THE ‘GREAT DEBATES’ IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS THEORY

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Interstate relations has become a separate study area after the First World War. Until today this development is regarded as formed in the axis of four main debates:

  1. Idealism – Realism debate in 1920s and 1930s,
  2. Traditionalism – Behaviouralism debate in 1950s and 1960s,
  3. Neorealism – Neoliberalism debate in 1970s
  4. Positivism-Postpositivism debate in 1980s.

Idealism – Realism

Idealism – Realism debate is indicated as a starting point on the emergence of the discipline of International Relations.

When we examined to emergence of realism, it is been to born of idealism after first war World. Showing up of realism is possible to search big problems of international relation in 1930s. One hand, after 1929, while economic depression was causing to solve economic system permeating World by USA, on the other hand, losing states in the First World War with increasing nationalistic emotions like Germany and Japan increased the tension the effort of changing of international order in ınternational relations. After first war World, trying to create a new order started to shake to the foundation in this environment.

Predicating peace on and aiming to create peaceful World order who liberalism is started to go through an interrogation in the 1930s’ national environment. The most important defending object of idealism is that peaceful environment should be in the World, but League of Nations had not got a solving against problems and, idealism is gone through an interrogation widely.

Before the second war World, efforts of examination of liberalism accelerated more and more after war.   Soon after first war World, having a big disasters again, solves of idealists and especially failing of League of Nations gave relations of power prominence. This situation confected a proper environment for development of realism. Even if building United Nations after second war World looks like efforts of increasing idealism, indeed, we see that, a new order is tried to create in the foundation of power relation. We should examine Machiavelli and in addition this Hans Morgenthau’s studies to understand Realism. Especially, Morgenthau had made important studies about power and interests.

The most important distinction is that idealism sees people as pacifist and well, and realism sees people as egoist and self-seeker. Morgenthau and Realists evaluate as normative and utopian idea to thoughts of idealists about international institutionalization and created international society.

Realism had seemed successful by way of terms of power and balance of power in the studies of international order, but Realism could not show same success about to examine conversion and change. While international system changes fast and is more complex, Realism is still attaching to importance wars. You can find accidently thought of ending realism frequently with ending Cold War.

Realists attaches to importance wars, so they remained closed to may occur changes and conservations.

 

Neo-Neo Debate

Neo-neo debate, intended for the structure of international system which is a debate between neorealism and neoliberalism debate, in international relations.

Essence of the debate underlies differences in perspective on the nature of the international system underlies the theorists who belonging to neorealist and neoliberal school.

Both two theory accept that international system is anarchic. According to neorealism, anarchy is more subordinated conjunction in foreign policy and belittle the view of neorealist theorists which the aim of every state is survive in international arena. Howover, neoliberal theorist say that, neorealist theorists belittle some issues as the importance of international dependency, globalization and international institutions.

Neorealists say that, in international system, states should be taken up some issues like surviving, security and power. On the other hand, neoliberalists look after economic welfare, international politic economy and other civil issues such as environmentalism.

According to neorealists, the interests of institutions never be able to dominate the interest of the states. They see international institutions as an extension of the states and they believe international institutions cannot act independently from the government. On the other hand, neoliberalists accept the role of states on the establishment of international institutions, however in subsequent period, the role of states should not be exaggerated for providing of the survival of the institutions. Neoliberalist called this subject as hegemonic stability.

For instance, neoliberalists emphasize cold war period about the role of international institutions. Because according to neoliberalist theorists, United Nations is an important institution which has prevented the war between the United States of Amerika and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Another issue in neoliberalism and neorealism debate is nuance. Neoliberalists get to grips with international economic policy, economic welfare, and environment while neorealists give more importance to such as power, security, and survival of the state issues.

We can say that as a result, for this debate, neoliberalist theorists say the absolute gain of actors who are trying to maximize common interests and they defense that, everyone strives to gain out of all the actors in the fields attempted cooperation. However, according to neorealist theorists, in this case, the goal is to win more than the other actors.

 

Behaviouralism – Traditionalism

After the Second World War idealist and realist (Traditionalism) viewpoints has begun to be seen as anachronistic and abnormal.

The impact of these developments was a need for new analysis tools. The discipline has triggered the birth of the second great debate, also called Traditionalism- Behavioralism debate.

During the cold war, idealism-realism debate was anomalous on understanding conjuncture and it was also anachronistic for perception the period, so a new structure was needed to be.

Additionally, the increasing importance of ideology with the cold war, heard the need for an objective and universal norms instead of subjective and ideological norms, the use of computers, contribute of the think tanks, make autonomous efforts of international relations, sociology, psychology and developments in political science, examined with the same method of the natural sciences to the social sciences, and ext. one of the reasons for this debate should occur. Briefly, this debate is the discussion method.

Behavioralists say that, international relations is a science, so method of international relations should be scientific and according to them, traditionalists are unscientific. Because science means data, analysis, numbers, probably. However, traditionalists do not try to explain reason of cases, they only try to understand.

Behavioralists criticized traditionalists as, traditionalists were confined to a single case –they try to examine a single state or event- so they do not see all of the systems. On the other hand, Behavioralists classify states and events with acquired data and they claim that can capture patterns. The data is processed with computers and probability computations, therefore events can be predicted.

The method is also defined as game theory. There are several modeling in game theory. Prisoner’s dilemma, zero-sum game, chicken game, deer hunting are some of the modeling. Today, the game theory is used in many areas of political and military.

In substance, the perception of behaviorism balks philosophical trend and bring a scientific method for social sciences. Therefore, ‘review’ is eliminated and data fetishism has become the dominant on social sciences.

 

Positivism – Post Positivism

A distinctive feature of positivism – post positivism debate is get the focus on the process of creating knowledge. That is to say, post-positivism began to be criticized pure faith in knowledge, in the positivism period.

The most common philosophy of post positivism is called critical realism. Critical theory, in terms of creating the infrastructure of the subsequent debates are separated from each other.

First, post positivism queries the given concepts. Given concepts are called such as state, international system, sovereignty are included in the pre-theory concepts without questioning.

Then the philosophical approaches of international relations is based on the problematize. They also modernity, rationalism, are approaches as of enlightenment.

In short, the being scientific and the emergence point of faith the being scientific will bring the advancement which are concepts.

We reached the relations between knowledge and power with positivism-post positivism debate. Eventually, post positivism says that the knowledge is under the control of power.

As a result, the goal of critical theory is to liberate people. It reveals the relationship between the knowledge-power to demolish this structure and requires build structures to liberating people. Post-positivist period has now begun to delete borders between concepts.

In positivist period, domestic-foreign policy distinctions and the boundaries between disciplines in the social sciences were clearly, but in post-positivist period it increased transmittance these boundaries.

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Nasrettin GÜNEŞ

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