquire knowledge. The third great debate, also known as the inter-paradigm debate was between Realism, Liberalism and Critical Perspectives. This debate concerned itself with the epistemological considerations of IR and resulted in a synthesis of neo-realism and neo-liberalism. Following this, we have entered a fourth debate between positivists and post-positivists. Here, the assumptions of the positivist approaches are questioned by post-positivists and concomitantly, the relevance of post-positivist approaches to practice, is questioned by positivists.

The relationship between IR theory and state policy-making is a continuous one. In other words, there is not a distinct separation between the theory and practice of international relations (of course this would depend on the theoretical stance which one adopts). The most clear illustration of this is seen in the ways in which the US has dealt with terror in the last year. Hedley Bull's outline of Realism can be used to frame the reactions to the events of September 11; He indicates that for a Realist, the state is the most significant actor. Following from this, we can understand why the mechanisms for addressing non-state actors were not present in the US response. The US reaction involved implicating states in terror by claiming that states harbour terrorists and, in effect, they should be held accountable. Following this, Afghanistan was attacked.

With the state as the most significant actor, the referent of security is generally viewed as the state – the accompanying assumption is that the state is the protectorate of its people. Another reaction to the events of September 11 was the rekindling of the National Missile Defence project which seemed rather counterintuitive at the time. However, within a Realist framework, this seems to represent a reasonable response: the state is threatened – every step must be taken to protect the state. If we acknowledge these associations between Realist theory and US policy then we can effectively claim that theory and policy are intimately connected.

For a Poststructural Analysis see James Der Derian's writings:

On Diplomacy; Antidiplomacy: Spies, Speed, Terror and War; Virtuous War

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