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About this book

International Relations (IR) theory has seen a proliferation of competing, and increasingly trenchant, worldviews with no consensus on how to evaluate their relative strengths and weakness. This innovative new text provides an original interpretation of how best to navigate the clash of perspectives in contemporary IR theory.

The book provides a systematic overview of the main worldviews – such as realism, liberalism, and constructivism – and their associated theoretical underpinnings. Placing liberal internationalism at the heart of the debate, it argues that the main division in IR theory is between liberal internationalism and its critics. Griffiths examines both the strengths and weaknesses of liberal internationalism as a worldview, and also explores the competing worldviews that have been generated by the perceived flaws of this perspective.

Examination of crucial policy issues is incorporated throughout the text, restoring the relevance of theory for those who wish to understand those policy issues. Moreover, this book revitalises the raison d'être of contemporary IR theory and shows the role it can play in making sense of the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Conquest, Coexistence and IR Theory

Abstract
As an academic field of study, International Relations (IR) became an autonomous area of inquiry in 1919 when the University of Wales created its Department of International Politics and Georgetown University in the United States (US) created its Department of International Relations. The field was (and to some extent still is) devoted to the explicit study of how the system of states could be made to work more effectively to enhance the power of law, peacefully manage interstate affairs, preserve order and minimize the prospects of war. The words ‘relations’ or ‘affairs’ (as in ‘foreign affairs’) are meant to signify that the field encompasses more than just politics. The field is closely tied, administratively if not academically, to political science departments (and in some cases history or law departments, from which IR can be said to have originated, particularly from the subfields of diplomatic history and international law, although international economics might also be added to the chronology). In most universities, IR is simply treated as a subdiscipline of political science, or is part of a policy studies degree, a public administration degree, a peace studies degree or a security studies degree. Sometimes the labels of ‘foreign affairs’ or ‘international studies’ are preferred by those who shun the IR label as insufficiently ‘interdisciplinary’.
Martin Griffiths

2. Liberal Internationalism

Abstract
In this chapter I provide a broad overview of liberal internationalism, a wide-ranging project that both defends and seeks to apply basic liberal principles universally. Liberal internationalism is first liberal, and then internationalist. It seeks to replicate or reproduce the essential features of the Western liberal democratic state at the international level (see Hoffmann 1998). At the domestic level, liberal internationalism links the protection of basic human rights with the necessity of constitutional limits to executive power. At the global level, it envisages a world composed of liberal democratic states, at peace with one another, integrated into a global market economy and actively participating in international governance through international organization (see Russett and Oneal 2001). The chapter begins with an elaboration of liberal values, and then provides a schematic overview of what is usually referred to as republican liberalism, commercial liberalism and regulatory or institutional liberalism. These constitute the three central pillars of the worldview. They are the means or processes through which liberal internationalism is imaginatively projected abroad. The third section examines the role of the United States as both a promoter of as well as a threat to liberal internationalism. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief analysis of the main tensions between the processes in practice, which are then explored in more detail in the next three chapters.
Martin Griffiths

3. Democratization: Republican Liberalism versus Commercial Liberalism

Abstract
At the beginning of the twenty-first century there was wide consensus among leaders, populations and academics about the virtues and benefits of democracy. Since the 1970s waves of democratization had succeeded each other with unexpected rapidity. Even states such as the Soviet Union, Nicaragua, South Korea and Chile, which had seemed in the mid-1980s to be paragons of authoritarian stability, were fledgling democracies. Ten years before George Bush made democratization a pillar of his State of the Union address in 2004, President Clinton, in his 1994 State of the Union address, proclaimed:
Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don’t attack each other; they make better trading partners and partners in diplomacy.
Martin Griffiths

4. Self-Determination: Republican Liberalism versus Regulatory Liberalism

Abstract
In this chapter I locate some of the fundamental problems of self-determination within the context of republican liberalism and regulatory liberalism. Recall from Chapter 2 that the former endorses the spread of democracy in pursuit of freedom as well as international peace. The latter promotes the rule of international law and other cooperative regimes, practices and institutions to regulate an increasingly interdependent international society. Unfortunately for liberal internationalism, these two drivers of the liberal internationalist vision do not mutually reinforce each other in promoting democratic national self-determination.
Martin Griffiths

