Idealism: Idealism in International Relations
Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Lusíada Company and Senior Manager at AT Kearney in Lisbon as well as a Director in. Introduction. Idealism is one of the most difficult terms in the vocabulary of international relations because no commonly accepted meaning. Director of the International Studies Program at Virginia Tech, USA. Sarina Theys is a . used to describe someone's personal views, but in IR liberalism means.
Many of these innovators were enlisted by governments during World War II for work in intelligence and propagandaas well as other aspects of wartime planning. In this respect the war stimulated systematic social-scientific investigations of international phenomena. It also led to important technological advances—notably the computer —that would later have a major impact on the study of international relations.
In other ways World War II was a divide for academic international relations. The war itself brought about a drastic change in the agenda of world politics, and the postwar intellectual climate was characterized by a marked shift away from many earlier interests, emphases, and problems. In the early postwar years there was a quest for analyses that would cut through the details of studies of myriad international topics to produce a general understanding of common elements and a clear view of the fundamental nature of international politics.
There was also a growing interest in developing theories that could help to explain the major issues of the changing international scene. New security issues emerged, including the issue of nuclear weapons, which led to extensive writings on deterrence as a basis of strategic stability. SchellingHenry A.
Kissingerand Albert Wohlstetter. Other issues that were addressed in the vast literature of international relations include international, and especially European, integration; alliances and alignment, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO ; ideologies; foreign-policy decision making; theories about conflict and war; the study of low-intensity conflict; crisis management; international organizations; and the foreign policies of the increasing number of states that became part of the international system in the mid- to late 20th century.
The postwar ascendancy of realism Hans J. Not only did it become one of the most extensively used textbooks in the United States and Britain—it continued to be republished over the next half century—it also was an essential exposition of the realist theory of international relations. Although there are many variations of realism, all of them make use of the core concepts of national interest and the struggle for power.
According to realism, states exist within an anarchic international system in which they are ultimately dependent on their own capabilities, or power, to further their national interests. The most important national interest is the survival of the state, including its people, political systemand territorial integrity.Realism vs. Idealism
Other major interests for realists include preservation of the culture and the economy. Realists contend that, as long as the world is divided into nation-states in an anarchic setting, national interest will remain the essence of international politics.
The struggle for power is part of human nature and takes essentially two forms: Collaboration occurs when parties find that their interests coincide e. Rivalry, competition, and conflict result from the clash of national interests that is characteristic of the anarchic system. Accommodation between states is possible through skillful political leadership, which includes the prioritizing of national goals in order to limit conflicts with other states.
In an international system composed of sovereign states, the survival of both the states and the system depends on the intelligent pursuit of national interests and the accurate calculation of national power. Realists caution that messianic religious and ideological crusades can obscure core national interests and threaten the survival of individual states and the international system itself. Such crusades included, for Morgenthau, the pursuit of global communism or global democracyeach of which would inevitably clash with the other or with other competing ideologies.
The attempt to reform countries toward the ideal of universal trust and cooperation, according to realists, runs counter to human naturewhich is inclined toward competition, conflict, and war. Realist theory emerged in the decade after World War II as a response to idealismwhich generally held that policy makers should refrain from immoral or illegal actions in world affairs. As no impressive new formulation of political idealism appeared on the international scene to reply to realist theory, the debate between realism and idealism gradually faded, only to be revived in a somewhat different form in the final decades of the 20th century in the disagreement between neoliberal institutionalists and neorealist structuralists.
Many international relations scholars neither rejected nor embraced realism but instead were engrossed in other aspects of the broadening agenda of international relations studies. Beginning in the s, as the United States became more fully engaged in world affairs, the U. In order to understand the major forces and trends shaping countries such as the Soviet Union and China or the regions extending from Africa to Northeast Asia, the United States needed to recruit greater numbers of specialists in the histories, politics, cultureseconomies, languages, and literature of such areas; the Soviet Union did likewise.
Theoretical concerns generally played a marginal role in the growth of area specialization in the West.
Idealism in International Relations
The behavioral approach and the task of integration In the s an important development in the social sciencesincluding the study of international relations, was the arrival of new concepts and methodologies that were loosely identified in ensemble as behavioral theory. This general approach, which emphasized narrowly focused quantitative studies designed to obtain precise results, created a wide-ranging controversy between theorists who believed that the social sciences should emulate as much as possible the methodologies of the physical sciences and those who held that such an approach is fundamentally unsound.
