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PLS 220 Chapter 3 Summary - Chapter 3 PLS 220 Summary I...

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Chapter 3 - PLS 220 - Summary I. Thinking Theoretically A theory is a set of propositions and concepts that seeks to explain phenomena by specifying the relationships among the concepts; theory’s ultimate purpose is to predict phenomena. Good theory generates groups of testable hypotheses : specific statements positing a particular relationship between two or more variables. As more and more data are collected, one must be tolerant of ambiguity, concerned about probabilities, and distrustful of absolutes. International relations theories come in a variety of forms, and this chapter will introduce three general theories and one newer perspective. II. Theory and the Levels of Analysis In a categorization first used by Kenneth Waltz, three different sources of explanations are offered. If the individual level is the focus, then the personality, perceptions, choices, and activities of individual decision makers and individual participants provide the explanation. If the state-level, or domestic, factors are the focus, then the explanation is derived from characteristics of the state: the type of government, the type of economic system, or interest groups. If the international system level is the focus, then the explanation rests with the anarchic characteristics of that system or with international and regional organizations and their strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of theory is to guide us toward an understanding of which of these various explanations are the necessary and sufficient explanations for the invasion. Good theory should be able to explain phenomena at a particular level of analysis; better theory should also offer explanations across different levels of analysis. III. Realism and Neorealism Realism is based on a view of the individual as primarily selfish and power seeking. Individuals are organized in states, each of which acts in a unitary way in pursuit of its own national interest , defined in terms of power. Power is primarily thought of in terms of material resources necessary to physically harm or coerce other states. States exist in an anarchic international system, characterized by the absence of an authoritative hierarchy. States’ most important concern is to manage their insecurity, and they rely primarily on balancing the power of other states and deterrence to keep the international system intact. Four of the essential assumptions of realism are found in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War . 1. The state is the principal actor in war and politics in general. 2. The state is assumed to be a unitary actor : once a decision is made to go to war or capitulate, the state speaks and acts with one voice. 3. Decision makers acting in the name of the state are assumed to be rational actors . Rational decision making leads to the advance of the national interest.
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4. A state’s need to protect itself from enemies both foreign and domestic. A state
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