THEORETICAL APPROACHES TO WORLD POLITICS (1)
Gönderen komdev - December 14 2015 00:13:52
‘Theoretical Approaches to World Politics’ is written in the spring of 2000. I offer it to critical public considerations without making any changes.
My purpose in this paper is to provide an account of International Relations on the one hand and locate myself within the field on the other. There are a wide range of theoretical approaches to world politics with different epistemology, methodology and ontology. In creating an account of the field I shall mainly deal with (neo)realism, liberalism, Marxism, transnational historical materialism.
‘Theoretical Approaches to World Politics’ is written in the spring of 2000. I offer it to critical public considerations without making any changes.
My purpose in this paper is to provide an account of International Relations on the one hand and locate myself within the field on the other. There are a wide range of theoretical approaches to world politics with different epistemology, methodology and ontology. In creating an account of the field I shall mainly deal with (neo)realism, liberalism, Marxism, transnational historical materialism.
2. EXPLAINING AND UNDERSTANDING INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Martin Hollis and Steve Smith argue that explaining and understanding are alternative ways to analyse international relations. They ‘sought to establish a dimension of ‘understanding’ which permits a range of hermeneutic disputes between individualism and holism.’ (1991: v-vi). They distinguish two intellectual traditions on which the social sciences thrive. For the sake of the argument they can be called an ‘outsider tradition’ (the ‘scientific tradition’) and an ‘insider tradition’ (the ‘interpretative tradition’). The former is founded on the triumphant rise of natural sciences since the sixteenth century, while the latter is rooted in the nineteenth-century ideas of history and the writing of history from inside. While the ‘outsider tradition’ seeks to explain the workings of nature and treats the human realm as part of nature, the ‘insider tradition’ seeks to understand what events mean. ‘Explaining’ is the key term in the ‘outsider tradition’, ‘understanding’ in the ‘insider tradition.’
The broad idea in the ‘outsider tradition’ is that ‘events are governed by laws of nature which apply whenever similar events occur in similar conditions. Science progresses by learning which similarities are the key to which sequences.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 3). In the strongest version of this tradition, according to Hollis and Smith, ‘behaviour is generated by a system of forces or a structure, external not only to the minds of each actor but also external even to the minds of all actors.’ (Hollis and Smith: 1991). They argue that theories cast in terms of external structures and systematic forces are at the ‘holist’ end of a range of casual theories. Theories which take actors as the final authority are at the ‘individualist’ end of a range of theories in search of understanding.
Hollis and Smith base their approach to theories of international relations on a distinction between system and units, and make ‘the level-of-analysis problem’ central. The level-of-analysis problem as originally posed by David Singer in 1961 was ‘the problem of whether to account for the behaviour of the international system in terms of the behaviour of the nation states comprising it or vice versa.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 7). Hollis and Smith propose to extend the problem in two dimensions: the identities of system and units on the one hand, and the contrast between explaining and understanding on the other.
There are three layers in both dimensions. The three layers in the dimension concerning the identities of system and units are international system vs. nation state, nation state vs. bureaucracy and bureaucracy vs. individual. At each stage the ‘unit’ of the higher layer becomes the ‘system’ of the lower layer. On each layer Hollis and Smith contrast an analysis which proceeds ‘top-down’ (from system to unit) with one which proceeds ‘bottom-up’ (from unit to system). In the dimension concerning the contrast between explaining and understanding, the highest layer requires thinking of the international system as a set of norms or purposes which shape the process of history. On the next layer it is asked whether social rules and institutional account for the performance of social roles, or vice versa. The lowest layer is broached by asking whether individual actors construct institutional rules and roles, or vice versa.
3. (NEO-)REALISM and (NEO-)LIBERALISM
Among different approaches to the study of international relations or world politics is realism the oldest one. According to Hollis and Smith, a shared concept of scientific explanation is a unifying theme among realists and neo-realists ‘who are otherwise divided, for instance, whether to pitch the explanation at the level of the system or its units.’ (1991: 45). Realists apply scientific method or the methods of natural science in order to locate causes and laws of behaviour of the states. According to realist approach to world politics, the state is the main unit of analysis. It focuses on the nation state, it is a state-centric view of world politics.
According to Morgenthau, decision-makers in foreign policy should be understood to act as if they were maximising utility. ‘The international system is often conceived along the lines of a market system whose moving force is maximization.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 76). As far as realism is concerned, the foreign policy behaviour of states is determined above all by the location of the state in the international system. The international system determines the behaviour of states so strongly that there is no need to consider what goes on within them. Realism relies on the concept of national interest. Morgenthau argues that ‘the requirements of national interest drive out ideological considerations in the formulation of foreign policy.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 85).
The concept of anarchy and the polar structure of the system are two key characteristics of the realist tradition. The former refers to the fact that there is no body above the state. By the latter it is meant the number of independent great powers and their interrelationships (Hollis and Smith 1991: 102). While the international system is anarchic, the domestic system is hierarchical, and world politics is the domain of power politics.
Realism has argued that the international system had to be arranged as to allow for collective security. It was the centrality of power, argued Morgenthau, that allowed scientific precision to be used in explaining international relations. The realist ‘theory was a power-politics model, and the anarchical structure of the international system was central in explaining how power politics operated.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 97). The realist approach argues that strategic interaction determines the nature of world politics. The struggle for power and security is the overriding concern of each sovereign state. The logic of reproduction is the dominant logic in international relations. ‘...The attempt to understand the means by which states protect their national security and uphold order is the proper task of international theory.’ (Linklater 1990: 165).
