International Relations Theory
International Relations Theory
The study of the international relations has traditionally focused on the study of the causes of war and conflict between the states and the condition of peace. However, in the 21st century we are more concerned with the question of how the global relations can be identified, and with who lays the power of world politics. The global politics and international relations concepts have been developed over centuries. The key theories have established the commonly accepted methods of explaining the relationships between the states, and the way in which nations conduct their businesses.
We can distinguish between many strands of thought, each extensive and often mutable. Thus, it is hard to define which are the most equitable and had most leverage in the international relations or global politics. However, we can certainly highlight few, which are seen as the most important or even crucial. One of them is Marxism, developed by Karl Marx in the 19th century. Marxism sought to purport the varied terrains in a new and unprecedented way. Some of the key aphorisms include the materialism, class system theory, the dialectical approach to history and of course a critique to liberalism and capitalism.
Alas, the Marxism theory was precluded in the 1990s, after the oppression of people, economic instability, poverty and unhappiness under the communistic rule became evident. However, in the latter years of extreme economic and social crisis, many scholars once again engaged in the critical insight of capitalism, just as Marx did centuries ago. Marxism is the only theory available, which seeks to completely undermine capitalism, and expose its fundamental flaws which capitalists try to avoid or divert, but cannot overcome.
However, it is not only limited to the economics. It presents extensive explanation of social and political relations and ways in which societies can determine it. It offers a new concept of freedom, far more expansive and empowering than the traditional liberal understanding. In this essay I will critically assess the extent to which Marxism has contributed to an understanding of the global politics. The global politics otensibly consists of many strands of scholar thought , analysis and theories .
The acuurate and cognizant way of explaining or arranging the different approaches would be to put them in two categories; mainstreem and the rest. The parenial mainstreem theories of international relations are realism, liberalism, neo-realism and neo-liberalism. Other vail approaches share much with mainstreetm but have been seen rather as develpoments or critiques or of it, often providing a very distinct analysys . One of such is Marxism. Karl Marx developed new depiction with some linkages to the previous theories.
He offers a distinct approach and analysis of political, social and economic life. Marx’s aim was to expose the hidden truth about the world of politics, and to higlight to people that history, politics and our social life is not something that only happens to us (independently from our actions), but rather something wich happens with our presence and input, and therefore can also be transformed by us. We can choose weather or not we want to live in a political-social system which we inherited, or to alter it if we are dissatissfied with it.
In this sense politics appears as a struggle over processess of social-self production. The ability to steer various processess in one direction or another, thus shape the world in whcih we live in, produce a social change. Marxs expalins this as a dialectical or process orientated approach to understanding our history and politics. The historical tensions and cirumstances opneded up various possibilities for actors (agents embodied in institutions), to produce a change. As humans we have a freedom or in other words a collective ability to shape ourselfs and our world.
This concept of freedom is broader and more empowering , than in the traditional liberal thinging (freedom of choice, our wants and needs in the market). Another important aphorism of Karl Marx was historical materialism. According to Marx all life is constantly evolving . The evolution results from the clash of two opposing forces. The same must happen with peolpe. For centuries humanity experienced struggles and clashes mainly between 2 groups of people. In the acient world it was the slaves and the lords, in the middle the peasants (surfs)and the lad owners, and in capitalism the capitalists (burgouise) and the working class (proletariat).
Each historic era is different , has its own dynamic an dlogic, based on a dominant mode of production: primitive, feudalism and finally capitalism. For Marx each stage had its beginbing, middle but also an end. Marx also belived that history is shaped by the material basis of society. He recognised base and superstructure division of society. He included education, politics, religion, culture, media to the superstructure.
Underneeth the superstructure there lies base consisted of relations of production (burguoise), and means of production everything which is owned by burguise needed for procution such as technology for instance). The base in Marx view , creates a particular type of political authority which is mostly concerned with protecting and promoting the interests of the dominant class. The base can change the history and the society. The key implication here is that the people who conctrol the material base (the means and forces of production), ulitmately control the society, politics and the world we live in. He recognised tha states as the puppet of a dominant class.
Marx also offered an extensive and profound crtique to caqpitalism, imperialism and globaloization. He did not undermined it. It is fair to say that Marx understood capitalims as the most productive theorey that every existed but nevertheless, he recognised that it was living on a borrowed time. For Marx the capitalism had fundamental flaws as it was exploitative and oppressive system. He examined the features of capitalism, praised it for the competetive nature whihc would recsult and many spohisticated advancemnts, presented its flaws and atributes.
