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CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION... 18
5.1 Introduction ... 18
5.2 Summarising the assessment of grand theories ... 18
5.3 Conclusion ... 20
REFERENCES ... 21
CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
This section gives an overview of the four grand theories used in the study of international
relations, including a historical perspective on how they evolved and the great thinkers behind
1.2 Theories as a tool for analysing international relations
International relations is a branch of political science that studies relations between nations and
primarily with foreign policies (Merriam-Webster's dictionary, 2014). Like all scientific studies,
international relations can be best understood by the aid of theories. The theorization of
international relations emerged during the interwar period with liberalists calling for collective
security system to replace the balance of power policy which was being fronted by the realists
(Burchill et al., 2013). Since the turn of the 20th century when interstate relations intensified, it
has always been hard to talk about international relations without making a reference to the three
grand theories; realism, Marxism, and liberalism. These theories have extensively been used by
different scholars to explain and predict interstate behaviours in the international system.
International relations theories are also described as a set of ideas that explain the nature of the
international system while predicting the outcomes from actions by major players in international
relations. These theories reflect what transpires in international relations and this implies that
their concepts reflect what happens on the ground. They have provided a conceptual basis upon
which to analyse the complicated and intricate mechanisms of international relations. However,
there have been constant clashes amongst the proponents of these theories with each group trying
to prove how relevant it is over the other.
Burchill et al. (2013) noted that international relations theories are divided into two: the positivist
(or rationalist) theories which are primarily focused on the state-to-state level analysis and on the
other side the post-positivist (or reflectivist) theories that seek to involve all levels of analysis to
include intrastate dealings, relations between classes or genders to globalist views. As Wendt
(1987) pointed out, each group has opposing views with the realists theorizing the system
structures in individualist terms as opposed to state agency while the idealists conceptualize
system structures in structuralist terms as generating state agents themselves. There have always
been three traditional theories of international relations and these are Marxism, realism and
idealism but over the past few decades, newer versions of these theories have emerged to explain
the shift in international relations and these include neorealism, neoliberalism, complex
interdependence, post-liberalism, feminism, dependency and world systems theories, the green
theory, structuralism, and many others.
1.3 The evolution of international relations theories
Before we evaluate how international relations theories have enhanced international relations, we
need to briefly understand how each of the grand theories emerged and the proponents behind
the rise of these theories. This will help us to understand the larger picture and how they have
been applicable over the years.
1.3.1 Evolution of idealism
Idealism is also known as liberalism due to the idealists' emphasis on freedom for cooperation,
peace, and progress (Dixit, 2013). The theory emerged immediately after the first world war and
among its tenets, the world order needed to foster peace and order and blamed the outbreak of
world war one on the greedy power politics. Among the early proponents of idealism was US
president Woodrow Wilson who believed that the world needed to relieve itself of the traditional
trappings of power politics like the balance of power and the pursuit of national interests
(Encyclopaedia of the New American Nation, 2006). Among the notable proponents of idealism
include; Michael Brown, Ronald Reagan, Florence Stawell, Henry Kissinger, among others.
1.3.2 Evolution of realism
This is the most influential theory in international relations and is based on the writings of early
hardcore realists like Niccolò Machiavelli from his book The Prince and Hans Morgenthau in
his book The Struggle for Power and Peace. They are considered to be the father of modern
realism and unlike idealists, they believe that national interests not universal interests are the
main determinants of state behaviour in world politics (Morgenthau, 1948). The main features of
realism include power politics, international anarchy, conflict, national interest and war (Dixit,
1.3.3 Evolution of Marxism
Amidst the confusion created by idealism and realism, there arose Marxism to offer an
explanation about state behaviour from an economic perspective. The theory is based on the
ideological writings in a book The German Ideology by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels all of
whom were German social scientists. They portrayed the economy and class hierarchy as the
major focus among other concerns. Both highlighted the evilness of the capitalist globalization
which they blamed for all the volatilities in the international system and that class domination
and exploitation were the main source of endless conflicts (Marx & Engels, 1970). Marxists
stress social order and justice as in shared interests, rules and institutions (Dixit, 2013).
Neomarxist theories include the dependency and world systems theory.
