An international relations theory is a set of thoughts, which explains the way the international system works. Different from an ideology, an international relations theory is by concrete evidence. A majority of international relations theories are grounded on the notion that nations always act consistent with their national interest, or that particular state’s the interests. State interests frequently include self-preservation, economic prosperity, military security, as well as influence over other nations.
At times two or more nations have similar national interest. For example, two states may both want to foster economic trade and peace. And states with entirely opposing national interests may try to find a solution to their differences via negotiation or even warfare.
The two key international relations theories are liberalism and realism. According to realism, nations work to only increase their power proportionate to that of other nations. That is, to realists, a state wants to only maintain its own security. It wants to acquire power so that it can be adequately strong to be safe from attack. Its actions are driven by such desires. Liberalism, on the other hand, emphasizes that the extensive ties among nations have both decreased the military power’s usefulness and made it hard to define national interest. Liberalism came into being in the 70s when some scholars started contending that realism was nonoperational.
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• Realism significantly downplays or ignores the level of collective or mutual interests between states, and so take too lightly the scope for purposive change and cooperation in international relations.
• While realism has a cyclical view of history it has failed to successfully make any specific predictions.
Dunne, Tim, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith. 2013. International relations theories: discipline and diversity. Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press.
Barkin, J. S. 2010. Realist constructivism: Rethinking international relations theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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