Chapter Summary

I. Thinking Theoretically

  • Historically, international activities were the results of actions taken by central governments, but this is changing in the world of today. Increasingly, these activities involve different actors.
  • International relations is the study of the interactions among the various actors that participate in international politics, including states, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, subnational entities, and individuals.
  • Political scientists develop theories or frameworks, both to understand the causes of events that occur in international relations and to answer the foundational questions in the field.
  • Realism posits that states exist in an anarchic international system.
    • Each state bases its policies on an interpretation of national interest defined in terms of power.
    • The structure of the international system is determined by the distribution of power.
  • Liberalism argues that humans form states that generally cooperate and follow international norms and procedures.
  • Radical theory is rooted in economics: actions of individuals are determined by their social class.
  • Constructivists argue that the key structures are intersubjective and social.

II. Developing the Answers

  • Answers are often found in history.
    • History invites students to acquire detailed knowledge of specific events, but also to use these events to test generalizations.
  • We can also deduce answers from classical and modern philosophy.
    • The philosopher Plato explored ideas about the perfect state.
    • Thomas Hobbes imagined a state of nature when men ruled by passions, living in constant uncertainty.
    • Kant envisioned a federation of states as a means to universal peace.
  • History and philosophy permit us to delve into the foundational questions and to speculate on normative elements in political life.
  • Behavioralism proposes that individuals act in patterned ways and seek to empirically test plausible hypotheses about individual behavior.
    • The methods of behavioralism are not an end unto themselves, only a means to improve explanation.
  • Some international relations scholars are dissatisfied with these approaches.
    • Postmodernists seek to deconstruct the basic concepts of the field such as state, nation, rationality, and so on.
    • Constructivists have used discourse analysis to answer the questions that are posed.
  • No question can be answered with reliance on only one method

III. In Sum: Making Sense of International Relations

  • International relations is a pluralistic discipline, turning to disciplines such as history, philosophy, behavioral psychology, and so on.