Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

The fully updated and revised fifth edition of this widely-used text provides a comprehensive survey of leading perspectives in the field. Updated throughout to take account of major events and developments, such as the Arab Spring, it also includes new material on neo-realism and neo-liberalism, postcolonialism and cosmopolitanism.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
From its inception as a separate field of study, International Relations has been the site of major theoretical debates. (We follow the academic convention of using ‘International Relations’ to refer to the discipline, and ‘international relations’ to refer to the structures, processes, episodes and events that the discipline investigates.) Two of the foundational texts in the field, E. H. Carr’s The Twenty Years’ Crisis (first published in 1939) and Hans Morgenthau’s Politics Among Nations (first published in 1948) were works of theory in three central respects. Each developed a broad framework of analysis which distilled the essence of international politics from disparate events; each sought to provide future analysts with the theoretical tools for understanding general patterns underlying seemingly unique episodes; and each reflected on the forms of political action which are most appropriate in a realm where the struggle for power was pre-eminent. Both thinkers were motivated by the desire to correct what they saw as deep misunderstandings about the nature of international politics lying at the heart of the liberal project – especially the belief that the struggle for power could be tamed by international law and the idea that the pursuit of self-interest could be replaced by the shared objective of promoting security for all. Not that Morgenthau and Carr thought the international political system was condemned for all time to revolve around the relentless struggle for power and security.
Scott Burchill, Andrew Linklater

2. Realism

Abstract
Political realism, Realpolitik, ‘power politics,’ is the oldest and most frequently adopted theory of international relations. (Smith (1986) and Donnelly (2000) provide book-length introductions. Doyle (1997) and Wight (1992) consider realism in relation to two alternative traditions. Forde (1992), Grieco (1997), Jervis (1998) and Wohlforth (2008) are representative single-chapter introductions.) Every serious student of IR must not only acquire a deep appreciation of political realism but also understand how his/her own views relate to the realist tradition. Therefore, let me lay my cards on the table at the outset. Normatively, I rebel against the world depicted in realist theory and I reject realism as a prescriptive theory of foreign policy. Analytically, however, I am no more an anti-realist than I am a realist. Realism, I will argue, is a limited yet powerful and important approach to and set of insights about international relations.
Jack Donnelly

3. Liberalism

Abstract
Liberalism is the most enduring and influential philosophical tradition to have emerged from the European Enlightenment. It is an approach to politics which champions scientific rationality, freedom and the inevitability of human progress. It is a perspective of government which emphasizes individual rights, constitutionalism, democracy and limitations on the powers of the state. It is also a model of economic organization which argues that market capitalism best promotes the welfare of all by most efficiently allocating scarce resources within society.
Scott Burchill

4. The English School

Abstract
The ‘English School’ is a term that was coined in the 1970s to describe a group of predominantly British, or British-inspired, writers for whom ‘international society’ is the primary object of analysis (Jones 1981; Linklater and Suganami 2006). Its most influential early members include Hedley Bull, Martin Wight, John Vincent and Adam Watson whose main publications appeared between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s (see Bull 1977; Wight 1977; 1991; Watson 1982; Bull and Watson 1984; Vincent 1986). Robert Jackson, Tim Dunne and Nicholas Wheeler have been among the most influential members of the English School in more recent years (Dunne 1998; Jackson 2000; Wheeler 2000). Since the late 1990s, the English School has enjoyed a renaissance in large part because of the efforts of Barry Buzan, Richard Little, Andrew Hurrell and other UK-based scholars (Little 2000; Buzan 2001; 2003; Hurrell 2007). The English School remains one of the most important approaches to international politics although its influence is probably greater in Britain than in most other societies where International Relations is taught.
Andrew Linklater

5. Marx and Marxism

Abstract
In the mid-1840s Marx and Engels wrote that capitalist globalization was transforming the international states-system. They believed that conflict and competition between nation-states had yet to come to an end, but the main fault-line in the future would revolve around the divisions between the two dominant social classes: the national bourgeoisie in each country and an increasingly international proletariat. The outline of a new social experiment based on the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity was already contained within the most advanced political movements of the industrial working class. Through revolutionary action, the international proletariat would embed those ideals in a form of global cooperation that would free all human beings from poverty, exploitation and oppression (Marx and Engels 1977).
Andrew Linklater

6. Historical Sociology

Abstract
Chapter 5 explained that Marx’s analysis of industrial capitalism was part of a larger inquiry into the evolution of human society from the most distant times to the modern era. Marx emphasized the increased power of the species over the natural world and the globalization of social and economic relations. By analysing the impact of large-scale structural change on collective action and everyday life, Marx pioneered historical sociology which has been defined as that ‘tradition of research devoted to understanding the character and effects of large-scale structures and fundamental processes of change’ (Kelly 2003; Skocpol, quoted in Hobden 1998: 3). Several overviews of historical sociology have maintained that studies of long-term changes in social and political structures also investigate their relationship with such features of everyday existence as emotional attitudes to violence and suffering (Abrams 1982: chapter 1; Skocpol 1984: chapter 1; Smith 1990: 3). Its breadth and scope distinguishes historical sociology from approaches that focus on short-term intervals and contemporary events. It also marks it off from historical writings that cast light on the distinctive or exceptional character of particular eras, episodes or events, but do not reflect on how they were connected with longer-term social directions.
Andrew Linklater