Karl Marx acknowledge that constant urge for profit wouldstimulate the innovation process in various fields such as technology, media, medicine. Nevertheless, the necessity to generate higher and higher profit is the main downfall of the globalization and capitalism concept. As a result capitalism will move from crisis to criris, and the society will become increasingly unequal. Marx specified that capitalists will attempt to reslove one crisis, but as one problem would be resolved, another would be created in its place.
We can clearly see how this process works taking for instance the sub-prime lending case. As people did not have enough money , the demand failed. The profits of various cooperations also failed (as demand stimalates the supply and the prices). The banks offered creditd cards and loans. In turn people bought more goods, and contributed to the economy. Everyone was happy in the process, the baks, the producers and of course the working class who would now finally buy the goods and services they wanted. One problem was solved.
However, after a while people did not meet their repayments. The banks had to confiscate their houses, cars, and other possesions as a result. Now banks were left with empty houses, and a huge deficit of money. The enterpreneours who invested and supplied banks with the money lost a vast ammount of money, many bankrupted. The taxes rates for the lower and the middle were risen, and the wages cut so the capitalists could once again make profit. Alas, less wages and bigger taxes meant less dissposable income to pay for the new good and services.
The capitalists once again have to battle low profits, and find new ways to stay in business, The whole process reapeats itself, and no concrete and reliable solution is found. Marx also crtiticises the globalization process. The global capitalism means alliances of globalised capitalists, in order to do the business together and gain more control. This aspect of globalization within the context of capitalism will also prove fatal, as the interconcetivity between various world economies could potentiall bring doom to all if one falls ( we can see it happening with the hyousing bubble burst in the USA, resulting from the sub-prime lending .
This crisis not only affected the USA economy, but spreaded to the rest of the world resulting in the global economical crises and recession). Marxs posited that economic relations between people was core to absolutely everything. The human needs for housing, security, food, drive human interactions. Furthermore he stasted that private property divided the world. The human persistency to barter and to create profit was a recepie for distater. Capitalism develpse productive powers of human societies, but it does in rather undemocratic manner, through exploating and subduing the working class.
As a result it distors the real historiacal possibilities for social self-determination. Socially empowered people under the capitalistic system, are prevented from realising their full productive powers and enjoying their fuller forms of freedom. Under tha capitalism ideaology supports the historiucally specific forms of social activity and organization, which appears to be necessarry and natural universal conditions. It takes on the apperance of unchangable, and hard-wired withing the society.
This is of course mistification. Within the context of capitalism , we are isolated individuals, therefore we confornt our social envirometn not as collective product. We views it in terms of constraint on our individual chocies. This way of understanding social relations as parennial, universal and natural prevents us from looking for possibilities of transformation, or imagining the alternative possible worlds. Marxism inspired future analysis in the international relations arena .
One of the most significant was the crtitical theory. The critical theory was develpoed in 1930s by the frankfurt school of thoutgt. The term frnakfurt school refers to theorists originally assosiated with the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt University . The early frnakfurt shcool tehorist Horkheimer and Adorno, began too lose faith in the revolutionary potential of the proletaria. The also saw how in the west Marxism was marxism was being transformed into a doctrisn of economic determinism.
In the face of these developments, they wanted to retain a critical modern critical and potentially progressive role for social theory, but were wary of the orthodox Marxisms’ preocupation with production and the coresponding emphasis on the historical role of the proletariat” The core concepts of the Crtical theory are that critical social theory should be directed at the totality of society in its historical specificity , and also that critical theory should improve understanding of society by integrating all the major social sciences, including geography, economics, sociology, history, political science, anthropology, and psychology.
Critical theoriests developed a key concept that the objectively valid forms of knowledge could not be established independently of the social context and social norms. The theories which claimthat they provide objective truth are profoundly misleading. In their view idealogy (or theories assosiated with it), are just a belief that oue perspective is the truth. The way in which things appera from the economic standpoint of our consciousness. They asked a question: can idealogy be proven, is it just a mode of belief.
After all idealogy is without conciousness. Is it fair to say that things actually are the way they appear to me? The frankfurt scholars went on explaining that in each historic period the dominant class sets the idealogy. In the late capitalism it is ultimately a burgouise idealogy. So the ideas whic are the base of every aspect of our society , (for instance our current work ethic or current standards of moral behaviour) do not have to be universal, just and correct. The frankfurt scholars have undermined the positivist forms of scienfitic knowledge.