This section has highlighted how the turn of events after the first world war led to the rise of
different ideologies all seeking to interpret and provide a detailed analysis of what was going on
in the international scene. Most notable is the conflict between these theories as each opposes the
other's views while trying to prove how they give the most accurate ones. The section also
highlighted a brief overview about how these theories evolved and the notable proponents behind
their rise. All this information will help us to assess their influence in enhancing international
CHAPTER TWO: EVALUATION OF THE REALIST THEORY
In this section, both the assumptions and relevance of the realist theory of international relations
are analysed. As one of the grand theories of international relations, realism gives a radical
viewpoint on what's happening place on the international scene. Also, being a deep-seated
theory, the section examines the reasons for its tough stance and fierce criticism of other
theories, especially liberalism.
2.2 Core assumptions of the realist theory
The strength of every theory lies in its assumptions and the following is an in-depth evaluation of
the basic tenets upon which realism in international relations is founded. This evaluation is
important so that we can consider the contributions of the theory to the study of international
Realism assumes that the international system is all about power politics where military strength
is the major determinant of a state's strength and success in the international system. The theory
assumes that states are building-up power to secure their national interests, expand their borders,
defend their territorial integrity and sovereignty and to ensure survival. This is implemented by
exercising power politics and realists believe that might is right (Internet Encyclopaedia of
It also assumes that nation states are naturally aggressive and they will always seek to achieve
more and more at the expense of others. States are also willing to apply all means to pursue their
goals regardless of the legal or moral consequences because they believe that what belongs to
them is ultimately theirs. This portrays nation-states as being self-centred and war mongers
because of them being unitary and rational actors who strive to conquer as many resources as
Realists also believe in the balance of power policy when all states have equal security strength
thus making an attack on the other unlikely (Kegley & Blanton, 2015). It adds that the rise in the
military strength of one state will alert other states to team up and form a military coalition
thereby sustaining the balance of power. Van De Haar (2009) argues that nation states differ in
their military power and that it is necessary to prevent any from dominating or ruling over the
others and that is why states create alliances to prevent dominion by other states. They believe
that the only way to maintain global peace is when all states have the same military strength and
that it will be less likely for one state to attack the other, i.e. during the cold war between the
USA and the Soviet Union. Kenneth Waltz (2010) who is the initiator of neorealism stated that
in order to maintain the balance of power politics, two conditions should prevail and these are;
global anarchism and statesmen willing to execute their tasks to maintain this balance. He added
that this can be done by increasing their economic strength, manufacturing superior weapons or
reaching out to its allies by forming coalitions. Such internal and external measures of balancing
will bring about a balance in military strength.
Under realism, morality in the form of faith, beliefs, and ideas has no place in interstate relations
and that the policies of states shouldn't be measured by their motives or means but by their
outcomes implying that morality and idealism have do not apply beyond a state's borders
(Moseley, 2001). Realists argue that giving morality a consideration will only weaken or
undermine a state's national interests but that states may pretend to follow moral political ethics
when they join international organizations or giving out aid to other states due to reputational
pressure to sustain a positive image of themselves (McElroy, 2014).
Another assumption is that states bear no accountability to anyone since there's no international
authority to dictate their actions. Such a situation in world politics is called anarchy which is
characterized by the absence of a world regime to control or regulate state actions. The absence
of a global authority to enforce rules leaves the world in a chaotic situation where states have no
limits as per their actions and that this vacuum is the nature of states being fixed and
unchanging (Moseley, 2001).
When it comes to influence, realists postulate that only states are the major relevant actors and
hence the main unit of study in global politics. This traditional belief is upheld on the basis that
states alone have the resources to implement effective foreign policies but they also acknowledge
the rising influence of non-state actors on the international scene. Other non-state actors like
non-governmental organizations, individuals, and multinational corporations are regarded as not
having "the military power needed to compete with states in the international system" and that
they have limited resources and minimal influence (International Organisations.org, 2014).
Realists also assume that the international system is conflictual (Pease, 2012) and that this is
because of the aggressiveness which places the system on tension and hence becoming
conflictual. However, it is posited that this is due to the pessimism or doubtful nature of humans
who are perceived to be naturally corrupt, ruthless, and rude. The fact that we have to fight for
survival and only the fit ones will survive makes humans become too selfish who only seek to
harm others for their personal gain, this translates into state actions in the international system
(North Bergen, 2001).
