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International Relations: Why Is There More Than One Theory?

Introduction

The state is expected to provide social values like protection, justice, and welfare. These are social values that are so fundamental to human well-being that must be protected or insured in some way. That could be by social organizations other than the state; for example by family, clan, ethics or religious groups. However, in the modern world, the state has been involved as the leading organization in that regard. It is expected to ensure protection of these basic values. For instance, people have the assumption that, the state would and should underwrite the values of security, which involves the protection of people from both internal and external threat, but the state is capable of presenting problems as well as offer solutions just like any existing organizations.

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Therefore, most states are likely to be friendly, non-threatening, and peacemakers. But a few states may be hostile and aggressive, hence posing a basic and age-old problem of state system and national security. To deal with this, most states possess armed forces, and enter into alliance with other states to increase their national security. Security is one of the fundamental values of international relations. International theory tries to offer conceptual background that international relations can be evaluated. It can be analyzed into positivist theories that mainly focus on a principally state –level and post-positivist that incorporate the meaning of security as from class, gender, and upto post colonial security (Griffiths 2009).

Theories are devices that explain a world that exists apart from them. This means that, they explain a world that is out there and explaining it means making sense of it. Theories constitute the world, which they are explaining, this indicates that, they can never be separated from the world because they are part of it and therefore, can never be neutral. This means that, there can never be views from nowhere, and all theories make assumptions about the world (Griffiths 2009).

Therefore ,the value of international relations deals with issues that concerns the development and change of sovereign statehood in terms of larger system or society.Thus,concentration on states and the relations assist to explain reasons for war and peace as the major problem of the traditional international relation theory.However,the current international Relation deals not only with political relations between states, but also with many other issues such as economic interdependence, human rights, transnational corporations, international organizations, the environment, gender inequalities , and terrorism. There are four major theoretical traditions in international relations, these constitutes of realism, liberalism or idealism, international society, and international political society. There is also a diverse group of alternative approaches which have gained prominence in the past years. The most common of these is the social constructivism.

Reasons for having more than one theory

According to Raymond (2003) the foregoing traditional and alternative theories constitute the main analytical tools and concerns of contemporary international relation. The emergency of more than one theory of international Relations is as a result of historical events, by major political and economic problems of the day. They are also as a result of methodological developments in other areas of scholarship. There is also the need of different theories to capture different aspects of a very complicated historical and contemporary realty. This means that, the world politics is not dominated by one single issue or problem; on contrary, it is shaped and influenced by many different issues or conflicts.

The many theories in international relations reflect the personal preferences of different scholars. For example, they prefer particular theories for reasons that may have as much as to do with their personal values and world views as with what takes place in international relations, and what is required to understand those events and episodes. Therefore, scholars are always developing new theories to disapprove or agree with their components concerning particular problem in international relation. For instance, the theory between the idealism and realism did not agree over certain issues thus, due to the disagreement, another theory had to be developed. For Example, the idealists were mainly driven by the desire to develop a set of organizations, institutions, procedures, and practices that could eliminate or at least monitor war in the international systems.They were encouraged by the horrors of the First World War and they honestly had a belief that there must be a better way to organize international affairs. The most significant and important aspect of their plan occurred in Woodrow Wilsons Fourteen –point plan for fresh postwar order.

However, the idealists enduring contribution in terms of disciplinary development was of an academic discipline created to study the world of international politics. For them, international wars and misunderstandings were as a result of ignorance and lack of understanding (Raymond 2003).They believed that control of the system would be achieved if there was a better understanding of international processes, and that progress was possible if they could develop and use reason to control the irrational desires and frailties that infect the human condition. The idealists established a science department because they believed that, it was the pinnacle of human reason for the service of effective control. Science department was providing knowledge that could be used in the promotion of peace. Despite the fact that these idealists never clearly understood what they meant by science, they were committed to offering education that was more of scientific to people.

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Lack of clear account of science knowledge in early years led to criticism from the realists. They had to challenge the extent to which the knowledge offered by the idealists was scientific by forming their own theory of Realism. Thus, the realists challenged the unsystematic and value driven idealist theory to international relations. This realism theory was against the idealism in that; the scholars accused the idealists of concentrating very much on how the world ought to be as opposed to dealing with how it objectively was. A British international relations scholar by the names of Carr was the common critique of the liberal idealism theory. According to Carr (1967), the idealists misread the facts of history and that they also misunderstood the nature of international relations. They believed that such relations could be based on a harmony of interest between countries and people.

Therefore, he argued that, the correct starting point is the opposite one. For example, assumptions should be made on profound conflicts of interests both between countries and people, that some people are better off than others, they will attempt to preserve and defend their privileged positions and that the underdogs, the have-nots will struggle to change that situation because international relations is in a basic sense about conflict, than about cooperation. Thus, Carr labeled the idealism theory as a contrast to the realism theory which was more sober and correct analysis of international relations. The main element in the realist view concerns the nature of international relation, in that, international politics such like politics is a struggle for power as the main aim of international politics. For example, the 1930s and 1940s tried to confirm this, where international relation was a struggle for power and survival. The quest for power characterized the foreign policies of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The same struggle, in response, applied to the Allied side during the Second World War For instance, Britain, France and the United States were the ones who were privileged and satisfied powers who wanted to hold on to what they already had, and Germany, Italy and Japan were the less priviledged.Therefore, it was only natural, according to the realists thinking, that the less privileged would try and address the international balance through the use of force (Thayer 2004).