Hollis and Smith point out that ‘realism has always inclined towards structural explanation, but has not always embraced it with the thoroughgoing fervour of neo-realists like Kenneth Waltz.’ (1991: 93). Neo-realists, such as Kenneth Waltz, ‘have refined the Realist notion of a system and extended it to include economic issues.’ In his Theory of International Politics (1979), Waltz adopted ‘a strict structural account of international relations, which commits him to seeing structures as real.’ In his more recent work he has shifted to a softer notion of structure, one which gives more room for the internal make-up of the units to matter. ‘This ambivalence leads to a serious question as to what Waltz takes as real and primary, structures or units.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 105). Ashley argues that in a period of world economic crisis ‘the classical realist tradition and its key concepts suffered a crisis of legitimacy, especially in the United States. Sensing this crisis, a number of American scholars ... more or less independently undertook to respond in a distinctly American fashion; that is, scientifically.’ (1986: 262). By making the structuralist move they saved the realist power politics (1986: 263).
Waltz divides theories of international relations into two groups: ‘reductionist’ and systemic’. Reductionist theories see causes operate at the level of individual states, they explain the whole by analysing the attributes and interactions of parts. Systemic theories see causes operating at the systemic level. Waltz claims that ‘none of the existing systems theories is, in fact, a systems theory; they have all been reductionist.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 105). According to Waltz, ‘A system is composed of a structure and of interacting units. The structure is the system-wide component that makes it possible to think of the system as a whole.’ (1986: 70). Waltz argues that a structure is defined by the arrangement of its parts, and only changes of arrangement are structural changes. Both the structure and the units are theoretical concepts, not real. They are related to, but not identical with real agents and agencies. ‘Structure is not something we see.’ (1986: 72). ‘It is the arrangement of the parts within a system and the principle of the arrangement that define a structure.’ Waltz argues that ‘we can explain international relations only if we are able to distinguish between these unit- and system-level factors.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 108).
According to Waltz, there are three defining characteristics of a system’s structure: the ordering principles by which the parts are arranged (hierarchy in domestic political systems, anarchy in the international political systems); the characteristics of the units (super- and subordinate relations between units in domestic political systems, no different functions among the units, that is, states in the international political systems); the distribution of capabilities across the units. Waltz argues that international systems differ only in the way in which capabilities are distributed among the units. ‘The structure of a system changes with changes in the distribution of capabilities across the system’s units.’ (1986: 92). According to Waltz, ‘the distribution of capabilities is not a unit attribute, but rather a system-wide concept’ (1986: 93). ‘... A change in the distribution of capabilities results in a changing polar configuration. Thus, Waltz sees the only variable which can shift within the international system as being that of its polar structure.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 109). Waltz has claimed that by defining the two essential elements of a systems theory of international politics, namely the structure of the system and its interacting units, he has broken away from common approaches (1986: 94). Waltz is of the opinion that thinking of structure as he has defined it ‘solves the problem of separating changes at the level of units from changes at the level of the system.’ (1986: 96).
The theory of balance-of-power
Keohane and Nye note that ‘For political realists, international politics, like all other politics, is a struggle for power but, unlike domestic politics, a struggle dominated by organized violence.’ They also note that the following three assumptions are integral to the realist vision of world politics: states as coherent units are the dominant actors; force is a usable and effective instrument of policy; there is a hierarchy of issues in world politics, namely the “high politics” (military security) and the “low politics” (economic and social affairs). According to an ideal type of realist world politics, world is characterised by active or potential conflict among states, with the use of force possible at any time (1977: 23, 24).
Discussing the occurrence of violence, Waltz argues that the distinction between international and national realms of politics is not found in the use or nonuse of force but in their different structures, in different modes of organisation for doing something about the use of force. A national system is not one of self-help, whereas the international system is (1986: 99-100). ‘To achieve their objectives and maintain their security, units in a condition of anarchy ... must rely on the means they can generate and the arrangements they can make for themselves. Self-help is necessarily the principle of action in an anarchic order’ (Waltz 1986: 108). Waltz points out that ‘if there is any distinctively political theory of international politics, balance-of-power theory is it.’ However, there is no generally accepted statement of the theory. In order balance-of-power politics to prevail the order should be anarchic and it should be populated by units wishing to survive. ‘States balance power rather than maximize it. States can seldom afford to make maximizing power their goal. International politics is too serious a business for that.’ (1986: 116, 120, 128). According to Gill and Law, in Waltz’s theory, ‘balance of power considerations are cast in the framework of market equilibrium analysis, taken from liberal neo-classical economics’ (1988: 43). Waltz argues that the theory of balance-of-power ‘depicts international politics as a competitive system, one predicts more specifically that states will display characteristics common to competitors: namely, that they will imitate each other and become socialized to their system.’ (1986: 129).
Waltz’s systemic theory of international relations has been criticised by the so-called transnational liberals who argue that there is a need to ‘open the box’. First, according to them, ‘Waltz needs a well-defined notion of power to account for motion and change in what would otherwise be a system in static equilibrium.’ Secondly, they question ‘whether there is an analogy between the international system and a natural system, one strong enough to keep the notion of agency at bay.’ According to critics of neorealism, Waltz’s notion of a system is imprecise. John Ruggie has argued that ‘Waltz has a ‘generative’ conception of structure, in that his three characteristics operate at different depths’ and ‘the deepest characteristic of structure, namely, ordering principles, is not observable.’ Thirdly, Waltz’s system is not actually capable of explaining much. Ruggie argues that, according to Waltz, only structural change can produce systemic change. He maintains that in any social system, structural change itself ultimately has no source other than unit-level processes. Thus, Waltz ignores unit-level causes (Hollis and Smith 1991: 110-15). Hollis and Smith argue that any systems explanation needs a mechanism through which feedback operates and they suggest that the internal workings of the units of the system is the only candidate for the international system (1991: 116).
In his response to such criticism Waltz pointed out that a systems approach cannot explain everything. The task for systems approach is to provide the setting within which states have to operate. According to his revised position, ‘structures condition behaviors and outcomes, yet explanations of behaviors and outcomes are indeterminate because both unit-level and structural causes are in play ... structural constraints can sometimes be countered.’ In other words, we need both unit-level and structural causes to understand international relations and it is possible that structural causes can be overcome (Hollis and Smith 1991: 116-17).
