Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can a single theoretical approach explain the contemporary global politics?

The study of politics has been dominated by various theories and ideologies to explain to the contemporary actions of states and the international systems. Theories in politics have been of essential value for us to understand global politics and the domestic politics as well. They study of these theories gives us a view of what the world is like and how it operates and why it operates in such a way. This essay is going to elucidate and explain why a single theoretical approach can not explain the contemporary global politics.

According to Viotti and Kauppi (3:1998) a theory is an intellectual construct that helps one to select facts and interpret them in such a way as to facilitate explanation and prediction concerning regularities and recurrences or repetitions of observed phenomena. The theories are divided into two categories thus the empirical and the normative Viotti and Kauppi (5:1993) describe the empirical as theories in the social or natural sciences, by contrast, relate to facts and provide explanation or predication of phenomena and the normative theories as they deal with the values and value preferences.

Realism is one of the many theories in pursuit to explain global politics according to Rourke (36:2005) it is paradigm based on the premises that world politics is essentially and unchangeably a struggle among self interested states for power and position of anarchy, with each competing state pursuing its own national interests. As globalization is taking place where countries are heavy relying on each other in terms on technology and economic expansion states interests are still a major obscure of globalization. According to Baylis and Smith (36:2005) realism can be traced back to Ancient Greek Thucydides a Greek Historian in his account of the Peloponnesian wars between Athens and Sparta. Smith, Booth and Zalewsk (55:1996) realism is not an ideological position as such but it’s a natural home of those disposed towards conservative ideology. According to Smith, Booth and Zalewsk (51:1996).

realism emphasizes the competitive and conflict side of international relations, this is reflected in it’s core ideas like the balance of power, which is one of the most long standing analytical tools of realism and the security dilemma, which provides the essential link between realism and strategic studies, it’s emphasis on state derives from the sense the state is the dominant wielder of power in the international system.

According to Baylis and Smith (165; 2005) the state is indentified as the key actor in international politics, must pursue power and its duty of the statesperson and to perpetuate the life of the state in a hostile and threatening environment. Most of the world countries pursue power, the world powerful states such as the United states and The European countries like to dominate weaker states because they have military advantage and technological advantage this has led to a new from of imperialism in the world as the powerful countries control the economies of the weaker states through the operations of the multi transnational companies that are largely own by the powerful states. According to Smith, Booth and Zalewsk (61:1996) realism can be taken as a standing from of anarchic ordering of the world politics, the September 1980 invading of Iran by the neighbor Iraq was a clear violation of country’s sovereignty but to Iraq they were putting their national interests for this invasion.

Realism has three important aspects thus survival statism and self help. According to Slaughter (1995; 503) in realism states are the primary actors in the international system, being rational unitary actors who are functionally identical. Survival of the state is one of the most paramount objectives of all states in the world without survival they bound to be creation of failed states that do not function properly. According to Wittkopf and Kegley (37:2005) with the realist paradigm, the purpose if statecraft is national survival in a hostile environment, no means is more important than the self help and the acquisition of power. State sovereignty is the corner stone of the survival of the states. However according to Smith, Booth and Zalewsk (53:1996) many states are too weak and ill formed to sustain the inside and outside distinction Somalia and Rwanda as some of the weak states that can withstand the external forces and the internal forces that make the state survival difficult state has been penetrated by transnational actors and forces that inside and outside distinction has become a meaningless blur. The liberalism theory is more appropriate as it hinders suppression of weaker countries and that is the present global scenario where by countries are all governed by the United Nations with the international laws to protect each state.
Statism according to Baylis and Smith (163;2005) the term given to the idea of state as the legitimate representative of the collective will of the people ,the legitimate of the state gives it authority to make and enforcement of law. They are no countries through out the world without laws to govern the conduct of its citizens the presences of the constitution whether codified or uncodified. As a state as a legitimate entry it shows it enjoys recognition with other states.

Other important aspect of the Realism theory is the aspect of self help according to Baylis and Smith (164:2005) self help is the principle of action in an anarchical system where there is no global government. This implies that each state takes care of its domestic affairs, the 2008world recession has hit all the counties in the world has had negative impacts to various counties with them finding ways to combat its effects in their domestic economies the help of the regional and international actors seems to be all in vain the powerful states bail themselves out of the world recession crisis and weaker sates are still lamenting in agony from the effects of this global financial melt own.

