Is realism a theory or a worldview
Your assessment will be a 3000 word essay. It should be in response to any question from the seminar outlines for weeks 1- 4,
When you come to write your essays, I will be looking to see whether you answer the question directly, can think critically about the subject matter and do so with style. A good essay has to have an argument, it should be clear, well-structured, and to the point. In order to achieve distinction, you need to show evidence that you are capable of applying the theories to contemporary or historical world politics. Marks will be deducted for going below or over the word limit by 10%. Part of the skill of writing is being able to express yourself succinctly.
Whenever you draw information from a book, article, or any other source, you must include a citation in your essay explaining where you got this particular piece of information from. This rule applies whenever the fact you are citing is without your personal knowledge or common knowledge. Each time you present a piece of information from a source, you must insert a citation. To fail to document your claims with proper citations could leave one open to charge of plagiarism. Regardless of its other possible merits, an essay failing to provide proper references will always receiving a failing grade as it does not live up to academic standards.
Course Summary Outline
1. Introduction: what is IR-Theory and what is it good for?
2. Liberal Internationalism and the Rise of China
3. Classical Realism and the Depoliticisation in Modernity
4. The English School and the ‘Civilising Process’
5. Constructivism, the Enlargement of the European Union, and the Anglosphere
6. Critical Theory and the Crisis of Capitalism
7. “Where are the Women?” Gender Mainstreaming in International Relations
8. Poststructuralism, Postcolonialism, and the Poverty of Positivism
Week-by-Week Summary, Required Reading, and Seminar Questions
You find all required reading on Moodle. The required reading is the absolute minimum you have to read in preparation for the seminar.
Introduction: what is IR-Theory and what is it good for?
It is not at all clear what IR-theory is or what it is good for. One thing has become increasingly clear, however: IR-theory is deeply political. It used to be thought that we could develop an objective, value-free, and absolute theory; a theory that was unconnected to our personal background, objective and realistic rather than
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utopian. However, the more IR theory is disguised as scientific and objective, the more likely it is to be covering up that political element. The purpose of this first week is to explore some of these issues as a way of setting up the problems we will engage in the weeks to come.
1. ‘Non-theoretical accounts of the world are simply not available’ (Steve Smith) Do you agree?
2. When it comes to developing theory, does it matter where you come from?
3. Considering Steve Smith’s genealogical approach to IR-theory, what should
be its purpose?
Smith, Steve (1997) ‘The self-image of a discipline: a genealogy of international relations theory’, in Ken Booth and Steve Smith, eds., International relations theory today, University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1-37.
Wæver, Ole. 1998. “The Sociology of a not so International Discipline.” International Organization no. 52 (4): 687-727.
Liberal Internationalism and the Rise of China
IR first developed as a distinct field of study in the early twentieth century. Up until the onset of the Second World War, liberalism reigned as the dominant theory through which world politics was studied. During the Cold War, realism eclipsed liberalism, but since the downfall of the Soviet Union, liberalism has once again regained its preeminent position in the field. Liberals have always been concerned with non-liberal states and they have always been concerned with spreading liberalism in the belief that a more liberal world would be a more peaceful one. The contemporary rise of China poses similar questions to those faced by liberals in the
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late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Indeed, it seems to be even a bigger challenge for liberalism. A country is prospering and increasingly makes a stand in world politics that endorses capitalism but not liberal democracy.
1. How has liberalism changed over the course of the twentieth century?
2. Is liberalism an ideology or a theory? Answer with reference to the debate
between Beate Jahn and Andrew Moravcsik.
3. Is the liberal international order robust enough to withstand China’s rise or
will we see significant changes?
Hall, Martin and John Hobson (2010). Liberal International theory: Eurocentric but not always Imperialist? International Theory 2 (2): 210-245.
Ikenberry, G. John ‘Liberal Internationalism 3.0’ Perspectives on Politics 7(1) March 2009.
Classical Realism and the Depoliticisation in Modernity
The main challenger to liberal IR-theory is realism. Realism was born in the inter-war years, has a distinctive European intellectual background, and its core tenets are a reaction to the liberal ideologies that ruled during that time. But realism was not to cement its place as the dominant IR theory until the 1950s. The failure of the liberal Weimar Republic in Germany, the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War, led many to believe that realism, rather than the spread of liberalism could secure peace. This belief became largely forgotten, not least because of the rise of neo- realism but recently there is increased interest in classical realists like Hans Morgenthau as realists stress the human condition of politics and criticize the depoliticising effects of modernity.
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1. Is realism a theory or a worldview, as Michael Smith (1986) contends?
2. How can we contextualize realism? Is it an American science or Continental European scholarship? Consider the differences between classical realism
and structural realism.
3. Does realist thought help us to understand the depoliticizing tendencies in
modern societies and if, yes what are they?
Behr, Hartmut and Xander Kirke (2014). The Tale of a ‘Realism’ in International Relations. E-International Relations.
Ro¨sch, Felix (2013), ‘Realism as Social Criticism: The Thinking Partnership of Hannah Arendt and Hans Morgenthau’. International Politics 50 (6):815-829.
The English School and the Civilising Process
Following Stanley Hoffmann, mainstream approaches to the study of world politics have been dominated by American scholars. This gave IR a very particular methodological and political complexion, one predominantly shaped by the demands of the US’s post-War superpower status and the demands of waging the Cold War against the USSR. The ‘English School’ was a loose group of British, South African and Australian scholars who, in 1950s, set up the British Committee on the Theory of International Relations. As the British Empire collapsed, scholars of world politics in the UK were now freer to discuss the history of the international system, whether the commonwealth constituted a society of states and whether there were bonds of solidarity and signs of progress in world politics. These issues were a long way from the concerns of the mainstream scholars in the USA. But what is its contribution to the theoretical development of the discipline?
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1. What value does the concept of ‘international society’ have for IR theory?
2. Is the international order becoming more ‘civilized’?
3. How is the English School of IR different from realism and liberalism?
Buzan, Barry, ‘The English School: An Unexploited Resource in IR’, Review of International Studies, 27, 3 (2001).
Suganami, Hidemi. 2003. “British Institutionalists, or the English School, 20 Years on.” International Relations no. 17 (3): 253-272.
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