theory - A Brief Introduction to Theories on International...

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A Brief Introduction to Theories on International Relations and Foreign Policy POLI 468 Bill Newmann The selections we will be reading have one main focus. They seek to answer the big question in international relations and foreign policy: Why do states behave the way they do in the international system? Some people argue that this is a question of international relations theory and others say it is a question of foreign policy theory. For our purposes, we can consider them the same issue. Why do states behave the way they do is the question that theories of international relations and theories of foreign policy are trying to answer. The fact that these are treated as separate bodies of theory says more about political scientists than it does about the nature of state behavior. Since political science is concerned with theory building, each of these books focuses on theories. As stated in the syllabus, the search for theory is a search for rules to explain social science phenomenon (in this case foreign policy behavior). Each author is developing a theory to explain the behavior of all states, not just one state. That is the trick here. Can you find universal patterns of activity, universal rules that can used to explain how any state behaves? Each author is developing a theory (a rule about state behavior) and then testing it with case studies. You are assessing those theories and the evidence that supports them. So think in those terms. Don’t be confused by scientific jargon. Just remember that theories are statements about cause and effect. When I heat up a liquid, it will boil. That’s cause and effect. To become a scientist, you start to experiment – you heat up different liquids to see if they all boil at the same temperature, then you try to make rules about the different types of liquids you heat up, say types of juices vs. types of oil. That’s science. Now, since this is social science and we’re dealing with nations, we can’t run experiments. You can’t invade several nations to see what their different reactions to invasion might be. So you use historical data to test your theories. That’s what you’re examining in your papers. An author has developed a theory or tested two theories. How well does the author’s argument hold up when tested against the historical data? The authors might use terms that you are unfamiliar with. I am going to provide a brief introduction to some of the key ideas in international relations that will give you a starting point and a quick reference for dealing with the theoretical issues. The authors are very good at illustrating their theories, but this might help just in case. Also, these are starting points for the authors. They take some of these basic notions and redevelop them. So their views of each of these theories might be slightly different from the way I describe them.
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course POLI 202 taught by Professor Bee-yatch during the Spring '11 term at Arizona.

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theory - A Brief Introduction to Theories on International...

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