5. International Organization: Commercial Liberalism versus Regulatory Liberalism

Abstract
It is now more than half a century since the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions were created. However, the world has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. The technological revolution in transport and communications has eroded the barriers of distance and time. National economies have become more closely integrated through cross-border flows of trade, investment and finance. And there is now a myriad of new actors — from trans-national firms to NGOs — participating in international relations and the global economy. The concern is that the current system of international organization seems incapable of dealing with either the ‘old’ problems that persist or the ‘new’ problems that have surfaced. In the twenty-first century, almost one third of the people in the developing world, or more than one billion people, live in absolute poverty and cannot meet their basic human needs (Collier 2007: 3). The same number does not have access to clean water. And new problems have surfaced: the number of humanitarian crises, with their legacy of death, displacement and destruction, has risen dramatically over the past two decades, and some of the new problems are a direct consequence of globalization.
Martin Griffiths

6. The Conservative Critique: Realism

Abstract
In this chapter I examine realism as a critique of liberal internationalism, at the level of both IR theory and US foreign policy. As an attempt to understand international relations as an autonomous domain of activity governed by the dynamics of the balance of power, realism is a failure. As a critique of liberal internationalism, however, it is indispensable. Realism is particularly valuable when liberal internationalism mutates into a form of liberal ideology (such as neoliberalism or neoconservatism) that dismisses the contradictions between the three ‘engines of progress’ explored in the three previous chapters, or which focuses exclusively on the allegedly benign consequences of only one of them (see Gilpin 2005). Understood in this way, however, realism and liberal internationalism are certainly not incommensurable.
Martin Griffiths

7. The Radical Critique: Critical Theory and Cosmopolitanism

Abstract
In this chapter I elaborate and evaluate the cosmopolitan critique of liberal internationalism, a critique that shares the latter’s philosophical foundations, but rejects its reformist engines of progress as hopelessly inadequate to achieve its lofty goals. Cosmopolitanism has ancient roots in Western civilisation. The idea of a ‘cosmopolis’, or Universal City, played a central role in Stoic philosophy as well as in Christianity (see Heater 2004). A number of social and political theorists have recently resurrected the concept, most of whom present it as part of a new politics of the left, and as an alternative to ethnocentric nationalism (Archibugi 2008). A call for some kind of cosmopolitanism in international relations has also re-emerged due to an increasing awareness of trans-national realities on various levels. For instance, at a broad global level, many political agendas (including human rights, crime and the environment) are beyond the capacity of any one country to deal with effectively (Held 2000). On an immediate personal level, increasing numbers of people are prone to articulate complex affiliations and allegiances to issues, people, places and traditions that lie beyond the boundaries of their resident state. For all these reasons a renewed popular interest in cosmopolitanism is understandable.
Martin Griffiths

8. Middling, Meddling, Muddling? Three Via Medias

Abstract
Liberal internationalists and their critics, both conservative and radical, constitute a theoretical and policy debate that, I argue, is at the heart of contemporary IR theory. That debate is complex, crossing the usual divide between normative and empirical theory, realism and idealism, and other conventional markers of division in the field. In this chapter I turn my attention to three discourses of mediation between realism and cosmopolitanism, and ask whether they are able to offer some way out of the paradox of liberal internationalism. Unfortunately, they do not. The three via medias are constructivism, the so-called English School and just war theory. The failure of each discourse reminds us just how powerful the paradox of liberalism is, and how its competing elements resist synthesis and reconciliation.
Martin Griffiths

9. Conclusions

Abstract
This book has been based on the recognition that worldviews are necessary. They frame the domain of international relations, and provide the conceptual language and fundamental assumptions (both ontological and evaluative) on the basis of which specific phenomena and patterned relationships are explained via empirical theory. As is increasingly recognized in the field, contemporary IR theory exhibits a wide variety of competing worldviews. To be sure, they are not all mutually exclusive. Productive conversations can and have taken place between realists and liberals over the dynamics of cooperation among states and the conditions for regime maintenance in a variety of issue areas. There is some overlap between Marxism and critical theory. Similarly, feminism is a multidimensional worldview in which liberals, radicals and poststructuralists engage in dialogue with one another. IR theory in the twenty-first century is therefore inextricably pluralistic. Pluralism, however, is not necessarily to be valued if it glosses over the balkanization of the field into what Kornprobst (2009: 88) calls ‘burgeoning sub-communities … instead of a lively community of scholars’. In this book I have tried to rethink IR theory as an ongoing great debate generated by the paradoxes and contradictions of liberal internationalism.
Martin Griffiths
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