Research Papers

Political Realism Research Paper

Prior to analyzing certain theories and consider their distinct points of view I would like to get into some detail regarding the notion of normative theory in order for the reader to better understand what each theory has to say about each other. Normative with respect to theory and philosophy is the opposite from descriptive and explanatory. Descriptive and explanatory statements on the other hand are falsifiable statements that strive to clearly describe the reality from a specific point of view. The normative statements, on the other hand, make use of the affirmative things about what things should or ought to be, how one should consider and value them. The normative theories, also state what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad and how people should behave in order to be considered good citizen in their society. Not normative means what the state did and will do, rather than what it should do. The normative statements relate to norms and the meanings they express are an integral part of our daily lives that we acquire through education, language, traditions, customs and experience. The process of thinking, believing, acting and considering ethical things also relates to normative statements. I will add that normative in this case is the prescriptive part of the standard or teaching.

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Typically most theories or standards of thinking have some non-normative parts such as introduction, preface or a summary and the normative parts such as the main body. We will need to keep these things in mind when analyzing some of the theories in the essay below.

Realism with respect to the international relations focuses on the balance of power among nation-states, i.e. balancing the power to keep the peace and to avoid arms race. Realism with respect to the international relations is based on the following assumptions (Goldstein, 87):
Humans are not inherently benevolent and nice, yet rather are competitive and self-centered. Liberalism would state just the opposite. The real life world shows us that people typically act out of self-interest and personal gains which implies that realism is not normative.

The international system is anarchic, i.e. no authority beyond the nation-states is capable of regulating the interactions between these nation-states and the states need to establish interactions with each other by themselves. While there exist some global organizations like NATO, WTO, UN and other, there is still anarchy in the international system. For instance, when the USA chose to attack Iraq, it did not follow the rules of the international system yet rather attacked without obtaining international approval. As one could see the ‘might makes right’ was the true argument of international system.

Each state and person in the state is rational and self-centered. The primary goal of each state is to assure security of its borders. In the past and at present the states and individual act out of personal interest and financial gains. All the agreements and treaties are made out of interests of companies, political parties and business rather than morality or human rights.

The relationship between the states is determined by their level of power, which is in turn determined by the states’ resources be they political, military or economic (Roskin, 371). It is no wonder why states try to get together in large groups and alliances to possess more power and influence other states and alliances.

States are inherently aggressive, and their territorial expansion is constrained by the opposing powers. Over the past years despite various peace and non-aggression treaties states, nonetheless would accumulate military strength and oftentimes pursue nuclear and weapons of mass destruction programs to assure their strength and military independence.

1. Why dose the Liberalism Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Liberalism holds that state preferences rather than state capabilities and resources is what determines the state’s behavior and action. The reason why liberalism theory considers the realism theory not to be normative theory of international relations is because realism considers the state a unitary actor on the global scene and unlike liberalism does not believe in plurality of state actions. Liberalism states that nation-specific things like culture, government, economic or military structures is what determines the state’s preferences on the global arena. Taking into account the fact that modern day world on a global arena uses less and less power when solving globally important matters and the wars now more turned to some local conflicts, one indeed might see much reason in the liberalism theory which places cooperation before self-interest as realism would promote.

The interaction between the states is not solely confined to the politics and security but also to the economic and cultural elements as lobbied by corporations, companies and individuals. Unlike realism, liberalism finds the international system not anarchic yet rather cooperative with elements like cultural capital which makes the country more appealing to the foreign states and thus establishes demand for the state’s products abroad. The notion of absolute gains as achieved through cooperation and interdependence to achieve peace can be achieved. Taking into account the fact that globally the majority of agreements indeed are created on a cooperative basis rather than on the basis of power, demands and brutal force as attributable to anarchy, liberalism with respect to the international relation looks rather reasonable in my opinion.

2. Why dose the English School Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

The English School Theory of international relations states that the international relations are not based solely on power, capabilities or wealth as the realism theory states yet also on some association, membership, equality, rights and interests, customs, reciprocal conventions, agreements, damages and reparations. The normative vocabulary of human conduct is what the English school theory represents in itself and thus immediately rejects any other theory as normative, including the realism theory of international relations (Evans, 260).