Finally, realists assume that national interest is a state's main priority in the undertaking of its
foreign policy on the international stage. They postulate that states are willing to go into full-
scale war to safeguard what they call their ambitions or goals and that these determine state
behaviour. These goals or ambitions could be economic, security, sovereignty, territorial
integrity, or cultural goals and they are crucial to a state's survival and that any threat to their
national interest may justify a punitive action, i.e. a war against the aggressor.
2.3 Relevance of realism in international relations
Being a dominant theory in the study of international relations, it is helpful to find out if the
above assumptions have made realism a relevant theory in the scope of international relations.
Despite being called out-of-date, the realist theory is still as relevant as ever. This sub-section
sheds light on this matter.
Realism offers the most realistic interpretation of what's actually taking place in the global
politics arena. It portrays the most accurate view of world politics just as they happen. When we
watch news that the USA has and its NATO allies have attacked Libya, we can understand
through the realist thinking as to why these superpowers have decided to wage a war against
Libya and what interests do they have there. Many events taking place around the world portray
what realism is emphasizing. What is happening today in the UN Security Council is a
manifestation of power politics with the permanent members disagreeing on several critical
issues. Russia and China have on several occasions exercised their veto powers against
intervening in the Syrian civil war. Such bickering is a representation of what exactly realism is
assuming. Still, again, the US and its ally South Korea conduct annual military drills on the
frontiers of North Korea, realism also tells us that it is because of power politics that North
Korea and South Korea are technically still at war despite ending the Korean war in 1953. Still,
we can understand through the realist thinking as to why Uganda and Kenya are still in deadlock
over the Migingo island issue, and as to why Tanzania is slowing down the East African
integration process. It is a matter of fact that the world should be portrayed just as it is rather than
what it should be (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2012). We shouldn't hide the fact of
the real situation on the ground but rather we should know the truth and acknowledge what's
taking place around the world today.
Secondly, realism is the only theory to offer precise predictions of the international system. By
envisaging the likely responses by one state against another, we are able to tell what actions a
state will likely take when faced with a particular situation. For example, it tells us that if Iran
accumulates nuclear weapons of mass destruction, global superpowers like the US and its
western allies will confront it or likely attack it. This was the case before the 2003 invasion of
Iraq after Saddam Hussein was suspected of being in possession of deadly weapons. By using the
realist account, scholars predicted USA's response to the September 11 terrorist attacks by Al-
Qaeda. A few months after these attacks, President George W. Bush declared a full war on terror
by sending troops to attack the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the Al-Qaeda bases in
that country. The relevance of realism in international relations is that it gives us an insight of
what is likely to happen in case there's a shift in the international system. This is important
because we can be able to make correct estimations of the intensity of reactions to a situation in
the international system, actors are also able to understand what consequences are their states
likely to encounter if they take a certain course of action. The ability to predict interstate
behaviours solely lies with the realist ideology.
It also explains why some actions must be taken and why they are necessary. Not everything can
be solved amicably through the liberalist approach of dialogue and diplomacy because this might
prolong the prevailing badness and therefore, urgent action must be taken to prevent worse
consequences. A good example is that the NATO intervention in the 2011 Libyan civil war was
timely to prevent further loss of civilian life after the Libyan leader Gadhafi gave orders of
shoot-to-kill against the protesters. It can also be said that it is necessary that states take
definitive actions in the best interests of its populations. When governments take on the duties to
protect its citizens and defend the enemies, then the state will ensure that security is a top priority
by increasing their military spending. States also pursue economic interests to provide the best
livelihood to their citizens, this is why some middle eastern states ruthlessly guard their oil wells
while also ensuring that its price on the global markets remains stable.
As we have observed, what makes realism a unique theory is its straightforwardness in
portraying the reality of events as they happen on the international scene. The emphasis here is
that events should be interpreted the way they take place and not merely how we fantasize or
wish them to be. We need to acknowledge that the international system is mainly characterized
by the core realist concepts of power politics and security dilemmas (International
CHAPTER THREE: EVALUATION OF THE LIBERAL THEORY
This section discusses the basic tenets upon which the liberal thinking of the international
relations is based. The theory's relevance to the study of international relations is also critically
examined. This is also helpful in evaluating its enhancement towards understanding international
3.2 Core assumptions of the liberal theory
As a traditional theory of international relations, it is important to study the assumptions that
make up the optimist beliefs about international relations. It should be noted that liberalism and
realism fiercely reject each other's assumptions about international relations but the liberalist
assumptions are primarily based on achieving peace and unity in the international system
First and foremost, liberalists reject the realist concept of power politics as being typical of the
international system and that the agenda of international politics is not necessarily dominated by
military issues (American School of Guatemala, 2015). They believe that states have alternate
ways of cooperating and addressing their concerns harmoniously rather than engaging in endless
power politics. Additionally, idealists believe that through observing the international law, states'
behaviour can be regulated or constrained thereby preventing the power politics games. They
emphasize that international agenda is dominated by the economic and social issues such as
natural resources, global warming, immigration, etc.
