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The Study of International Relationships - Term Paper Example

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One of the key issues in the study of international relations is the idea of using theories to explain both the history of the international system and the workings of that system at any given point in time. For some, the idea of a theory can seem unreasonable in a field of study where theories are constantly struggling for dominance and yet never able to prove their overarching truth and applicability…
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The Study of International Relationships
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Download file to see previous pages Waltz discusses, in answer to some questions about the value of theory, how the use of theory in framing international relations is one of the biggest struggles that students face. He uses the study of economics as a parallel example of how theory is both useful and confusing, in that it requires social scientists to separate the subject from its context. Some say this separation dismisses the relationship of other factors to the subject, yet Waltz insists that it is necessary to use this fantasy separation in order to interpret and classify what is being studied—whether it is economics or politics. He says that international relations really is a struggle with the facts, and that it is hard to create theories because the field is full of complexities. Complexities, however, do not rule out the use of theories, says Waltz. On the contrary, they invite the use of theories to explain this complexity. The necessity of theories is supported by Rosenau and Durfee, who describe it as something that must be done, but tentatively. They also talk about the use of the question “what is this an instance of?” This question, they say, helps us go up the rungs of a ladder to classify politics into some larger theory, and thus leads us to some sort of understanding, however temporary it may be. Buzan also discusses some of the challenging facing international relations, and cites one of the greatest of them as the need to connect the field with both history and sociology. Without history, says Buzan, one is stuck in a box of thinking of states as the only actors—a Westphalian idea. Buzan also explains something similar for sociology, which is important because it suggest the idea of an international society that goes beyond a simple group of states. When discussing realism, Buzan cites its flexibility—it allows for change and focuses on the human condition. However, as realism focuses on states, we realize how other theories can collide with it. International relations, says Buzan, is full of paradigms that we develop as a way of explaining and understanding how the system works at different times. These paradigms include Realism, idealism, Marxism, and even the English school to which Buzan is attracted. Overall, Buzan sees realism as a good starting point for theorizing and observing the system. The English school itself is described more in detail by Linklater. He describes how the English school focuses on international politics as defined by a community of sovereign states with no greater level of authority, and find it amazing that this community exists in an anarchical condition. While in any state level society a lack of government would lead to total chaos, the English school is focused on the fact that this chaos is absent in the international, anarchical system. However, says Linklater, this should not be seen as a form of realism, but rather as a middle ground between realism and idealism. The major founder of the English school, however, is Grotius. In his discussions he illustrates this school as one that takes a middle way. It recognizes international anarchy, but also gives credit to the play of power in rational, realist thinking. He mentions war often, but also moves toward the idea of an international society that emerges from the international anarchical system, dividing his thoughts from strict realism but definitely refusing to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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