International Relations Theory

Jul 21, 2021 in Politics Essays

Analytical Assignment Apply Constructivist and Neoliberal (modernist) Theories

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Part 1

1. Identify the Constructivist Theory. What is its basic image? How do constructivists go about applying the theory? What are the general prescriptions?

The constructivist theory states that the perception of the world depends on the way human beings construe it. Consequently, the order of international relations is a socially constructed theory. It means that international ties originate from interactions and ideas expressed by human beings rather than material objects of things on the ground. In addition, the basic belief behind the theory is that a plan is more significant than the facts, such as bombs and guns (Lectures). From the perspective of the positive constructivists, the world has an underlying image, which comprises a collection of many ideas.

Constructivists apply their ideas by considering three basic precepts of international relations. Moreover, national identity is one of them. The concept of national identity reviews how people in a particular country perceive their nation. For example, the long-running idea of American exceptionalism is national identity. In more cases, the idea of national identity defines people in a nation along with the ethnic-nationalist states. For example, Russian's national identity focuses on its perception as high power. On the other hand, the power of Chinese identity lies in its perception as the mythical center of the world.

The second application discusses the foreign policy beliefs about other countries. It reveals the way, in which the international policy establishments in the nations view others. For example, in the US, Russia is perceived as a provocateur in various issues, as Puckov explains in the New York Times.

2. Drawing explicitly from course content give two examples of using constructivist theory to explain the world to policymakers.

The countries, such as China and Russia are the example of constructivism, especially their perception of themselves and the assessment of the world regarding these nations. Russia has historically viewed itself as part of the great powers in the world. However, the country expressed the opinion that the perception of western countries concerning their significance is completely different. For example, it is apparent from the words of the Russian President after annexing Crimea, stating that Russia has been always a great nation undermining the West. He respects the past, especially the USSR, and wonders why the West is opposed to the annexation of Crimea, while they supported the declaring of independence by the Kosovans. According to Putin, the West had to appreciate that “Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs” and similarly to other nations, such as western countries, " have its national interests." The speech reveals constructivist theory as it does not only focus on the facts on the ground, that Russia had annexed Crimea in violation of international law and was stoking tension in Ukraine, but on the perception of Russians towards their country, and how the West perceives it. Moreover, Puckov also emphasizes this point.

Another example concerns China’s historical perception of itself as the center of the world. The need to reassure that it is the foremost country in the world as it has been for several centuries promoted the growth of China in recent decades (Lectures).

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3. How does constructivist theory differ from Realism? Which one do you think is better and why?

There are numerous facts stating that realism and constructivism, as theories to explain international relations, are at the opposite extremes of the scale. On the one hand, overt state action determines international relations for the realist. On the other hand, for the constructivist, the ideas and perceptions drive the world. It implies that things do not get a face value in constructionism, while, things are taken at face value in realism. For example, in the case of Crimea and Kosovo, according to Putin, they showed vastly different views of the events. In the case of Kosovo, Putin referenced a document that seemed to indicate that ethnic minorities can declare independence without breaking international law, while regarding Crimea, the US and other western nations rejected this policy. Moreover, realism was also apparent in the speech that Donald Trump gave at the Center for National Interest, where, among other issues, he insisted that America had been building other countries while tearing the US as the other allies were not paying their fair share. He promised to rectify that situation. This is a classic example of realism in international relations.

Moreover, realists believe that personal interest promotes actions. In the case of constructivists, it is evident that the movements of nations have corresponding motivations. An example is the Crimea issue. Putin states that Russia has “national interests” like the nations in the West. Moreover, the constructivists consider that Crimea annexation was either the national interest of Russia or it was continuing its long-running antagonization of Ukraine due to their policy directed towards the European Union and the US.

In contrast, realism as a theory seems more plausible. It states that the chief motivation of nations is nothing more than state interest in their pursuit of goals, such as economic, military, political, and social ones. Realists attribute this to the way of running the international system, not as an organized hierarchical one, but as anarchy, where each state has to take corresponding measures in order to survive. In addition, realism is more plausible since it is apparent that most states take actions depending on the expected benefits as opposed to following a set of ideas that the states manifest. For example, America invaded Iraq on purely self-interest grounds, and constructivism may not be a good theory to explain such an action given its different understanding by various players.

Part 2

1. Identify Neo-Liberal Institutionalism or Modernist Theory. What do modernists say about the diffusion and diversification of power? Give several examples. What is its basic image?