According to realist analysis, the sole appropriate response to such attempts is the development of countervailing power and the intelligent utilization of that power for national defense and to deter potential aggressors.Thus, it was essential to maintain an effective balance of power as the only way to preserve peace and prevent war. This is a view of international politics that denies that it is possible for the less privileged to win in political struggles (Thayer 2004) a good example to this statement is Germany during the First World War.It was never defeated by the League of Nations and it took a world war, millions of casualties, heroic sacrifices and vast materials resources to finally defeat the challenge from Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. Therefore, negotiations and diplomacy by themselves can never bring security and survival in world politics as indicated by the realism theory. Realist view of cyclical of history is against the liberal idealist view that qualitative change for better is possible, realism stresses continuity and repetition.

According to some scholars, each new theory tends to make the same sort of mistakes as previous approach, thus hard to have any change, as long as sovereign states are the dominant form of political organization, power politics will continue and states will have to look after their security and prepare for war (Thayer 2004) For example, the Second World War was no extraordinary event; neither was the First World War. Therefore, more theories are as a result of these failures by the previous theories. Some scholars try to reconcile these theories, seek to be historically conscious about international relations as a sphere of human relations, and as a result they come up with general theories that try and seek to explain and not merely understand world politics for example, Morgenthau tried to study the moral dilemmas of foreign policy by coming up with general laws of politics to be applied at all times.

It is also assumed that, more theories in international relations occur because each type of effort made by one theory can inform and enrich the other and can as well act as a check on the excesses endemic in each theory (Smith 2007).For example, the behaviouralism had a lasting effect in international relations and this was because of the domination of the discipline after the second world war by United States scholars, the vast majority of whom supported the quantitative, scientific ambitions of behaviouralism.They also led the way in setting a research agenda focused on the role of two superpowers, especially the United States, in the international systems. That thus, paved the way to new formulations of both the realism and liberalism that was heavily influenced by behaviouralist methodologies, hence more theories being formed in international relations (Smith 2007).

During 1950s to 1970s, international relations were concerned with issue such as the trade and investment, travel and communication, and similar problems which were especially prevalent in the relations between the liberal democracies of the west. Those relations provided the basis for a new attempt by liberal democracies an alternative to realist thinking that would avoid the excess of earlier liberalism, thus, the reason for the availability of more than one theory in international relations. Early theorists of integration studied how certain functional activities across borders provided mutually advantageous long-term cooperation. Other neoliberal theorists studied how integration fed itself, in that cooperation in one transactional are paved way for cooperation in other areas (Keohane 1975).In the 1950s, and 1960s Western Europe and Japan developed mass consumption welfare states, as the United States had done already before the war. That development entailed a higher level of trade, communication, cultural exchange, and other relations and transactions across borders. This provides the basis for sociological liberalism, a strand of neoliberal thinking which emphasizes the impact of these expanding cross-border activities. In the 1950s, other scholars like Karl (1957) and his associates argued that such interconnecting activities helped create common values and identities among the people from different states and paved the way for peaceful, cooperative relations by making war increasingly costly and thus more unlikely (Rengger 2000).They also attempted to measure the integrating phenomenon scientifically.

Another reason why there is more than one theory in international relations is that, it encourages high degree of interdependence, which makes the state to set up international institutions and organizations to deal with common problems. Organizations promote cooperation across international boundaries by providing information and by reducing costs. These organizations can be formal international institutions, such as the European Union or they can be less formal sets of agreement which deals with common activities or issues.

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There is more than one theory in international relations because scholars feel that there is need for change in world, thus they form more theories to suit the people. For instance, scholars may wish to account for the rise of the modern state in terms of its ability to provide protection and security to its citizens against armed attack from outsiders through the formation of a theory to account for this. According to Raymond (2003) scholars engages in a form of strategic determinism and in particular, they concentrate on the change from the small and vulnerable political units of the European Middle Ages to the larger units that came to be known as nations-states. Thus, the invention and widespread use of gunpowder enabled rulers, along with artillery and standing armies, to destroy feudal authorities within larger areas, which they could then protect by building impenetratable fortifications (Raymond 2003).

Historians did not wait for the accession of the United States to world primacy to study international relations, but they described or associated more than they analyzed or explained.No science, however, limits itself to describing or associating.Furthermore, what profit can statesman or diplomats derive from the historians knowledge of past century such as the weapons of mass destruction, the techniques of subversion, the ubiquity of military force because of aviation and electronics factors, which render the lessons of the past at best. Or, at least, such lessons cannot be used unless they are assimilated into a theory that includes the like and the unlike, and separates constants in order to elaborate, and not to eliminate, the part played by the unknown.Therefore, there is more than one theory in international relations because of the need to create history for future remembrance for the good work done or for the events experienced and how they were tackled.