English school theory find two elements in the international relations that realism fails to realize. They are: key concepts as represented by the international system, and the global and international societies, and the pluralist approach to the international relations. The three concepts related to Machiavelli, Grotius and Immanuel Kant which represent the Rationalism, Revolutionalism and Realism in international relations rather than just one theory (Carland, 40).
The international system is thus approached from the rationalist, materialist and positivist points of view. The international society is approached from the constructivist and historical points of view. The world society, on the other hand is approached from the point of view of universalist cosmopolitanism, communism and liberalism.

As one can see from the English School Theory, realism is not rejected totally, yet rather is made only one of the several parts that make up the English School Theory. As a result, the realism theory can be considered not all-inclusive and thus, not clearly explaining the true reality in which the world operates.

3. Why dose the Constitutive Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Constitutive theory on the other hand considers each individual state to be a person of international law which would be recognized by other states for its existence rather than sovereignty. Constitutive theory is the opposite from the declarative theory of statehood as represented by the Montevideo Convention with its rigid norms and rules defining what a state could be. For instance during the collapse of the government in Somalia, the convention and the declarative theory would consider that Somalia no longer existed and the proclaimed republic would also not exist unless it is recognized by other states. Constitutive theory believes that a state could exist just because it has property rights investments, trade and commodity markets and preferably relying on the use of its native currency in business operations. Realism would be considered non-normative as it would focus on sovereignty, something that constitutive theory rejects while considering each state as a subdivision of the planet or some greater system in which it operates (Goldstein, 89).

Constitutive theory especially in the light of recent years with major coup d-etaits taking place around the world frequently, looks rather representative of the world encompassing such elements that realism theory of international relations fails to account for.

4. Why dose the Constructivism Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Constructivism theory opposes the materialistic view of international relations and states that all state interests are governed by the state’s ideas and norms. Thus, constructivism believes that there is no anarchy on the international arena, as the realism theory put its, yet it can happen if states choose to make it. In other words, constructivism considers the realism theory non-normative and places importance on the rhetoric and the constructed (artificial) reality of the international system with rather optimistic views of the international relations. While constructivism might share some ideas and approaches with realism and neo-realism in international relations it is still not related to any of the two stating that the states can operate in the framework that they create for themselves not solely based on some material interests supported by realism (Jackson, 112).

When looking at the modern day global picture of international relations and state interaction, one can see that most of the contemporaneous organizations and international blocs were created by the states for the states with their full consent. The fact that some states are involved in more international organizations than others makes us understand that indeed there is some order in the chaos called anarchy that realism considers to be present on the international arena (Viotti, 235). While some countries choose to become parts of some blocks, unions, or organizations and actively create those, other states, such as Switzerland and some offshore states prefer to stay neutral and sustain more formal relations with the neighbor states. Realism theory would have a hard time explaining how these states which have less resources and capabilities than large states and international unions or blocks manage to survive and not get attacked by some stronger nation-state rival (Williams, 139).

5. Why dose the Post –Modernism Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Post-modernism came to existence in the early XX century and immediately would grasp global attention for criticizing absolute truths and identities propagated by other theories for ages. When analyzing political and international relations of states one cans see that some events which are political in nature cannot be discussed and addressed effectively in realist and liberal approaches to international relations. Whenever there is a dispute involving “human rights”, values, religion or polities no other theory except for post-modernist is able to address it more accurately. Liberal approaches for instance, would not effectively help us understand these situations, while there is not single social or individual institutions which would interpret these values and vague terms (Baylis, 391).

Post modernism considers realism non-normative as people typically reject the repressive concept of power propagated by realism in order to pursue their own identity. Realism on the other hand considers the power to be based purely on self-interest of the power groups if it takes place within the state. On the global scale the states are inherently aggressive and can attack each other at any time they choose if that in their option will improve their security and other interests.

Post-modernism rejects dogmas and teachings as absolute and normative since they cannot be considered objective just like about anything that was created by people (Dougherty, 48). Therefore, regardless of the nature of teaching realism with respect to the international relations is not considered absolute in its ideas and thus is never considered normative by the post-modernist thinkers.