The modernist theory explains that international affairs are informed by a web of complex, which is interdependent between the states and individuals in the global arena due to the respective linking through issues, such as international trade and finance. It contains several characteristics. The first one is that the web is sticky. It means that the states and other foreign actors try to avoid disrupting international connection, as this can be extremely costly (Lectures). In addition, the international network means that international borders do not have great significance in case of turbulence. For example, Ebola in West Africa affected the entire world while the financial shocks from the US affected the world as a whole (Lectures). The web of interconnection also changes in thickness depending on the relations between the countries (Lectures). Moreover, interdependence continues to grow at a high-speed rate. Lastly, it happens that the relationship is sometimes beyond any control, as its success depends on the success of the various international regimes. According to Rand Paul “

According to some modernists, such as Joseph Nye, power diffusion is a novel process. Moreover, power diffusion is happening in this era because the era of the Internet means that even the most powerful countries are not able to control some issues within their states. It also implies that the biggest threat to American hegemony is not China, India or Brazil, but non-state actors due to the age of information (Nye 2012). On the other hand, power diversification, being the spread of power from more potent to less powerful nations, has been a historical process. In both cases, the two concepts affect the ability of states to communicate with and relate to other states. For example, China experienced a recommendable economic growth up to 2008, whereas its perception that the US faced decline led to an aggressive foreign policy against its neighbors (Nye 2012). Consequently, it negatively influenced the relations of China with its neighbors.

The basic image of the modernist theory is that of a web. The reason is that it espouses the interconnectedness of the international system and institutions.

2. a. what modernist would say about the prospects of the US and world peace?

According to modernists, the world is an interconnection of webs, which ensure that world peace, global finance, and global politics are interconnected. Considering this statement is possible to arrive at several conclusions. First, due to the fact that the world, as noted, is connected by a web via international relations, most other countries will not disrupt the system as it may have an adverse effect on the entire world. However, while the US might ensure sufficient safety from other nations in the short and medium-term, the situation with non-state actors is different. The proliferation of the Internet, as well as information age and terrorism, means that the world, and the US, in particular, might suffer from a lack of security due to the insufficient control in some instances from the states (Lectures). Consequently, the US and the other countries of the world, as per the modernists, face more potential harm from non-state actors rather than state ones.

b. In what ways do traditional or realist US international perspectives need redefinition according to modernists?

It is necessary to revise the concept in order to ensure that it is modern. For example, in the era of many non-state actors who can wreak as much havoc as state actors, the realist's view should consider some of the issues outside the state purview. Nye suggests that, in the current era, communication means that “outcomes are shaped by not only those whose army wins but also those whose story wins (19). Consequently, a revision of the realist’s view to co-opting more of what Nye has termed "smart power" would be a good starting point (10).

c. Also from a modernist perspective, what key variables might improve the prospects for peace and security? What might diminish them? Individually, assess the significance of international regimes concerning several specific issue areas.

International governments refer to the inherent principles, norms, rules, and decision-making processes that shape the participants. In the area of international trade, this will lead to both better relations due to the capital flows and the loss of jobs in some nations, which might hamper the relations. The second one is the improved connection between the countries and people, as communication devices and means become more modern and fast. Better conversations might lead to better relationships but also diminish the role of state control insecurity.

3. a. Personal assessment of realist and modernist theories

The two theories provide substantial explanations regarding the behavior of the states in the international arena. However, they both seem to have inherent weaknesses. In the first place, the realist theory presumes that the actions of the states on the international stage are out of cynical self-interest. This fact is not substantiated. While a state ultimately has a responsibility towards its citizens to act in its and the citizen's self-interest, in some cases, the states work in good faith to maintain peace and security in the world.

Regarding the issue of the modernist theory, one presumes that while taking decisions at the international arena, the states are supposed to realize the impact of their actions, and gauge how they influence the “web.” However, it is not always evident. In any case, while some states avoid “rocking the boat,” most nations find various reasons to take this measure, as the pay is more than the potential consequences for the action. For example, according to Putin, the Russian annexation of Crimea is justified on national interest grounds.

b. How is your explanation of international relations similar or different from modernist and realist theories?

My international relations theory is a fusion of both the modernist and realist philosophies. Consequently, they both have some similarities and differences. I consider that according to this theory, the international relations arena is a web, but also that the states act in their self-interest when they take any decisions. Consequently, the country will only fail to work in its interest when it is convinced that the repercussions for such actions bring more than the potential benefits the country would gain by implementing the specific act. Therefore, considering the fact that the states know that they can avoid the specific actions, they will pursue them, even to the detriment of other state actors.

In addition, the theory explains that there is a hierarchy of the states' power. In this way, it implicitly agrees with the two theories. For example, while the world is moving from a unipolar one both politically and socially, the United States are still more likely to have a more significant impact than those of Kiribati.

My understanding of international relations is also incompliance with the modernist's theory that in the current era there are other actors in the international arena and not only the states. They include bodies, such as International Monetary Fund, that play a role, which is necessary as the states in the international arena.

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