1-12 of 12 Results

  • Keywords: political realism x
Clear all

Article

Robert Jubb

Realism in political philosophy is usually understood as a position in debates about how political philosophy should be conducted. Alison McQueen suggests in her Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times that realists are united by four commitments: to the distinctiveness of politics as a form of activity, to politics’ agonistic or conflictual character, to the fragility of order, and to rejecting political philosophy that does not take seriously the constraints on political action these other commitments imply. Realism in this sense is then particularly focused on political order as a way of channeling and managing disagreement. This gives it its distinctive approach to political philosophy, which relies on interpretations of how particular political values or judgments operate in particular situations. Following Edward Hall, we can think of the centrality of understanding what role a particular value or judgment plays in a particular context as imposing what in 2017 he called a “realism constraint.” Realism in this sense comes in three rough types: foundationalist realism, radical realism, and sober realism. For all three, though, it is crucial that they are able to articulate and defend an account of how they meet the realism constraint. Foundationalist realists avoid moral commitments, relying instead on authentically political sources of normativity to give their political judgments force. This creates an additional burden for them compared to radical and sober realists. They must show that the values on which they depend are both not moral and appropriately political, which may be difficult given the way morality is entangled with many of our other judgments and commitments. Both radical and sober realists are distinguished by the content and not the source of normativity for their judgments. Radical realists reject the status quo as in one way or another unacceptable, just as sober realists focus on the significance of the goods made possible by political order and so the importance of preserving it. The power of any form of realism depends on the plausibility of its interpretation of the political situation it theorizes and how well its judgments respond to that interpretation. Giving plausible interpretations of political situations will mean engaging with a range of material, from intellectual history to various kinds of contemporary social scientific enquiry. If realists do this, though, there is every reason to think that they can provide significant political insight.

Article

Realists explain foreign policy in terms of power politics. They disagree on the exact meaning of power and on how and to what extent politics is likely to influence policy. But they all find that power has a strong materialist component and that the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy is likely to vary with security challenges stemming from the external environment. The relative size of a state’s material resources is likely to influence its ability to set agendas and influence specific decisions and outcomes in international affairs. And the nature of the strategic environment, most importantly whether the security and survival of the state is under immediate threat, is likely to influence the relative weight of domestic influences on foreign policy. In sum, great powers enjoy a bigger external action space in their foreign policies than weaker states, and secure states enjoy a bigger external action space in their foreign policies than insecure states. Realism is a top-down approach to explaining foreign policy. Realists begin from the anarchic structure of the international system. They argue that the absence of a legitimate monopoly of power in the international system create a strong incentive for states to focus on survival as their primary goal and self-help as the most important means to achieving this goal. However, “survival” and “self-help” may take many forms. These forms are shaped by mechanisms of socialization and competition in the international system and systemic incentives are filtered through the perceptions of foreign policy decision makers and domestic institutions enabling and restraining the ability of decision makers to respond to external incentives. Neoclassical realists combine these factors in order to explain specific foreign policies. Offensive realists and defensive realists focus on the effects of structure on foreign policy, but with contrasting assumptions about the typical behavior of states: defensive realists expect states to pursue balancing policies, whereas offensive realists argue that only by creating an imbalance of power in its own favor will a state be able to maximize its security. In addition to being an analytical approach for explaining foreign policy, realists often serve as foreign policy advisors or act in the function of public intellectuals problematizing and criticizing foreign policy. This illustrates the potential for realism as an analytical, problem-solving and critical approach to foreign policy analysis. However, it also shows the strains within realism between ambitions of creating general theories, explaining particular foreign policies, and advising on how to make prudent foreign policy decisions.

Article

The distinction between ideal and nonideal theory is an important methodological concern in contemporary political theory. At issue is the extent to which political theorizing is a practical endeavor and, consequently, the extent to which real-world facts should either be factored into political theorizing or else be assumed away. The distinction between ideal theory and nonideal theory was first introduced by John Rawls in his classic A Theory of Justice. Rawls’s ideal theory is an account of the society we should aim for, given certain facts about human nature and possible social institutions, and involves two central assumptions. First, it assumes full compliance of relevant agents with the demands of justice. Second, it assumes that historical and natural conditions of society are reasonably favorable. These two assumptions are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for his ideal theory. For Rawls, nonideal theory primarily addresses the question of how the ideal might be achieved in practical, permissible steps, from the actual, partially just society we occupy. The account of ideal and nonideal theory advanced by Rawls has been subject to criticism from different directions. Amartya Sen accepts Rawls’s distinction between ideal and nonideal theory but argues that Rawlsian-style nonideal theory is too ideal. Given the many and severe injustices we face we do not need to know what ideal (or “transcendental”) justice looks like; our focus should not be on how to transition toward this ideal. Instead, the advancement of justice requires a comparative judgment which ranks possible policies in terms of being more or less just than the status quo. G. A. Cohen, by contrast, argues that Rawlsian-style ideal theory is not really ideal theory as such, but instead principles for regulating society. Our beliefs about normative principles should, ultimately, be insensitive to matters of empirical fact; genuine ideal theory is a form of moral epistemology (an exercise of identifying normative truths).