The realism theory according to Smith, Booth and Zalewsk (61:1996) the unusual cold war can be seen as a classic demonstration of neo-realist power politics with the unsuccessful challenger imploding and its successors desperately trying to reform themselves on the model of the victors. Realism prohibit cooperation and alliances the non existence of the world government to this theory can cause havoc and the destabilization of the status quo in all countries as state interests and be aggressive and may conflict with the other. This theory can not operate alone without the liberalism, Marxists and Constructive approach so the study of it alone can not explain the existence of transnational, intergovernational and diplomatic relations that exist between countries which are aspects of liberalism.

The Liberalism, theory also known as the pluralism theory also tries to explain the contemporary global politics according to Rouke (18:2005) liberalism reject the notion that all or most humans are inherently political predators, instead liberals believe that humans and their countries are capable of achieving more cooperative, less conflictive relations either through current government structures or through new models of governance. Baylis and Smith (188:2005) define liberalism as theory of both government within states and good governance between states and people worldwide. The establishments of regional and intergovernmental organizations such as the UN show how imperative cooperation is to the world in regulating and governing the states acts. In addition Rourke (18:2005) elaborated that humans can cooperate in order to achieve mutual benefits, anarchic system hinders cooperation is to be build effective international organizations.

For economical, environmental and political concerns the states need to collaborate to create a stable world. Environmental protection with the threat of global warming, the threat of terrorists attacks, threat to global economic melt down and the threat to nuclear abuse can cause major destruction of the world. According to Rourke (22; 2004) the spread of nuclear weapons, the increases in economic interdependence among countries the decline of world resources, the daunting gap between the rich and the poor and the mounting damage of the ecosphere mean humans must learn to co operate more fully because they are in danger of suffering a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions.

Baylis and Smith (187;2005) elaborated that liberalism see the cause of war located in imperialism other in the failure of the balance of power and still others in the problem of undemocratic regimes. All these inadequacies can be addressed through international cooperation of territories. In addition Baylis and Smith (188:2005) highlights that domestic and international institutions are required to protect and nurture the values of individualism, tolerance, freedom and constitutionalism.

Liberalism according to Viotti and Kauppi (185:1998) have different assumptions that they are different kinds of state own enterprise, multinational corporations, public international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, private foundations and terrorists, as well as states. As liberalism is mainly concerned about cooperation the present global scenario the economic of states are interdependent as trade of goods and the exchange of economic ideas between countries have highly increased. Viotti and Kauppi (185:1998) also elaborates that all actors and are all rational and calculating but they pursue different objectives and also international relations and especially international political economy offers opportunities for everyone to gain at the same time. Libralism has to a greater extent allowed global interactions between states.

However the according to Rouke (79:2005) the eroding of autonomy of the state to generate a more cooperative global community has affect all the states especially the weaker states and the growth of the transnational and interdependence is diminishing the capacity of the state governments to regulate both domestic and international politics. The eroding of the country sovereignty has become a major problem of the practice of this theory and most states are avoiding this as Rouke (79:2005) states that the states are strenuously resisting attempts to have their authority transferred to global institutions, the surrender of the country sovereignty to improve states can be highlighted by the EU’s control of economic and even political authority over it’s member countries. The realism theory tries to keep the states interests and sovereignty as they are the cornerstone of a country but although they are the fundamental backbone of the international states cooperation is also need as globalization is increasing the states diplomatic relations ands trade so the study of the two theories support the existence of the states and its actions, the practice of one of the theories without the other leads to the failure of the states operations. So it very certain that the present contemporary global politics is composed of all the theories as they are all practiced by the world actors.

The Marxists theory later developed by Wallerstein to the Capitalist World Economy theory as one of the theories to explain the contemporary global politics is according to Rourke (87:2005) it is an economy system socially structured by an integrated axial division of labour, whose guiding principle is the ceaseless accumulation of capital, the principle has been the construction of extensive commodity chains of production that across political boundaries. Baylis and Smith (229:2005) the central dynamic that Marx identifies is the tension between the means of production and the relations of production that together from the economic base of a given society.