Liberalists also emphasize mutual benefits and international cooperation as being vital to the
existence of peace and unity in the international system (Shiraev & Eric, 2014). The increased
interdependence among nations is a positive sign that states look to each other while pursuing
common interests. In their attempts to prove how this is possible, idealists state that international
cooperation can be maintained despite the world anarchy and that instead of spending a lot of
time and resources pursuing short-term interests, states can instead pursue long-term interests to
bring about a permanent solution.
Another concept is the significance of non-state actors such as the international organizations,
individuals and multinational corporations as being able to influence policy decisions in the
international system and foster global unity (Shiraev & Eric, 2014). They argue that by serving
as a medium for states to pursue their policies or interests, institutions can bring an end to
conflicts which will allow peace to prevail. They also insist that international organizations
significantly contribute to global development and cooperation among nation-states. It was the
idea of Woodrow Wilson a forefather of idealism to establish international organizations that
can bring nation states together and solve world problems. Furthermore, liberals assume that the
nation state is not a unitary actor since it is made up of individual bureaucracies, and interest
groups all of which compete against each other to influence a state's foreign policy. Therefore,
societal actors within a state rival amongst themselves in order to influence the decision-making
process (American School of Guatemala, 2015).
Idealists also believe that diplomacy - as opposed to the use of force - is the most effective
foreign policy tool in resolving state conflicts. Through diplomacy, states can pursue their
national interests and also settle their disputes cordially without flexing their muscles a
situation that makes violence unlikely. By emphasizing that differences can be resolved through
dialogues, states can also agree to move along the same direction. Diplomacy not only helps to
settle differences among states, but it also fosters long-lasting international teamwork that creates
the right environment for peace and development to flourish. Whereas realists advocate for hard
power through military intervention as a tool for pursuing foreign policies, the liberalists
advocate for soft power through diplomacy or negotiation.
Finally, liberalists also refute the realist concept of national interest as being vital in a state's
dealings at the international scene and instead they assume that collective or universal interests
are replacing national interest due to the rising force of globalism. They add that this is why
states agree under a regional or an international arrangement to share their resources, cede part of
their sovereignty and adopt policies to eliminate restrictions on human and goods movement
(Van De Haar, 2009). This indicates a shift in the international system where states are no longer
self-centred but willing to accommodate the views from across their borders.
3.3 Relevance of liberalism in international relations
This is an assessment of how liberalism enhances international relations. After examining its
core assumptions, it's prudent to recognize how the values of liberalism affect the way we
understand international relations and how the theory generally contributes to this area of study.
As assumed by liberalism, nation states are embracing regionalism while also acknowledging the
role played by both the IGO's and the INGO's in the development process. As we have
observed, international organizations are now acting as the intermediary between states by
serving as a medium where conflictual issues are resolved and also participating in the
maintenance of security by sending peacekeeping forces to conflict areas such as D.R. Congo. In
the same way, institutions are also leading the economic growth efforts around the world by
funding development projects and advocating for the elimination of trade barriers. In addition,
over the last few decades, institutions have been instrumental in promoting transparency in state
dealings, free and fair elections, humanitarian aid and health, social order and justice, human
rights for all, environmental conservation, access to education and other public services, all of
which have enabled them to outperform states.
Diplomacy has proved to be the most effective tool for implementing foreign policies of nation
states more than power politics. Today's states, whether military or democratic, all maintain a
sizeable team of diplomats to pursue the foreign policy goals. All states maintain representatives
in other states who work in an embassy and heads of states are also visiting each other for
meetings. Diplomacy has presented nation states with the option to avoid conflicts by engaging
in negotiations where differences have been settled amicably. This has brought about relative
peace and unity among nation-states.
