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Cover Introduction to Politics

17. Traditional Theories in Global Politics  

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. It begins with a discussion of early liberal approaches, with particular emphasis on liberal international theory whose proponents include US President Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell. Liberal international theory is characterized by an optimism concerning the prospects of a peaceful international order established through strong international institutions underpinned by international law. The chapter proceeds by considering the emergence of ‘realism’ as a general approach to the study of politics, along with the different approaches to the study of international politics following the Second World War, including positivism. It also explores the rise of the English School and the concept of international society before concluding with an analysis of neo-liberalism and neorealism that resulted from revisions of both liberalism and realism in the post-war period.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

3. Realism  

This chapter examines the realist tradition in international relations (IR), which is best seen as a research programme with several approaches using a common starting point. It highlights an important dichotomy in realist thought between classical realism and contemporary realism, including strategic and structural approaches. After describing the elements of realism, the chapter discusses the international thought of three outstanding classical realists of the past: Thucydides, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes. It then analyses the classical realist thought of Hans J. Morgenthau, along with strategic realism, neorealism, and neoclassical realism. Special attention is devoted to the defensive realism of Kenneth Waltz and the offensive realism of John Mearsheimer. Furthermore, the chapter looks at the recent theoretical debate among realist IR scholars concerning the relevance of the balance of power concept and it shows that realists often disagree among themselves. The chapter concludes with an overview of how the different realist theories treat international and domestic factors.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

4. Liberalism  

This chapter examines the liberal tradition in international relations (IR). It first considers the basic liberal assumptions, including a positive view of human nature and the belief that IR can be cooperative rather than conflictual. In their conceptions of international cooperation, liberal theorists emphasize different features of world politics. The chapter explores the ideas associated with four strands of liberal thought, namely: sociological liberalism, interdependence liberalism, institutional liberalism, and republican liberalism. It also discusses the debate between proponents of liberalism and neorealism, and it identifies a general distinction between weak liberal theories that are close to neorealism and strong liberal theories that challenge neorealism. Finally, it reviews the liberal view of world order and the notion that there is a ‘dark’ side of democracy.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

2. Classical Realism  

Richard Ned Lebow

This chapter examines the central assumptions of classical realism by analysing the texts of ancient and modern writers and contrasting their ideas with neorealism and other variants of modern realism. Classical realism represents an approach to international relations that dates back to Thucydides and his account of the Peloponnesian War. According to classical realists, power plays a major role in politics, but they also acknowledge its limitations and the ways it can be self-defeating. The chapter begins with a discussion of the position of classical realists regarding order and stability, focusing on the views of Thucydides and Hans J. Morgenthau with respect to the concepts of community, balance of power, and interest and justice. It then considers what classical realists think about change and transformation as well as the nature and purpose of theory. It concludes by commenting on the Iraq war in the context of classical realism.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

17. Traditional Theories in Global Politics  

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. It begins with a discussion of early liberal approaches, with particular emphasis on liberal international theory whose proponents include U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell. Liberal international theory is characterised by an optimism concerning the prospects of a peaceful international order established through strong international institutions underpinned by international law. The chapter proceeds by considering the emergence of ‘realism’ as a general approach to the study of politics, along with the different approaches to the study of international politics following World War II, including positivism. It also explores the rise of the English School and the concept of international society before concluding with an analysis of neo-liberalism and neorealism that resulted from revisions of both liberalism and realism in the post-war period.