Capitalism has been s global expected theory with states and other international actors are in pursuit of accumulation of wealth these has led to many conflicts in the world some has led to devastating wars. The wars by the super power the United States of America on Iraq 2003 after the September 11 attacks were not just but it was in the bide to control the rich oil country. According to Baylis and Smith the ( 229;2005) he agued that that ,just as there is class conflict within every society ,there is conflict on a global scale between the interests of developed capitalist societies which form the global core ,underdeveloped economies. The Marxists theorists take into consideration the aspects of globalization that of according to Baylis and Smith (245;2005) growing integration of national economies, a growing awareness of ecological interdependence ,the proliferation of companies ,social movements and intergovernmental agencies operating on a global scale.

According to Viotti and Kauppi (369; 1998) the political super structure of the capitalist world –economy is an interstates system within which and through which political structures called ‘sovereign states’ are legitimized and constrained. The sovereignty of the states is important in the capitalist world economy but however the world economy system is highly interdependent and interrelated in its economic systems. According to Baylis and Smith (246:2005) the world has been dominated by a single integrated economic and political entity –a global capitalist system –which has gradually incorporated all humanity within its grasp. The effects of the world 2008 to 2009 economic recession can be a clear indication of how the world economics have been integrated as the effects of the US economy can affect the rest of the world.

Baylis and Smith (231:2005) states that the development of monopoly capitalism a two tier structure has developed within the World –economy with a domination core exploiting a less –developed periphery. The powerful states are dominating the weaker states economically with the establishment of their own home companies the so called transnational companies that are exploiting the environment and the people of the weaker states by giving them low wages the repatriation of profits by these companies is for them to improve their own countries. As according to Baylis and Smith (231:2005) the bourgeoisie core countries could use profits derived from exploiting the periphery to improve the lot of their proletariat. The current contemporary global politics suits this theory as capitalism of the world economy is now more intensive but it can not fully explain the actions and events that are happening throughout the world without the use of the other theoretical theories. The hegemony of the United States were it is in control of the world economy the use of its currency as the international currency can show that the world economic system is not that effective. Imperialism has taken trend as powerful states are recolonizing the weaker states indirectly inform of economic dependency.

The social constructivist’s theoretical approach is of one of the fundamental theories that tries to explain the contemporary global politics according to Rouke (52;2004) social constructivism is liberal –realist theoretical approach advocated by Alexander Wendt that sees self interested states as the key actors in world politics their actions are determined not by anarchy but by the ways states socially “construct” and then respond to the power politics ,so that at their definition change ,cooperative practices can evolve. Constructivists belief in sharing of ideas and that the development of the international actors lies within cooperation and interrelation.

Rourke (53:2005) further elaborates that social constructivism attempts to bridge the gap between neoliberal and neorealist’s theories by accepting many assumptions shared by both approaches while critically rejecting realism’s failure to pay attention to the powerful role of ideas and norms of the world politics. The presence of international organizations such as the UN is a social constructive approach in some way were there world counties interrelate and construct how and individual state should act the example of the Millennium Development Goals were set in place to construct the way the actors of the international system should act to achieve the stated goals. According to Baylis and Smith (253:2005) constructivism was interested in the role of international norms and conceptualizing international politics not as a system but as a society. The world countries are slowly becoming one society with similar characteristics as they now more interaction.

The social constructivism according to Rourke (50:2004) its main core concern is social collectiveness of shared meanings and images of the contemporary international life and the theoretical implementations of these visions with a motive of explaining what drives international actors in various epochs. This theory shows the true picture of international relations in the contemporary global politics.

The contemporary global politics can not be explained by one single theoretical approach as they are many forms that one theory can not describe. One theoretical approach may lack the explanations of what is happening at the present moment so all the theoretical approaches must be taken into consideration when trying to explain the global politics.


Baylis J and Smith S. 2005: The Globalization of world Politics 3rd edition: Oxford University Press USA

Rourke J T. 1998 International Politics on the world stage 10th edition The Duskin Publishing Group Inc USA

Slaughter, A: 1995: International law in a world of liberal State: European journal of international law

Smith .S, Booth .K, Zalewski M: 1996: International theory; positivism and beyond; The press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge; United Kingdom

Wittkopf E.R and Kegley C.W Jr: 2004: World Politics trend and Transformation 9th EDITION: Thomson Learning Inc USA

Viotti.P.R and Kauppi M.V (1998) International Relations Theory: Realism, pluralism, globalism and Beyond 3rd edition: Pearson education: USA

1 comment:

  1. A good article. Cogently written.