the back of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck’s three wars of German unification (in 1864, 1866 and 1870) made armed conflict between Europe’s states more likely. Others argue that the breakdown of the Long Peace could only occur within a larger set of changes that were taking place in the international system. According to this thesis, we should focus less on power shifts
11 Introduction to international relations 36 brought about by the rise of a single state, and more on the by-products of the global struggle for influence between the various great powers. In other words, the key to understanding the collapse of the old order may be found in the processes of capitalism and imperialism. This remains the view of most Marxists, espoused in a pamphlet – Imperialism (1916) – by the great revolutionary V.I. Lenin. In it, he argues that peace had become quite impossible by the beginning of the twentieth century because of capitalists’ determination to carve up the world in a zero sum game , in which one actor’s gain means another actor’s loss. In some ways, this is also the view of orthodox Realists, who see politics as an arena in which ‘winner-takes-all’. Though they reject Lenin’s economic explanation of the First World War, they agree that the odds of the Long Peace surviving under conditions of increased competition were slim. The end of the Long Peace was therefore no accident. Rather, for Marxists and Realists alike, it was the tragic result of conflicts inherent in an international system which could not be contained by deft diplomacy, carefully worded treaties, or states’ adherence to a shared set of practices and norms. Finally, there are many in IR who insist that the Long Peace was only possible so long as weapons technology remained relatively primitive. The coming of the industrial revolution, and with it new naval technologies, improvement in munitions and a rapid acceleration in the destructive capacity of arms, changed the way states fought, making new forms of war possible and, by definition, more destructive. This thesis claims that technology made war far more likely as one state after another began to invest heavily into these new weapons of death. This arms race may not, in and of itself, explain what finally happened in 1914. Nevertheless, the rapid build-up of modern military technology, in a world where war was still regarded as noble and heroic, made armed conflict more likely, increasing the insecurity of states great and small. Activity One of the goals of this chapter is to show how IR theory can be used to make sense of the past. Using what you have learned about Realism, Liberalism, International Political Economy, and the English School, how do you think each school of thought would account for the beginning of the First World War? Provide a brief (one- or two- sentence) thesis statement for each of the following approaches.
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