7. Critical Theory

Abstract
One of the defining characteristics of critical theory is its insistence on self-reflection, including an account of how knowledge emerges out of and is situated in particular contexts. It should come as little surprise then that critical theory should cast a backwards glance not only at its intellectual origins and evolution, but also its achievements and failures in application to the study of international relations. In the years since 1981, according to these self-reflective accounts (Rengger and Thirkell-White 2007, Brincat, Lima and Nunes 2012), the discipline of International Relations has been transformed, not least because of the theory’s critical interventions across a broad range of topics in the study of international relations.
Richard Devetak

8. Post-structuralism

Abstract
Post-structuralism remains one of the most controversial theories in the human and social sciences. Things are no different in International Relations where critics continue to censure the theory for a wide range of alleged intellectual misdemeanours; including accusations of moral relativism and irrationalism (Halliday 1994; Spegele 1992), imputations of flawed interpretation, ‘bowdlerization’, or ‘pillaging’ of post-structuralism’s ‘founding figures’ (Blair 2011; Jarvis 2000; Selby 2007; Spegele 1992), and fulminations against purported discursive idealism and disregard for ‘the real’ (Halliday 1994). In the words of one recent critic, post-structuralism has ‘failed to establish any authentic theoretical innovations capable of providing us with a viable framework for furthering our understanding of international relations’ (Blair 2011: 828). The very fact that post-structuralism has generated so much heated argument and controversy makes it an interesting theory to study. It has ruffled more than a few feathers. While this chapter makes no attempt to defend post-structuralism against the myriad charges in any direct way, it does respond to the claim that post-structuralism has failed to make any substantial ‘theoretical innovations’. This chapter contends that a more sympathetic account of the theory – one that engages with post-structuralism on its own conceptual and methodological terms – will allow for a fairer judgement of post-structuralism’s contribution to the study of international relations.
Richard Devetak

9. Constructivism

Abstract
During the 1980s, two debates structured International Relations scholarship, particularly within the American mainstream. The first was between neo-realists and neo-liberals, both of which sought to apply the logic of rationalist economic theory to international relations, but reached radically different conclusions about the potential for international cooperation. The second was between rationalists and critical theorists; the latter challenging the epistemological, methodological, ontological and normative assumptions of neo-realism and neo-liberalism, and the former accusing critical theorists of having little of any substance to say about ‘real-world’ international relations. Since the end of the Cold War, these axes of debate have been displaced by two new debates: between rationalists and constructivists, and between constructivists and critical theorists. The catalyst for this shift was the rise of a new constructivist approach to international theory, an approach that challenged the rationalism and positivism of neo-realism and neo-liberalism while simultaneously pushing critical theorists away from meta-theoretical critique to the empirical analysis of world politics.
Christian Reus-Smit

10. Feminism

Abstract
Breaking with the powerful bond among men, states and war, feminist theories of international relations have flourished since the mid 1980s. These theories have introduced gender as an empirical category and analytical tool for understanding global power relations as well as a normative position from which to consider alternative world orders. Like other constitutive theories such as constructivism, critical theory, post-modernism, and green theories, feminism shifts the study of international relations away from a singular focus on interstate relations toward a comprehensive analysis of transnational actors and structures and their transformations. But with their focus on non-state actors, marginalized peoples and alternative conceptualizations of power and relationships, feminist perspectives bring fresh thinking and action to world politics.
Jacqui True

11. Green Theory

Abstract
The past 40 years of global politics have been punctuated by cycles of concern about the basic sustainability of the trajectory on which human societies are headed, cycles which have been provoked by particular environmental scares but which have frequently been articulated as presaging a more systemic crisis. We moved thus from concerns about pesticides in the early 1960s, to those about ‘limits to growth’ and the ‘population bomb’ by the early 1970s. In a later cycle in the 1980s we moved from regional concerns about acid rain or nuclear fallout to ‘global’ concerns like ozone depletion, deforestation, biodiversity loss, or climate change. In the present cycle, climate change has again loomed large and is increasingly understood through a lens of its potential to cause industrial civilization to ‘collapse’.
Matthew Paterson

12. International Political Theory

Abstract
Nothing stands still in the world of international politics and that is also true of theories about international politics. This chapter examines some of the ideas that compose the domain of international political theory, with the aim, as in other chapters in this book, of presenting an up-to-date overview and guide to further study. I give special attention to ideas about global justice because they are increasingly central to that domain. And because the history of international political thought continues to be a lively area of inquiry, I give some attention to recent work in that area as well.
Terry Nardin
Additional information