Article

The symbolic politics theory of ethnic war starts from the insight that most political behavior is not rational but intuitive, driven by “symbolic predispositions” such as ideological beliefs, normative values, and prejudice. The way leaders lead is by using rhetoric not to appeal rationally to followers’ interests but to appeal emotionally to their symbolic predispositions. According to symbolic politics theory, the path to ethnic conflict begins with group narratives that are hostile to another group. These narratives help to generate hostile and prejudiced symbolic predispositions. If group members perceive a social threat, such as to their group identity or status, they become more likely to join mass movements agitating for a politics of redistribution—discriminating in favor of their own group at the expense of rival groups. If people feel physically threatened, they become more likely to support a politics of protection leading to violent ethnic conflict. These popular attitudes and moods are turned into social movements or military mobilization if aggressive leaders emerge, framing political issues in terms of these threats, and if those leaders are both credible and supported by effective organizations. A series of case studies has demonstrated that this process—from narratives to prejudice and threat perceptions, harnessed by leadership and organization—is what occurred in ten ethnic civil wars, including the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Israel-Palestine, and the Philippines. The theory also explains less violent cases such as Gandhi’s nationalist movement in India. This theory is hypothesized to apply to international war, as the politics of national identity is similar to the politics of ethnic identity. The theory also suggests a way of reconciling realist, liberal, and constructivist accounts of international relations through political psychology and a scientific realist ontology.

Article

Carolyn M. Warner and Stephen G. Walker

Despite the increased attention to religion in international relations, questions remain about the role of religion in the foreign policies of states. Extrapolating from theories in the fields of international relations and comparative politics is a fruitful strategy to explore religion’s potential avenues of influence on foreign policy. There are also potential methodological tools of analysis in these fields, which can be fruitfully applied to understand the role of religion in foreign policy. Contributions from the field of religion and politics may be used to frame applications of such theories as realism, constructivism, liberalism, and bounded rationality to specify further hypotheses about religion and foreign policy. The potential of these theoretical approaches from international relations to the analysis of religion has not yet been exploited fully although it is clear that there are promising signs of progress.

Article

Noting that many pre- and post-colonial oral forms have always been political, the article focuses on the literary culture wars that arose in the context of mid-20th-century decolonization. These debates include the question of whether writers should use indigenous or colonial languages; the complexities of publishing with access to local and international markets; the adaptation and indigenization of European forms to African value-systems, mythic structures and social realities; and the relationship between cultural decolonization and debates in Europe after 1968, when the emphasis fell on questioning realism. The article concludes by noting that the cultural nationalism of the 20th century is giving way to new forms of transnational politics.

Article

Sumangala Damodaran

The relationship between music and politics and specifically that between music and protest has been relatively under-researched in the social sciences in a systematic manner, even if actual experiences of music being used to express protest have been innumerable. Further, the conceptual analysis that has been thrown up from the limited work that is available focuses mostly on Euro-American experiences with protest music. However, in societies where most music is not written down or notated formally, the discussions on the distinct role that music can play as an art form, as a vehicle through which questions of artistic representation can be addressed, and the specific questions that are addressed and responded to when music is used for political purposes, have been reflected in the music itself, and not always in formal debates. It is only in using the music itself as text and a whole range of information around its creation—often, largely anecdotal and highly context dependent—that such music can be understood. Doing so across a whole range of non-Western experiences brings out the role of music in societal change quite distinctly from the Euro-American cases. Discussions are presented about the informed perceptions about what protest music is and should be across varied, yet specific experiences. It is based on the literature that has come out of the Euro-American world as well as from parts that experienced European colonialism and made the transition to post-colonial contexts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Article

Regimes change constantly. Revolution, reform, and resilience are not discrete phenomena, but rather different modes in a common process. This means that change is not a distinct outcome to be explained, but an ongoing process to be traced over time. This requires a shift in focus from why change happens to how it actually unfolds. Social competition is the main driver, as social realists like Pierre Bourdieu indicate. Yet complex and continuous social interactions are impossible to account for in their entirety. Various aspects should be tackled in separate, complementary studies. One of those is power relations within the ruling bloc; the oscillation between conflict and collaboration between political, military, and security institutions. These three state institutions are necessary to govern society. But their relative weight shapes regime type. Security domination produces a police state, the most resilient form of authoritarianism. Egypt in 2011 provides a good example. Military guardianship has been, historically, more susceptible to piecemeal reforms, and can evolve to limited democracies. Turkey after 2002 is one instance. An overbearing political institution with weak military and security organs is vulnerable to revolutionary overthrow. The Iran of 1979 is archetypical. And the reason why relations within this “power triangle” remain tense and volatile is that while these three institutions share an interest in regulating society, they espouse different institutional agendas. They reinforce each other when their interests overlap, and clash when one institutional logic must be prioritized over the other two. And it is these recurring moments of discord that keep the path to regime change open.