The theory of hegemonic stability
Robert Gilpin distinguishes three contemporary theories of the international political economy: the theory of the “dual” economy derived principally from economic liberalism; the theory of the Modern World System (MWS) strongly influenced by Marxism, and the theory of hegemonic stability (THS) closely associated with political realism. The THS argues that the hegemonic power has the responsibility to guarantee provision of public goods, such as an open and liberal trading regime, a stable international currency, the provision of international security, etc. According to original formulator of the theory, Charles Kindleberger, the crucial role of the hegemon ‘is that of crisis management and not simply the routine one of regime maintenance. If a liberal world economy is to survive, the hegemon must be able and willing to respond quickly to threats to the system.’ (Gilpin 1987: 74-9). Gill and Law has asserted that the THS is a fusion of liberal and realist ideas and, as Duncan Snidal has shown, ignores the impact of bargaining, negotiation, strategic rationality and cooperation through collective action.’ (1988: 45, 47). Gilpin assesses the theory of hegemonic stability:
‘The theory of hegemonic stability (at least in its more crude forms) has tended to overemphasize the role of the state and of political factors in the existence and operation of the international market economy. It has underemphasized the importance of motivating ideologies and domestic factors, of social forces and technological developments, and of the market itself in determining outcomes ...
I consider the theory to be a necessary corrective to the complete focus on economic factors of the dual economy and Modern World System theories. The hegemonic stability theory sets forth the political conditions for the existence of a liberal international economic order and the idea that the rise and decline of the hegemon is an important determinant of structural change. It thus contributes one element to an understanding of the dynamics of the international political economy.’ (1987: 91-2).
Gill and Law point out that writers whose work is partly inspired by the realist tradition have attempted to extend the realist perspective by making use of game theory. ‘One advantage of game theory for realist political economy is that it offers a common theoretical approach to the analysis of security and economic issues.’ According to this approach, rational actors who pursue self-interest, and face a given pay-off structure (or environment) play international games which facilitate cooperation (1988: 32-33).
Game theory is seen as an alternative to systems theory. It ‘treats the units as rational actors and argues that the behaviour of the system is the (often unintended) sum of the choices made by the units. But its assumptions are designed to avoid having to ask how exactly the units are internally organized.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 93). According to Hollis and Smith, the game theory is ‘a major theoretical tool for developing theories of the behaviour of states.’ (1991: 133). This theory ‘relies on astringent assumptions about the rationality of actors, taken from microeconomic theories of individually rational choice’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 143). The basic idea behind the Theory of Games, where an outcome is the sum of the ‘strategies’ chosen by each agent, is that ‘expected utilities are ... directed to outcomes and the utility of each action can depend on what someone else does.’ (Hollis and Smith 1991: 121-22). There are different types of games, such as a coordination game, an assurance game, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the Chicken Game, etc.
‘The application of game theory to international relations continued a tradition of seeing wars and other conflicts as strategic games, which are to be won or lost, like chess. This tradition was part of the realist discourse on international relations, which constructs states as unitary actors that seek to accumulate power and unconstrained by law, moral sentiments, or affections ...’ (Hurwitz 1989: 116).‘Game Theory’, Hollis and Smith note, ‘is a splendid tool of contractarian thinkingthe rational individualism which has inspired most versions of the social contract.’ (1991: 128). ‘[Robert] Axelrod and [Steven] Brams prove’, according to Hollis and Smith, ‘the relevance of Game Theory to the study of international relations. Bilateral interactions without central authority are nicely mirrored by the structure of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Chicken Game, especially when one considers deterrence and the arms race.’ (1991: 134). Hollis and Smith point out that although Game Theory is a powerful tool, it is also an ambiguous one (1991: 135).
In liberal political economy the main units of analysis are rational, self-interested actors (individuals, groups, firms), who operate within the constraints of market structure and competition. Each actor attempts to use power resources to increase its power, security, affluence and satisfaction, or utility (Gill 1990: 20). Since ‘transnational corporate interests are strongly represented within foreign policy establishments of all the major capitalist nations, and many companies have forged alliances or entered consortia with their foreign counterparts’ transnational liberalism can ‘be defined as the economic doctrine of and political ideology primarily associated with the most powerful elements of internationally-mobile capital.’ (Gill 1990: 22-23).
According to Gill, Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye’s ideal-typical concept of ‘complex interdependence’ is an exemplar of transnational liberal approach to international politics. ‘The concept of complex interdependence’, argues Gill, ‘combines a neo-realist view of inter-state relations with a commitment to liberal international economic arrangements.’ (1990: 23). Keohane and Nye are of the opinion that complex interdependence as an ideal-type is the opposite of realism. The three main characteristics of complex interdependence are: the existence of multiple channels of contact among advanced industrial countries; the absence of hierarchy among issues; military force is not used by governments towards other governments (Keohane and Nye 1977: 24-25). In comparison with the realist approach, a congruence between the overall structure of military and economic power and the pattern of outcomes on any issue area is less likely to occur. Under complex interdependence the potential role of the international organisations in political bargaining is greatly increased (Keohane and Nye 1977: 30, 35).
Keohane notes that institutional theory borrows elements from both liberalism and realism. He has synthesised, ‘elements of realism and liberalism in an attempt to create the basis for such a theory, whose core is a concern with how institutions affect incentives facing self-interested states.’ (1993: 293). According to institutionalist theory, states are the principal actors in world politics and that they behave on the basis of their conceptions of their own self-interests. The international institutions play an important role in changing conceptions of self-interest (Keohane 1993: 271). ‘International institutions exist largely because they facilitate self-interested cooperation by reducing uncertainty, thus stabilizing expectations (Keohane 1993: 288). Keohane notes that institutional theory sees states as rational actors, or rational egoists (1993: 273). Keohane emphasises that ‘the contention that international anarchy dictates concern for relative rather than absolute gains is not sustainable.’ (1993: 275). He argues that states will seek relative gains where effective means of power are at stake, and a small number of highly competitive states is involved (1993: 288).