6. Why dose the Post-Positivist Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Post-positivist theory focuses on the objectivity of the view used in political science and international relations and therefore, strives to separate the subject from the matter and from the values that one might attach to it. On one hand the decision can be made only with the help of the value-free knowledge, yet on the other hand post-positivism considers that there can never be value-free knowledge and that the world, let alone individual states make decisions out of their own traditions, values and customs. Post-positivism incorporates ideas of feminists and postmodernists and opposes realism in that there can be no possibly objective point of view. The state’s language, culture, customs, and speech drastically influence political decisions and many politicians indeed capitalize on them during their political campaigns. Unlike in realism, in post-positivism, the theory shapes political reality and also follows that newly created reality closely till the next change (Mingst 360).

Realism is considered as non-normative since it strives to explain the interactions between various states as based on the concept self-interests of its citizens. Yet still, these citizens represent different social, economic, and racial groups, their way of thinking and reasoning and thus their self-interest will be greatly biased because of values, traditions, customs and experiences. Since people in different countries differ, then one should expect different self-interest not only in individuals but also in states’ international politics and relations. Some smaller states (especially in the Muslim world) do not consider the issue of security as the most important and actively strike larger and more powerful rivals, something that would be considered as illogical and improbably by realism. Other large countries with tremendous resources like China, never in their history had attacked any other territory/nation-state. Once again, from the point of view of realism a country which has enough resources and capabilities would expand territorially whenever possible (Griffiths, 234).

7. Why dose the Feminist Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Feminism comprises a set of various social, political, and moral theories and philosophies which place the feminine experience in the first place with respect to their political, economic and social situation. The primary goal of feminism is to remove any gender inequality in order to promote women’s rights, and interests in the society. Unlike the realism theory which considers the self-interest to be inherent to states and individuals, feminism considers that such interest is more group related as males indeed dominate females in politics, important positions and in power. The social constructs need to be changed from within in order to remove hierarchies in politics, government, and business, with decentralized ultra-democracy being the key concept(Nye, 30).

Having single leaders according to feminism is outdated and one needs to adhere to modern theories which would promote equality and feminine emancipation. Relying on self-interest within a state as promulgated by the realism would not change much in the society with respect to gender equality and equal opportunity and thus would be inefficient and discriminatory.

8. Why dose the Structuration Theory think that the Realism Theory is not a normative theory of international relations?

Structuration theory with respect to the international relation focuses on the elements such as subjectivity vs. objectivity, micro vs. macro perspectives, agency vs. structural and the individuals as being either autonomous and independent beings or those who are acted upon and commanded by someone else in the society (Art, 104). Structuration theory does not consider realism theory normative since it realism focuses on individual acts of people out of self-interest and the societies as having acted in some totality. Structuration does not consider realism theory of international relations normative since structuration theory focuses on some golden mean and the balanced position, i.e. equally treats structural and agency influences. Structures are some rules and resources that are organized as properties of some social systems. The actions inside the nation-state and on the global arena are represented by the structural constraints and facilitations.

In conclusion I would like to say that realism theory does not appear to be normative from the point of view of the other theories of international relations expressed above in particular and thus cannot be considered normative in general. While, realism provides some reasonable and very useful perspectives and views of the international relations as well as relations within some particular nation-state, it does not provide some common or absolute scenario which will take place in the world and thus cannot place its ideas as normative. Other theories presented earlier in the essay would effectively build on realism at some point of time, yet in other moments would adhere to totally different points of view and still remain relevant to the modern day international relations. Other theories like British School Theory would take realism only as a subset of a greater theory which would explain by taking into account more situations that exist in contemporary international relations. Ultimately, realism fails to take into account some cultural, or religious aspects which nowadays are believed to grow in popularity and ability to influence individual nations prompting them either to war (Islamic concept of fighting the infidels, rather than those who interfere with your personal interests) or to peace (pacifism, Christian virtues of tolerance and compassion) and causing nations and individuals act on other ways besides self-interest and self-security. The essay had depicted various theories which compete with realism for existence and popularity and it was up to the reader to decide which theory is more persuasive and relevant to the modern day economic and political international reality. One can still say for certain that realism does not provide the answer to all questions that one might pose when looking at the modern day international politics. Therefore, realism cannot be considered a theory of normative value, and as a result is non-normative in its nature.


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