Article

Stefano Guzzini

The concept of power derives its meanings and theoretical roles from the theories in which it is embedded. Hence, there is no one concept of power, no single understanding of power, even if these understandings stand in relation to each other. Besides the usual theoretical traditions common to the discipline of international relations and the social sciences, from rationalist to constructivist and post-structuralist approaches, there is, however, also a specificity of power being a concept used in both political theory and political practice. A critical survey of these approaches needs to cast a net wide to see both the differences and the links across these theoretical divides. Realist understandings of power are heavily impressed by political theory, especially when defining the ontology of “the political.” They are also characterized by their attempt, so far not successful, to translate practical maxims of power into a scientific theory. Liberal and structural power approaches use power as a central factor for understanding outcomes and hierarchies while generally neglecting any reference to political theory and often overloading the mere concept of power as if it were already a full-fledged theory. Finally, power has also been understood in the constitutive but often tacit processes of social recognition and identity formation, of technologies of government, and of the performativity of power categories when the latter interact with the social world, that is, the power politics that characterize the processes in which agents “make” the social world. Relating back to political practice and theory, these approaches risk repeating a realist fallacy. Whereas it is arguably correct to see power always connected to politics, not all politics is always connected or reducible to power. Seeing power not only as coercive but also productive should neither invite one to reduce all politics to it nor to turn power into the meta-physical prime mover of all things political.

Article

Neoclassical realism offers insights into why particular foreign policy choices are made, and under what systemic conditions unit-level factors are likely to intervene between systemic stimuli and state behavior. Neoclassical realism brings a multilevel framework that combines both systemic incentives and mediating unit-level variables to arrive at conclusions about foreign policy choices in particular cases. It sets the relative distribution of capabilities in the international system as the independent variable and adds mediating variables at the unit level of analysis. Variables at the domestic level of analysis, such as the role of ideology, the foreign policy executive’s perceptions, resource extraction, and domestic institutions, add explanatory power to system-level approaches. Neoclassical realism accounts for state behavior in a way that a more parsimonious systems-level theory is unable to achieve. But this rich theoretical framework also faces controversies and criticisms: Is neoclassical realism distinct from other theories and what is its added value? Neoclassical realism overlaps only to a small extent with alternative theoretical approaches. The domestic level of analysis dominates Foreign Policy Analysis (a subfield of International Relations). Unit-level variables suffice to explain state behavior in bottom-up approaches, and opening the structure of the international system for fundamental rethinking is central to constructivism. Neither explains the system-level conditions under which unit-level variables mediate between systemic stimuli and foreign policy. Neoclassical realism analyzes and explains a given foreign policy that more parsimonious or alternative theoretical approaches cannot.

Article

Jaime Antonio Preciado Coronado

If Latin American and Caribbean integration arose from the interests of nation-state institutions, linked to an international context where commerce and the global market was the mainframe of the economic development theory, some state and academic actors sought to expand the autonomy of nation-states in negotiating trade agreements and treaties under the paradigm of an autonomous governance of regionalism and economic integration. The autonomous integration initiatives arose between the 1960s and 1980s, before neoliberalism emerged as the sole model of development. However, since the 1990s, neoliberal policies have left little room for autonomous integration. A new period of autonomous integration emerged between the late 1990s and 2015, supported by progressive Latin American governments, along with a novel projection of social autonomy, complementary to autonomous integration, held by new social movements that oppose, resist, and create alternatives to neoliberal integration. Inspired by the critical theory, the research linkages between the state and social autonomy question the neoliberal integration process, its perverted effects on exclusion and social inequality, and the conflicts related to the regional integration of democratic governance. The debates on autonomous regional integration cover three fields: economic interdependence, the realist perspective in international politics, and the theses of the field of International Political Economy. Arguments question their critique of the colonial outcomes of the modern world system, even more so than had been posited by dependency theory. Finally, there is the question of the emergence of an original Latin American and Caribbean theory of autonomous integration initiatives.

Article

Michael Masterson and Jessica L. P. Weeks

What do we know about the causes and outcomes of international military conflict? Decades of research from different theoretical traditions have explored the outbreak and conclusion of international conflict from a variety of angles. Broadly speaking, scholarship about international conflict has tended to orbit around three core concepts: power, institutions, and the source of the interstate dispute. The question that remains is how well verified are the most important theories? Three influential theories seek to predict patterns of international conflict: power transition theory, which argues that shifts in power increase the likelihood of war; selectorate theory, which predicts that states that have large winning coalitions are more selective about war; and theories about issue indivisibility and war, which predict that issues that states view as impossible to divide—such as a national homeland—are more likely to lead to conflict. Each of these theories produces specific predictions, allowing an assessment of how well the evidence supports the theories’ main conjectures. Central to understanding the causes of conflict is whether empirical work has tested these three theories using well-validated measures; whether a variety of scholars have tested the core propositions of the theory; and whether scholars have found evidence of the causal mechanisms proposed by each theory. Although each theory has garnered some support, they all fall short on one or more of these criteria. In particular, more work is needed in both measurement and evidence of causal mechanisms before scholars can be confident of the theories’ explanatory power.