Grieco suggests that, in contrast to earlier presentations of liberal institutionalism (functionalist integration theory, neofunctionalist regional integration theory, and interdependence theory), ‘the newest liberalism accepts realist arguments that states are the major actors in world affairs and are unitary-rational agents. It also claims to accept realism’s emphasis on anarchy to explain state motives and actions.’ (1993: 121). However, according to Grieco, ‘neoliberal constitutionalism misconstrues the realist analysis of international anarchy and therefore it misunderstands the realist analysis of the impact of anarchy on the preferences and actions of states.’ Neoliberalism’s claims about international cooperation are based on its belief that states are atomistic actors. According to neoliberal institutionalism, states seek to maximise their individual absolute gains and are indifferent to the gains achieved by others. According to realism states are positional, not atomistic, in character, and therefore they focus both on their absolute and relative gains from international cooperation (1993: 117-18).
As far as definition of regimes is concerned, Stein points out that there are many different definitions. ‘At one extreme’, according to Stein, ‘regimes are defined so broadly as to constitute either all international relations or all international interactions within a given issue-area ... At the other extreme, regimes are defined as international institutions.’ (1993: 29-30). Kratochwil and Ruggie point out that ‘regimes are broadly defined as governing arrangements constructed by states to coordinate their expectations and organize aspects of international behavior in various issue-areas. They thus comprise a normative element, state practice, and organizational roles.’ (1986: 759). The concept of regimes is an analytical tool. According to the definition given by Krasner, the concept of international regimes have four analytical component parts: principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures (Kratochwil and Ruggie 1986: 769). International regimes are not concrete entities but conceptual creations with which the process of international governance has come to be associated. They are social institutions around which expectations converge in international issue-areas. ‘[T]he ontology of regimes rests upon a strong element of intersubjectivity ... the prevailing epistemological position in regime analysis is almost entirely positivistic in orientation.’ (Kratochwil and Ruggie 1986: 764). According to Stein, regimes can be noninstitutionalised as well as institutionalised. He also notes that international organisations need not be regimes, although they certainly can be (1993: 46). While regimes established to deal with the dilemma of common interests require collaboration, regimes created to solve the dilemma of common aversions require coordination (Stein 1993: 41).
According to the realist perspective, ‘international regimes exist when patterned state behavior results from joint rather than independent decision making.’ (Stein 1993: 31). Keohane argues that ‘international regimes are specific institutions involving states and/or transnational actors, which apply to particular issues in international relations. This is similar to the definition given by Krasner (1983), but makes it clearer that regimes are institutions ...’ (1988: 384). While functional theory of international regimes developed by institutionalists such as Keohane argued that ‘hegemony was not essential to the maintenance of regimes based on mutual interest’, realists ‘emphasized that the strongest international regimes were constructed in a bipolar world in the shadow of U.S. hegemony, and most of them were led at least initially by the United States.’ (Keohane 1993: 284).
The debate between realists and liberals ‘is more concerned today with the extent to which state action is influenced by “structure” (anarchy and the distribution of power) versus “process” (interaction and learning) and institutions.’ (Wendt 1992: 391). Wendt points out that the debate between “neorealists” and “neoliberals” has been based on a shared commitment to “rationalism” which ‘offers a fundamentally behavioral conception of both process and institutions: they change behavior but not identities and interests.’ (1992: 390-91).
Maas notes that the actual definitions of institutions in the recent literature on the ‘new institutionalism’ appears remarkably fluid. ‘Institutions may be anything from formal organizations to social forces (including capitalism) to culture.’(1992: 33, n.80). Keohane points out that ‘ “institution” may refer to a general pattern of categorization of activity or to a particular human-constructed arrangement, formally or informally organized.’ (1988: 383). He argues that ‘persistent and connected sets of rules (formal or informal) that prescribe behavioral roles, constrain activity, and shape expectations’ are the criteria for a broad definition of institutions (1988: 383). In his essay on international institutions he focuses on ‘institutions that can be identified as related complexes of rules and norms, identifiable in space and time.’ (1988: 383).
Keohane distinguishes two approaches to the study of international institutions: the rationalistic approach and the reflective approach. The rationalistic study of international institutions rooted in exchange theory focuses almost entirely on specific institutions. ‘It emphasizes international regimes and formal international organizations.’ This approach views institutions as affecting patterns of costs (1988: 386). The reflective approach (1) emphasises that ‘institutions are often not created consciously by human beings but rather emerge slowly through a less deliberative process, and that they are frequently taken for granted by the people who are affected by them.’ (Keohane 1988: 389). This approach, also called the sociological approach, ‘stresses the role of impersonal social forces as well as the impact of cultural practices, norms, and values that are not derived from calculations of interests.’ (Keohane 1988: 381). Neither the rationalistic nor the reflective approach pays sufficient attention to domestic politics (Keohane 1988: 392).