Theories are always characterized in general terms in international relations, for easy ordering of information; they are useful instruments for understanding the situation, they require that the procedure for selection of the problem is selected for study and analysis in some context or other, there is practically always a theory underlying the choices, and theories can be tools for the comprehension not only of uniformities and regularities, but contingencies and irrationalities as well. Thus, scholars find the use of theories in international relations very vital as it acts as a tool for ordering data and selection of problems, hence creating more than one theory.

Another reason why there is more than one theory in international relations is that, theories often tend to simplify reality, and to interpret characters by uncovering the implicit of the actors. For example, a theory of international relations is a rationally ordered summary of all the rational elements which the observer has found in the subject matter. Thus, such a theory is a kind of rational outline of international relations, a map of the international scene. According to Griffiths (2009) the difference between an empirical and a theoretical interpretation of international relations is comparable to the difference between a photograph and a painted portrait. The picture shows everything in details. While the painted portrait does not show everything in details, but it shows something that needs creative thinking (Griffiths 2009).

More theories are being formed in international relations to strengthen political or social issues so as to reduce doubts people may have and to prove the truth or reality over issues of international relations. For instance, changes in international relations have a threefold relevance to political theory. Since states can no longer be regarded as largely self-sufficient political orders, the image of international state of nature no longer offers the right picture of the moral relations among states, people of diverse nationalities, and other actors in the international realm, this is according to Beitz (1999).Therefore, many nationalities who thought to follow from it needs examination first or formulate a new theory which, is accurate in problem solving. The state, like other organization that can affect peoples lives and their rights, must satisfy certain moral requirements if its to be considered legitimate. It is by these standards that scholars evaluate the states claim on people and orient their efforts at political change. Therefore, the normative component of political theory is the search for such standards and for the reasoning that forms their justification (Beitz 1999).

Having more than one theory in international relations is as a result of the scholars’ motivation to modify the existing theories through formulation of new theories either to argue against them or be in their support depending with the issue being dealt with at the moment. For instance, the positivists’ theory to social explanation has been modified in significant ways since 1960s, as the positivist philosophy of science has adapted itself as a result of a range of criticisms. According to Oliver (2009) the postbehaviourist form of positivism is still significant in contemporary international relations. It underpins the influential contribution to social analysis. Against the positivist insistence on a science of human behavior, a diverse range of postpostivist positions has emerged. It is trying to categorize these postpostivists as articulating a version of the interpretive understanding position (Oliver 2009).

There is more than one theory in international relations because scholars need to use predictions in order to attain their goals, and the only way to do this is through forming theories. For instance, the rational choice theory agrees with the social world, but ignores the majority of it so as create predictions according to a particular understanding of people. According to rational choice theorists, people should be served as utility maximizers and assume any other aspects of their social being. This does not mean that rational choice theorists actually believe this is a correct description of what an individual is.However,they do believe that if individuals are treated in this manner, more series of predictions may be generated concerning behavior on the basis of observed outcome (Miller 2002).

There is more than one theory in international relations because of the need to acquire more and adequate knowledge of social realty to ground and direct policy making. The role of theory is often practical in a different sense from what is understood by those who argue for a policy relevant international relations. If we assume that theories constitute the world we live in, we either reproduce or change mindsets, and, hence social realities this is according to Miller (2002).

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Conclusion

International relations involve cross-border transactions of all kinds like politics, economic, and social exchanges between states. Theory acts as an instrument that provides intellectual order to the subject matter of international relations. Theories enable scholars or theorists to conceptualize both past and contemporary events. They also provide a wide range of ways of interpreting complex issues. The emergency of more than one theory of international Relations is a result of historical events, by major political and economic problems of the day. They are also as a result of methodological developments in other areas of scholarship. There is also the need of different theories to capture different aspects of a very complicated historical and contemporary reality (Beitz 1999).This means that, the world politics is not dominated by one single issue or problem; on contrary, it is shaped and influenced by many different issues or conflicts. The many theories in international relations reflect the personal preferences of different scholars. For example, they prefer particular theories for reasons that may have as much as to do with their personal values and world views as with what takes place in international relations and what is required to understand those events and episodes. Therefore, scholars are always developing new theories to disapprove or agree with their components concerning particular problem in international relation just as discussed above.

Reference List

Beitz, C., 1999.Political theory and international relations. New York: Princeton University Press.

Griffiths, M., 2009.Fifty key thinkers in international relations. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Miller, B., 2002.When Opponents Cooperate: Great Power Conflict and Collaboration in World Politics.Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Oliver, D., 2009.International Relations Theory. New York: Sage Publications Ltd.

Raymond, A., 2003.Peace & war: a theory of international relations. New York: Transaction Publishers.

Rengger, J., 2000.International relations, political theory, and the problem of order: Beyond international relations theory.USA: Routledge.

Smith, S., 2007.International relations theories: discipline and diversity.USA: Oxford University Press.

Thayer, B., 2004. Darwin and international relations: on the evolutionary origins of war and ethnic conflict. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.

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