Major Theories in IR and their assumptions

Major Theories in IR and their assumptions - Theory,...

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Theory, Images, and International Relations: An Introduction Realism—Major Actors and Assumptions Realism is based on four key assumptions. First, states are the principal or most important actors. States represent the key unit of analysis , whether one is dealing with ancient Greek city-states or modern nation-states. The study of international relations is the study of relations among these units. Realists who use the concept of system defined in terms of interrelated parts usually refer to an international system of states. What of nonstate actors? International organizations such as the United Nations may aspire to the status of independent actor, but from the realist perspective, this aspiration has not in fact been achieved to any significant degree. Multinational corporations, terrorist groups, and other transnational and international organizations are frequently acknowledged by realists, but the position of these nonstate actors is always one of lesser importance. States are the dominant actors. Second, the state is viewed as a unitary actor . For purposes of analysis, realists view the state as being encapsulated by a metaphorical hard shell. A country faces the outside world as an integrated unit. A common assumption associated with realist thought is that political differences within the state are ultimately resolved authoritatively such that the government of the state speaks with one voice for the state as a whole. The state is a unitary actor in that it is usually assumed by realists to have one policy at any given time on any particular issue . To be sure, exceptions occur from time to time, but to the realists, these are exceptions that demonstrate the rule and that actually support the general notion of the state as an integrated, unitary actor. Even in those exceptional cases in which, for example, a foreign ministry expresses policies different from policy statements of the same country's defense ministry, corrective action is taken in an attempt to bring these alternative views to a common and authoritative statement of policy. "End running" of state authorities by bureaucratic and nongovernmental, domestic, and transnational actors is also possible, but it occurs unchecked by state authorities in only those issues in which the stakes are low. From the realist perspective, if the issues are important enough, higher authorities will intervene to preclude bureaucratic end running or action by nongovernmental actors that are contrary to centrally directed policy. Third, given this emphasis on the unitary state-as- actor, realists usually make the further assumption that the state is essentially a rational actor . A rational foreign policy decision-making process would include a statement of objectives, consideration of all feasible alternatives in terms of existing capabilities available to the state, the relative likelihood of attaining these objectives by the various alternatives under consideration, and the benefits or costs associated with each alternative. Following this
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This note was uploaded on 10/11/2011 for the course COMM 1451 taught by Professor Macky during the Fall '10 term at ESDES Commerce et Management.

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Major Theories in IR and their assumptions - Theory,...

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