According to Wendt,
‘An institution is a relatively stable set or “structure” of identities and interests. Such structuresInstitutionalisation is a process of internalising new identities and interests; socialisation is a cognitive process, not just a behavioural one. Institutions may be cooperative or conflictual (Wendt 1992: 399). In the realist view, according to Wendt, ‘anarchy justifies disinterest in the institutional transformation of identities and interests and building systemic theories in exclusively rationalist terms.’ Wendt agrees that self-help and power politics are institutions but they are not essential features of anarchy. ‘Anarchy is what states make of it.’ (1992: 394, 395). ‘International institutions exist largely because they facilitate self-interested cooperation by reducing uncertainty, thus stabilizing expectations.’ (Keohane 1993: 288). Keohane maintains that while he has synthesised elements of realism and liberalism in an attempt to create the basis for a theory of international institutions, Grieco talks about the need for realism to develop a theory of international institutions. Keohane is critical of limiting a theory of institutions to the boundaries of realism (1993: 293).
are often codified in formal rules and norms, but these have motivational force only in virtue of actors’ socialization to and participation in collective knowledge. Institutions are fundamentally cognitive entities that do not exist apart from actors’ ideas about how world works. This does not mean that institutions are not real or objective, that they are “nothing but” beliefs...’ (1992: 399).
Those social theories which seek to explain identities and interests, called ‘reflectivist’ by Keohane, are called by Wendt, in his own words, ‘following Nicholas Onuf’, ‘constructivist’. According to constructivism, agency constructs itself socially, and since reality is socially constructed an interpretive approach is needed to reality. ‘A fundamental principle of constructivist social theory is that people act toward objects, including other actors, on the basis of the meanings that objects have for them ... it is collective meanings that constitute the structures which organize our actions.’ (Wendt 1992: 396-97). A second principle of constructivism is ‘that the meanings in terms of which action is organized arise out of interaction.’ (Wendt 1992: 403).
Radical constructivists argue that ‘subject and object are mutually constitutive; no description can exist independently of the social circumstances under which that description is made. Science, they argue, is no different from any other form of knowledge creation, and there is no basis for privileging ‘scientific’ knowledge.’(Haas 1992: 21, 23). In contrast with radical constructivists, the limited constructivists ‘with a more essentialist or materialist view argue that the world is a real and separate object of inquiry that exists independently of the analyst and that although the categories in which it is identified are socially constructed, consensus about the nature of the world is possible in the long run.’ (Haas 1992: 23).
4. MARXISM (2)
Classical Marxism (Historical Materialism)
As Halliday points out historical materialism has never occupied a secure place within International Relations. Its application to international relations has been explicitly or implicitly limited. According to Halliday, ‘this is achieved above all by blocking out the main theoretical questions of Marxism ... On the other hand, historical materialism has not itself developed the theoretical focus needed for a comprehensive and generally intelligible contribution to International Relations’ (1994: 49).
Marxism has always had an emancipatory project which has the goal of universal emancipation of human species, that is, world communism, as its historical goal. The Marxist project of universal emancipation ‘brings an emancipatory interest to the analysis of the factors which have been responsible for the expansion and contraction of human community.’ (Linklater 1990: 171). Marxism is a system-challenging theory with its own global emancipatory project. According to Marxism, conflict between nation-sates is not the fundamental conflict in the global system. Marxism is committed to the abolition of the international states-system (Linklater 1990: 21).
Linklater argues that ‘contemporary developments in social theory have noted that Marx and Engels seriously underestimated the extent to which the system of states was a barrier to the achievement of human unity.’ (1990: 54). In order to construct the emancipatory project, according to Linklater, the normative interest in defending the extension of moral community deserves more discussion. Besides, ‘this project requires a more complex sociology of how production, state-building, international relations and developments in the realm of culture and ideology have shaped and reshaped the moral frontier at different points in human history.’ (1990: 171).
Marxist political economy in the nineteenth century assumed that the human beings would be united by the process of industrialisation. However, the process of national unification rapidly overtook the trend towards international integration and state power increased in both domestic and the international domain. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Marxists ‘were faced with the question of whether historical materialism had presented an oversimplified analysis of human development in which too much weight attached to the class struggle.’ (Linklater 1990: 55).
According to a perspective which regards nationalism as a product of the uneven development of the world economy, ‘Marxist theory has been slow to recognise that the preservation of national loyalties and antagonisms (not least in the socialist bloc) reveals the extent to which cultural differences can be valued for their intrinsic worth.’ (Linklater 1990: 56). Linklater shares the claim of Tom Nairn that nationalism has been Marxism’s ‘greatest historical failure’, but adds that ‘it would be a mistake to conclude that Marxism is powerless to contribute to a theory of nationalism.’ (1990: 56). For example, he draws attention to the study of nationalism by V. I. Lenin. According to Lenin, nationalism was the product of the internalisation of the entire economic, political and spiritual existence of humanity. Nationalism was the product of the uneven development of capitalist world economy, and the emergence of capitalism was crucial for the formation of modern nationalities. The uneven development of capitalism was a major reason for the politicisation of cultural differences (Linklater 1990: 61, 63) Marxists showed that there was a close relationship between capitalist development and the nation-forming and nationalism. Lenin argued that, in order to promote the logic of human unification, it was imperative to fight against every trace of national distrust, estrangement and enmity.
Linklater argues that Lenin failed to notice the importance of state-formation and conflict within the international states-system and ‘underestimated the extent to which a socialist response to the challenge of nationalism required strategies for ending uneven economic development, methods of reconciling the demand for recognition of cultural differences with the process of state-building and techniques for reducing strategic rivalries between nation-states.’ (1990: 65). Lenin’s account of nationalism, according to Linklater, failed to recognise that the aim of creating voluntary ties between nations might be frustrated by international military competition. It also ‘failed to take account of international anarchy in its consideration of the means of transcending the tension between the nation and the species in the socialist (and not only in the capitalist) world order.’ (1990: 67). Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn maintain that ‘Marxism has traditionally lacked a sophisticated account of nationalism and the international system of states.’ (Linklater 1990: 46).
Linklater argues that ‘when Marxists were forced back on the policy of building socialism in one country that the relationship between state security and nationalism was more widely recognised’, and they had to compromise not only with nationalism but with the traditional methods of conducting relations between states (1990: 65).
