Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Prominent literature in international relations

The prominent literature in international relations since World War II includes the works of Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz and Immanuel Wallerstein. Hans Morgenthau is the primary proponent of the realist school of international relations that provides the underpinnings of traditional balance of power theory. Morgenthau’s seminal work is Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace which includes his Six Principles of Political Realism. These principles include: 1) Politics is governed by objective rules of human behavior. 2) Realism is concerned with power. 3) Relative power is defined contemporaneously, but the same metric does not necessarily apply across time. 4) Political choices have moral consequences, but those consequences are not the only determinant of action. 5) Moral choices of particular nations do not equal absolute morality. 6) Politics are supreme. (Morgenthau 1978, 14-44)

Kenneth Waltz, the pre-eminent neo-realist, differs from realist thinkers by arguing that where realists like Morgenthau are concerned with countries gathering power, neo-realists are more interested in how countries gather security. Waltz writes: “The idea that international politics can be thought of as a system with a precisely defined structure is neo-realism’s fundamental departure from traditional realism” (Waltz 1992, 30). The structure is the idea that all countries will search for security, using power as one of the tools to acquire security.

Immanuel Wallerstein also sees the world as a system, but instead of security, he sees the world organized as exploiters and exploited, of the hegemonic core and the periphery that is dominated. In the words of Wallerstein, “a world-system is a social system, one that has boundaries, structures, member groups, rules of legitimation, and coherence. Its life is made up of the conflicting forces which hold it together by tension and tear it apart as each group seeks eternally to remold it to its advantage” (Wallerstein 1974, 347). Each of these men has constructed a holistic theory of international relations, but like the blind man describing an elephant by feel, they seem only to be able to describe from a single point of view, in only one way.