They claim that positivism and instrumental reason discourse denys the alternative values and future possible worlds. Gramsci went a bit further and develpoed a theory of hegemony as a form of political power whcih relied upon the consent than coercion. “ In a hegemonic social situation, dominant groups (classes, class fractions and their verious alliers) articulate a social vision which claims to serve the intersts of all, and they use selective incentives to recruit junior partners into their coalition and to didivde the disable oposition”
He belived that in modern and advances capitalistsic societies, hegemonic power might be promoted via media, education, art, literature as well as political parties. Under these conditions various groups might be led to consent to the powerof dominant groups. This action would make the use of obviously opressive and coercive power unnecessary.. He also argued that hegemony should be continously chalenged by the civil society. In this way he hoped that capitaslist culture would be challenged by a counter-hegemonic political culture.
In short, he speculated that peolpe might start to think of their economic lives as having a significant political importance . Gramsci hoped that they might finally question the universal capitalism’s structured separation of the ploitical fromt he economic aspects of life. Another important approach to global politics, which derives from Marxism is the World systems theory , which was fathered by Immanueakl Wallestein in the 1970s. He traced the rise of the world system to the 16th century Western Europe, whihc then spraded to the rest of the world. The E3urope feudal economy suffered crisi and was transformed into capitalism.
The west quikly utilisised their advantages and gained control and power, over the most of the world economy (using colonialism, slavery, imperialism and globalisation together with the unfair trade). This actions resulted in an unequal develpoment, which instead of diminishing grows even further. Wallestein also supported Marx’s previous view that the suposely tree distnict areas of politics, socio9logya nd economics are in fact combined. In his writing Wollestein provided a structural explenation of the global inequallity between states. He viewd it as a pyramis.
At the top of the pyramid lye the core states. Whuhc dominate the system. They all are in favour of capitalistic global economy for their own elevation. Examples in todays world inlude USA, Japan or Western Europe. Beneeth the core states lys the semi-periphery states, which are seeking to elevate themselfs to claim their place among the core . Examples include the BRIC countries: Brasil. Rusia, India or China. At the very bottom of the pyramid lies the peripher, the weakest of the states (third wolrd countires ). They are usually rulled by the puppet goverments , subservient to the global capitalists.
Ruled by the core states. They will never be given the standars of life they deserve through their inustry. They usually provide most of the natural resources and products which are greedly devour by the core, only to recive poor technoplogy and ocasional aid in return. People in the third world countries (peripherians) are the main victims of this opression, as they benefit less from the spohisticated technology and innovation that capitalism (through drive for profit) brings about. This generates a fundamental innequality between the nations. Conclusion
The forms of Marxian critical theory (further develpoed by the Frankfurt school and by Gramsci), lead us to a conlusion that the claims of scientific objectivity assosiated with positivistiv theories of International relations are in fact profoundly misleading . This approach differs a lot from the mainstreem realistic and liberalistsi approaches of the international relations. More recently there has been a sort of renaissance of Marxian international theory. It began during the 1990s and gained its momentum with the US war on terror after the 9/11/.
The American war on terror is seen by many as the twnety-first-centuray imperialism . Many scholars return to Marxism wirtings and its later developments, to find it very accurate in the sphere of the global politics today. Undoubtedly, Marxism contributed in large means to our understanding of the global politics. It is the only reliable source of the critique of the capitalistis system we currently live in. Furthermore it explains and provides an analis of it. It stresses the interdependence of social-political- and economical aspects of life , not only within the domestic arena but also on the global scale.
Marxisms highlights the global innequalities that the capitalism creates, demonstrates and unmasks the constant exploitation and mannipulation of the working class. It stresses the importance of all idvividuals, and their ability to transform and alter the world around us which includes our political system, current moral and ethical forms of behaviour, the ecoonomic system and every other aspect of our live. Marx and the later scholars influenced by his writing, do not propose a new clear system to replace capitalism. The presumptions are left to us .
Within the concept of marism the idealogy can always be altered, it shall not be seen as something parenially just and fair. It is also seen as the tool of the higher class, who usess it to explain the world to the lower class and further to control it. Therefore Marx saw idealogy only a way of explainign and understanding the world rather than verity. This approach had big significance in the global politics theory. It inspired new starnds of thought in international relations and of course met with a fierce critique of positivistic scholars and thinkers.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 November 2016
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