According to Linklater, since Marxism takes insufficient account of state-formation, international rivalry and war, ‘a general theory of nationalism will have to recognise the strengths of statecentric realism without assuming that nationalism could have been caused by international conflict alone. Although Marxism was the first to recognise the link between capitalism, uneven economic development and nationalism, it did not, according to Linklater, recognise that the state possessed the resources to harness national sentiments in support of its own geopolitical ends (1990: 75).
The Marxist theory of capitalist imperialism provided ‘a systematic attempt to understand the connections between domestic social change, state structures and foreign policy, and the uneven development of the world economy.’ (Linklater 1990: 76). Marxism challenged the conventional divisions of domestic and international politics and economics. The distinction between these two domains had been broken down by the dominant logic of monopolisation ‘which provided the link between the structure of modern capitalism and the influence which militarism had come to exert over all social classes.’ (Linklater 1990: 76). According Lenin and N. Bukharin, ‘this was the single thread which brought domestic capitalist systems, state structures and the realm of international relations within a single process of historical development.’ (Linklater 1990: 78).
The nation-state, according to Bukharin, had become the main agency through which the contradictions of the process of the internationalisation of production would be revealed. Both Lenin and Bukharin argued that the intensive and extensive growth of the world economy enhanced the state’s capacity to act as a national actor and the inter-state conflict had become the dominant feature of the monopoly stage of capitalism (Linklater 1990: 80-81).
Lenin’s analysis of international relations, according to Linklater, was an attempt ‘to understand the relationship between the process of capitalist development, the contraction of the sense of international community (as a result of the nationalisation of sections of the working classes) and the increased propensity for violence between nation-states. The nature of this relationship was the puzzle which the theory of the superabundance of capital endeavoured to solve.’ (1990: 83).
In Imperialism Lenin suggested that an account of European colonialism might begin by analysing the interaction between ‘the domestic mode of production and internal system of class relations’ , ‘the unevenly-developing world economy’ and ‘the international states-system where the process of uneven development generated the rivalries which were the immediate cause of overseas expansion.’ (Linklater 1990: 87). Linklater agrees with Waltz’s claim that ‘Lenin underestimated the degree to which the system of states was independent from either domestic or international capitalist structures.’ (1990: 88).
Linklater points out that although explanation of the Marxist theory of imperialism of ‘the increased particularism of nation-states and its observations about how the trend towards the closure of political community might be reversed were far from convincing’, nevertheless, ‘it addressed a question which is immensely important for any critical project in the field of international relations, namely hoe the sense of obligation or community in international relations expands and contracts from one historical epoch to another.’ (1990: 89).
‘ (...) By analysing the historical forces which transformed state structures and modified the dominant principles of international legitimacy in the late nineteenth century, the Marxist theory of imperialism embarked upon a project which was more intricate and profound than the attempt to explain the eternal occurrence of colonial expansion. What is most intriguing about it is its suggestion that the conflict between particularising and universalising processes can best be understood by analysing the state locations in the three arenas mentioned above (in the national economy, in the world economic system and in the international system of states).’ (Linklater 1990: 89-90).
Marxism has been charged with economic or class reductionism with regard to
the nature and functions of the state. It is contended that ‘Marxism has consistently failed to understand the nature of state autonomy.’ (Linklater 1990: 153). The charge of class reductionism, according to Linklater, ‘persists because Marxism has rarely addressed the relationship between the citizen’s concern for territorial security and the state’s claim to represent the national interest in its conduct of foreign policy.’ (1990: 153).
Those theories labelled by Linklater as neo-Marxist concerning development and underdevelopment emerged in response to the claims advanced by liberal modernisation theorists in the 1950s and 1960s (1990: 102). According to one of the representatives of the Latin American school of dependency theorists, Andre Gunder Frank, ‘the world-system was a pyramid of exchange relations stretching from the most deprived areas of periphery to the most highly developed metropolitan regions in the core.’ Frank contended that ‘a world-wide system of capitalist exchange relations had been established in the sixteenth century during the first wave of European overseas expansion.’ (Linklater 1990: 105). ‘In the words of Andre Gunder Frank, the integrated commercial networks of advanced and backward sectors necessarily lead to the “development of underdevelopment.” The periphery is the source of the wealth of the core; the latter exploits and siphons off the resources of the former.’ (Gilpin 1987: 69). Frank argued that the world economy consists of a system of exchange relations (Linklater 1990: 104, 108). Dependency theory broke with ‘the classical view that national societies constituted the primary level of analysis.’ This was Frank’s principal methodological innovation (Linklater 1990: 104).
The world-systems theory
This perspective is one of the inheritors of dependency theory. According to the most renowed representative of this approach, I. Wallerstein, the world system comprises a series of “commodity chains”. Wallerstein attaches special importance to conflict between states. ‘The shape of the world economy is determined for the most part by territorial states which participate in a constant, zero-sum competition in order to capture “a greater or at least not a diminishing proportion of world surplus within (their) national boundaries”.’ The capitalist world economy was established in the sixteenth century. The emergent core states of Western Europe integrated ‘Eastern European societies and the non-European regions of the world within a new and exploitative international division of labour.’ According to the classification of Wallerstein, the capitalist world economy consists of three regions, namely core, periphery and semi-periphery (Linklater 1990: 108, 109). The central argument of the Modern World System Theory, according to Gilpin, is that ‘the world economy contains a dominant core and a dependent periphery that interact and function as an integrated whole.’ (1987: 69). This perspective sets out to recover the state, international relations and war for modern social theory. It places the capitalist world economy at the centre of the analysis (Linklater 1990: 119).
5. TRANSNATIONAL HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
According to Gill, ‘the work of Antonio Gramsci, and that of Robert Cox, constitute a fundamentally important development of Marxist theory.’ Gramsci’s contribution to the development of Marxist theory is based on a critique of the economism and determinism. ‘Gramsci sought to develop concepts and theories which related to class struggle, and to the questions of consciousness and political action, in concrete historical circumstances.’ (Gill 1991: 41-42). Gramsci added ‘ethico-political’ dimension to the economic, political and ideological aspects of Marxist conception of mode of production through his concept of civil society.