In addition, the great number of new topics investigated at the time—including cognition, conflict resolution, decision makingdeterrencedevelopment, the environmentgame theoryeconomic and political integrationand systems analysis—provoked some anxiety that the discipline would collapse into complete conceptual and methodological chaos.
This task proved to be a difficult one.
Indeed, some scholars began to question the necessity—or even the possibility—of arriving at a single theory that would explain all the varied, diverseand complex facets of international relations. Instead, these researchers suggested that a number of separate theories would be needed. At the same time, theories that trace the forces of international relations to a single source were increasingly viewed as unsatisfactory.
The struggle for powerfor example, was accepted as a fact in past and current international politics, but attempts to make all other factors subordinate to or dependent upon power were thought to exclude too much of what is important and interesting in international relations. Similar assessments were made of the theory that asserts that the character of a nation—and hence the character of its participation in international relations—is determined by its child-rearing practices, as well as of the Marxist theory that international relations are solely the historical expression of class struggle.
The general attitude of the behavioral decade was that the facts of international relations are multidimensional and therefore have multiple causes. This conclusion supported, and in turn was supported by, the related view that an adequate account of these facts could not be provided in a single integrated theory and that multiple separate theories were required instead.
By the s, for example, studies of international conflict had come to encompass a number of different perspectives, including the realist theory of the struggle for power between states and the Marxist notion of global class conflict, as well as other explanations. At the same time, conflict theory coexisted with economic and political integration theory and game theory, each of which approached the phenomena of international conflict from a distinct perspective. In keeping with the multiple-theory approach, by the end of the behavioral decade there was a growing consensus that the study of international relations should encompass both quantitative and qualitative analyses.
Whereas quantitative methodologies were recognized as useful for measuring and comparing international phenomena and identifying common features and patterns of behaviour, qualitative analyses, by focusing on one case or a comparison of cases involving specific research questions, hypothesesor categories, were thought to provide a deeper understanding of what is unique about political leaders, nations, and important international events such as World War II and the Cold War.
The use of quantitative analysis in international relations studies increased significantly in the decades after the s.
This was a direct result of advances in computer technologyboth in the collection and retrieval of information and in the analysis of data. When computers were introduced in international relations studies, it was not readily apparent how best to exploit the new technology, partly because most earlier studies of international relations were set forth in narrative or literary form and partly because many of the phenomena examined were not easily quantifiable.
Nevertheless, exploratory quantitative studies were undertaken in a number of directions. A growing body of studies, for example, developed correlations between phenomena such as alliances and the outbreak or deterrence of war, between levels of political integration and levels of trade, communication, and mobility of populations, between levels of economic development and internal political stability, and between levels of internal violence and participation in international conflicts.
The later 20th century Foreign policy and international systems The influence of behaviourism helped to organize the various theories of international relations and the discipline into essentially two principal parts, or perspectives: Within each of these perspectives there developed various theories.
The foreign-policy perspective, for example, encompasses theories about the behaviour of individual states or categories of states such as democracies or totalitarian dictatorships, and the international-system-analysis perspective encompasses theories of the interactions between states and how the number of states and their respective capabilities affect their relations with each other. Idealism denies this tension.
British and American Perspectives. Edited by Steve Smith, 92— Argues that Utopianism is concerned more with ends e. The International Theory of Leonard Woolf: A Study in Twentieth Century Idealism. Puts much stress on the influence of E. Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page.
Please subscribe or login. How to Subscribe Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here. While he interpreted international law within such a brittle, moral cast, Wilson remained remarkably insensitive to new and changing social forces and conditions of the 20th century. He expected too much justice in a morally brutal world which disregarded the self-righteous resolutions of parliaments and statesmen like himself.
Wilson's triumph was as a teacher of international morality to generations yet unborn.
Idealism and realism in international relations: An ontological debate
Diplomatic historian Walter Russell Mead has explained: He called for a world made safe democracy, this was organized around political, economic and social standards. These principles were stated in his point peace program.
Wilson thought of this program as an American commitment to show man kind the way of liberty. The core of Wilson's program was a league of nations committed to peace, and bringing down tyranny which was thought to be the root of war. The idea was that if democracy could be widespread peace and prosperity would prevail. Wilson may not have gotten everything he wanted at Versaillesand his treaty was never ratified by the Senate, but his vision and his diplomacy, for better or worse, set the tone for the twentieth century.
FranceGermanyItalyand Britain may have sneered at Wilson, but every one of these powers today conducts its European policy along Wilsonian lines.