Gill and Law call the approach that takes its inspiration from ‘Gramscian Marxism’ as transnational historical materialism. Robert Cox pioneered the application of Gramsci’s ideas internationally, to a ‘transnational stage’ of capitalism, to world orders and transnational labour-capital relations (Gill and Law 1988: 63, 64).
‘Cox has noted that in an age of the growing internationalisation of production and exchange, there may be an emerging transnational historic bloc. In this bloc, the key institutions are the biggest transnational corporations, including banks, as well as internationalist elements in the major capitalist states and international organisations such as the IMF...’ (Gill and Law 1988: 65).
According to the neo-Gramscian form of transnational historical materialism, because of ‘the rise of the transnational corporation and its implications for social relations at the domestic and international levels’ which leads to the growing interpenetration of economies, and the emergence of an internationalised policy process, ‘the possibilities of cooperation between capitalist states may become significantly greater than in the past.’ Another implication of transnational historical materialism is that the question of class formations should be addressed on a world scale (Gill and Law 1988: 65).
Cox argues against the distinction between state and civil society in traditional international relations theory. He is of the opinion that ‘state and civil society are so interpenetrated that the concepts have become almost purely analytical (...) and are only very vaguely and imprecisely indicative of distinct spheres of activity.’ He thinks that the state/society complex is the basic entity of international relations (1981: 86). The key units in the neo-Gramscian form of historical materialism are interacting sets of social forces: material capabilities, ideas and institutions. ‘These forces operate at three interrelated (methodological) levels: world orders, state-civil society complexes, and the basic level of production.’ (Gill 1991: 46). ‘Historical materialism examines’, writes Cox, ‘the connection between power in production, power in the state, and power in international relations.’ (1981: 96).
In Transnational Classes and International Relations Kees van der Pijl focuses mainly on the process of commodification which ‘means that the lives of ever more people are determined by tendentially world-embracing market relations’ (1998: 8), on socialisation which means ‘the planned or otherwise normatively unified interdependence of functionally divided social activity’ (1998: 15), on class formation under the discipline of capital, on transnational integration of the capitalist class in historical perspectives and on international relations between the English-speaking heartland of capital (where privileged terrain of social action is civil society) and successive contender states (where privileged terrain of social action is the state) on the perimeters of this heartland. The concept of socialisation and the notion of capital as discipline play a central role in his conception of historical materialism and his approach to world politics.
Kees van der Pijl uses the notion of comprehensive concepts of control (3) in order to address the problem of how economics and politics become fused in transnational and historical processes of class formation. This notion seeks to capture a broader, mediated historical/transnational rather than immediate unity of the interests of fractions of capital and the need to impose the discipline of capital on society at large (1998: 4).
Kees van der Pijl agrees with Cox that the state/society complexes constitute the basic entities of international relations, rather than states (1998: 64). Kees van der Pijl introduces the distinction between what he calls the expanding Lockean heartland of capitalism and the rise of Hobbesian contender states. By so doing he reinterprets the dynamics of state system. In the ‘Lockeian state’ ‘there is a vigorous and largely self-regulating civil society’, whereas in the ‘Hobbesian state’ a strong state ‘dominates civil society from above’ (Gill 1993: 39).
‘The Lockean state’, according to Van der Pijl, ‘was part of the complex of forces that shaped the liberal internationalist concept of control, and henceforth would remain a cornerstone of capital’s collective arrangements.’ (1998: 70). The growth of a Lockean heartland involves
‘... a transnationalisation of civil society, the restructuring of state power along two axes: one of international socialisation of state functions, the other of a struggle for primacy between the states between which these functions are to be shared. Along either axis evolves an immanent ‘world state’ sustaining total capital on a global scale by upholding the Lockean state/society complex and the specific arrangements it defines separation of politics from economics, a ‘level playing field’ in competition, individual freedom under the law, etc. ...’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 70-71).Van der Pijl suggests that the structure of the international political economy may be reinterpreted ‘as a process of uneven expansion of the Lockean heartland, challenged by successive generations of Hobbesian contender states.’ (1998: 83).
Van der Pijl traces the initial formation of a transnational bourgeoisie back to Freemasonry by applying concept of ‘imagined community’ to this ‘cosmopolitan brotherhood. He argues that ‘in the late nineteenth century, élite private planning groups branched off from these transnational networks.’ These planning groups were instrumental in ‘developing common strategies and adjusting the hegemonic concept of control in response to resistance and other challenges.’ Van der Pijl also argues that private planning groups have played an important role ‘in integrating the ascendant bourgeoisie from the contender states into the expanding heartland.’ According to him, ‘through these stages and social forms (and all along, through crises and wars), the comprehensive capital relation can be argued to have become global in the three-century era between 1688 and the present.’ (1998: 98).
Van der Pijl argues that ‘the process of bourgeois class formation in the period preceding 1789 was a truly transnational. Several enlightened, continental European monarchs had embraced the free-thinking deism of Freemasonry with a view to modernising their societies from above, however, seeking to pre-empt the revolution from below.’ (1998: 103). The cosmopolitanism of Freemasonry was grafted on the undeniable harmony between British interests and the interests of the world in the heyday of liberal internationalism centred on Britain.. However, towards the close of the nineteenth century new forms of class organisation and direction emerged, and ‘with the advent of a new mode of accumulation in powerful contender states such as Germany’ the above-mentioned harmony evaporated. The rise of the socialist labour movement also ‘required a more activist posture on the part of the ruling class.’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 106).
‘... The combined effect of this changing configuration of forces was to shift the emphasis in bourgeois class formation from the cosmopolitan to the national level, shaping a state monopoly tendency in the bourgeoisie (tendency, because a full state monopoly would be incompatible with capitalist relations of production).’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 106-107).This meant that a state monopoly tendency as a concept of control replaced liberal internationalism. Van der Pijl notes that ‘organised policy planning behind the scenes is a form of the socialisation of the conduct of class struggle on the part of the bourgeoisie.’ (1998: 108). Policy planning groups such as The Rhodes-Milner group, tried to integrate a privileged segment of the workers ‘into alliance with the ruling class by rallying them behind a chauvinist imperialism.’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 110). Van der Pijl maintains that the central concern of organised policy planning projects ‘was to disrupt the crystallisation of a closed, rival bloc in a contender posture based on a Hobbesian state/society configuration (...) and to raise the level of integration of the heartland (...)’ (1998: 114).
In dealing with hegemonic integration of , what he calls the ‘state classes’, Van der Pijl argues that ‘often building on the ‘off-shore’ integration into international circuits capital’ all ‘challengers to heartland pre-eminence were simultaneously being integrated into informal networks and private planning groups which from the interwar years onwards served as meeting grounds with heartland bourgeoisie. All along, through confronation and even war, processes of transnational class formation cut across apparently fixed inter-national dividing lines.’ (1998: 117).
According to Van der Pijl, a state monopoly tendency in the early twentieth century ‘militated against transnational integration, but World War I investment bankers attempted to resurrect liberal internationalism in the changed conditions’ through international organisations of the capitalist class from the heartland as well as from the contender states, and through different other means such as formal and private co-operation agreements. ‘[T]he restructuring of American capital in the New Deal had created a new configuration of forces ... the initial state-monopolistic orientation of the New Deal was deflected towards a corporate liberal concept which rehabilitated internationalisation of capital as an escape route out of domestic class compromise.’ (1998: 118-19). Van der Pijl points out that the full implications of the corporate liberal concept as it crystallised in the course of the New Deal’s evolution ‘perhaps became apparent only with the New Deal’s extrapolation to Western Europe in the Marshall Plan and after, because then the aspect internationalisation allowed the broadening of the class alliance to include the pre-war liberal internationalists. It also removed concern about the implications of the compromise with the organised working class in a sealed-off domestic concern.’ (1998: 119).
In the late 1960s, domestic and international events, particularly involving the United States ‘... combined to unravel the corporate liberal concept of control which had become hegemonic on the promise of material fulfilment.’ In the late 1960s and 1970s several initiatives such as the Club of Rome, the World Economic Forum, the Trilateral Commission (TC), etc. were launched in order to accommodate and integrate the forces of change. Particularly the TC was preoccupied with containing centrifugal forces threatening to disrupt ‘Western’ unity (Van der Pijl 1998: 123, 124, 125). The forces guiding the TC’s deliberations sought to develop a new concept of control. ‘The quest for a new concept of control with which to contain and confront challenges at home and abroad included, first, a formula for restoring the discipline of capital ... Second, the authoritarian turn should be made part of a global moral order... Trilateralism emphasised the reduced status of national sovereignty (...) while projecting, on a global scale, the Lockean constitution of the individual, bourgeois subject as the universal norm and limit on state jurisdiction.’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 126-27).
‘The core of the new concept of control which expressed the restored discipline of capital, neo-liberalism, resides in raising micro-economic rationality to the validating criterion for all aspects of social life. Much more than corporate liberalism which incorporated state-monopolistic and welfare-corporatist elements often copied from the contender states, neo-liberalism was a product of heartland history and Lockean political culture ...’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 129).According to Van der Pijl, cadres form a specific stratum of functionaries which ‘the need for control and direction of collective labour, and the task of maintaining social cohesion under conditions of advanced division of labour’ brings forth ‘as socialisation proceeds in conjunction with commodification or by other modes of alienation.’ (1998: 136). He asserts that ‘the cadres represent the social class equivalent of “the transcendence of capital within the limits of the capitalist mode of production itself” (MEW 25: 452), which Marx sees exemplified in e.g. the joint stock company.’ (1998: 137). He also asserts that, in the twentieth century, the cadres which form ‘the class of socialisation’ have several times developed into a conscious class, and ‘cannot fail to do so again in light of their objective role in sustaining social cohesion.’ (1998: 137, 138).
Van der Pijl argues that the cadre stratum as a whole has been profoundly affected by the neoliberal restructuring away from the corporate liberal class configuration. The return of the owners in an entrepreneurial role entailed a reduction of management power and presence at all levels (1998: 159). ‘The cadre role in neo-liberal deregulation has been facilitated by historic defeats of the organised working class. On a terrain redefined by globalisation of the discipline of capital, one segment of the cadres again are acting as agents of capital against the workers and society at large.’ (Van der Pijl 1998: 160).
Van der Pijl argues that in the ‘process of synchronising socialisation and institutional behaviour under the discipline of capital, consultancies and their equivalents are in effect laying the groundwork for a system of global governance’ by which he understands ‘the world-wide integration of economic, social and political organisation into a mediated complex of state and quasi-state authority.’ (1998: 161-62). Van der Pijl argues that
‘... once the cadre stratum reorients its perspective towards social goals, prioritising (however superficially at first) survival over profitability, this enlarges the space for a deepening of democracy, a reappropriation of the public sphere by the population, and eventually, a more fundamental transformation away from class society.’ (1998: 164).
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(1) This approach is called reflective since it emphasises ‘the importance of human reflection for the nature of institutions and ultimately for the character of world politics.’ (Keohane 1988: 382).
(2) Although I deal with the dependency theory and the worlds system theory in this section I do not consider them as Marxist theories, but as Marxist-influenced theories.
(3) Kees van der Pijl notes that ‘regimes’ in the neo-realist approach broadly denote what is called concepts of control (1998: 5).