Liberalists have also enabled scholars to understand how the globalism concept is making a shift
in the international system. The assumption that universal or collective interests have overtaken
national interests as a priority on the global stage is a true reflection of what's actually
happening. Many states are abandoning their own plans in favor of collective policies under
regional groupings or intergovernmental organizations. States are even willing to cede part of
their sovereignty to these groupings so as to sustain their influence. This is the reason why
groupings like NATO, OSCE, AU, EU, ASEAN, etc are increasing in influence. Some IGO's
have gone as far as determining the foreign policies of their member states. Today, globalization
is marked by economic liberalization and opening up of state borders to allow the free movement
of people and their goods which has increased migration and also led to intercultural exchanges
as the world is becoming more of a global village.
The role of other non-state actors has also been evident throughout the world. Multinational
corporations are now rendering essential services that were traditionally preserved to the state
such as providing free education, relief aid, etc. The influence of multinational corporations is
now felt more than ever before as they are spreading their presence in many countries and
providing employment, resource and technology transfer among others and this has significantly
contributed to improved livelihoods and also spurred economic growth. Equally, individual non-
state actors have also had a significant influence on the international scene, some acting as power
brokers, others as peace negotiators and still, others as human rights activists. Figures like
Mahatma Gandhi, Boniface Mwangi, the Pope John Paul II, Kofi Annan, and many others, have
all proved a liberal fact that individual actors can wage a considerable influence equal to that of
the state on the international scene.
Since the demise of the cold war in the early 1990's, the world has witnessed a massive political
shift from the communist or dictatorial governments to democratic governments directly elected
by the common people. More countries are exercising some form of democracy by holding
periodical elections and are being run by regimes directly elected by the citizens, i.e. Uganda,
Burma, Vietnam, etc and this is in line with the liberal values that democracy should replace
dictatorship and monarchy. The era of democracy has brought along other impressive changes
such as free trade replacing protectionism, and collective security replacing the balance of power
concept (American School of Guatemala, 2015).
Interdependence, as advanced by liberalists, has also proved to be very effective as more states
are reaching out to each other in the 21st century. A long time ago, especially before world war I,
states pursued their interests through military force against weaker states for territorial expansion
and resource exploration. But nowadays, interdependence has turned things around where both
the weaker and stronger nations are seeking the assistance of each other, stronger developed
nations are obtaining resources through agreements and weaker developing nations are obtaining
financial assistance from developed nations, for example, China is financing several
infrastructural development projects around Africa and in turn being given access to resources
such as minerals. Such international cooperation makes states unlikely to engage in conflicts.
As Robert Keohane (2012) observed, there has been an increase in moralism which is in line
with the liberal assumption of optimism in human nature. Every day, we are inspired by the
actions portraying the common good for mankind particularly by institutions like charity
organizations which sends volunteers and also give out relief aid to those in need, religious
organizations such as the Catholic and Anglican church, and many other non-profitable
organizations like World Vision, Oxfam, etc. Developed countries are also carrying out their
moral obligations of offering aid in terms of human resources, financial aid, medical aid,
technological and military aid to African countries. All this shows that human nature is not really
evil or selfish as portrayed by realists. Another effect that moralism has had on the international
scene according to Keohane (2012) is the increased observance of human rights by states as
advocated by some institutions such as the Human Rights Watch.
Liberalism being the oldest theory in international relations was founded at the right time to
address the solutions to the interwar hostilities that ravaged much of the early 20th century and
yet it has been able to perfectly align itself with the massive shift in interpolitics that we are
currently witnessing. From the assumptions, we are certain that the liberalist view is being
sincere on what should be done for the world to move along the same direction. The major
contribution of the liberal theory to the study of international relations is that as scholars, we are
able to comprehend the alternative approaches to power politics portrayed by the realists. Much
of what is going on as highlighted in the previous section is all liberalist ideologies at play.
Therefore, the only solution - to heal the wounds, embrace each other, ensure co-existence and
move on in peace and unity is to embrace the tenets of liberalism and apply them in the actual
practice of international relations.
CHAPTER FOUR: EVALUATION OF THE MARXIST THEORY
In explaining international relations, the Marxist theory sharply challenges the principles of both
traditional theories; liberalism and realism. The Marxist theory explains international relations in
economic and class concepts rather than the power politics and global interests of the other two
theories. This section goes in-depth to examine both the theory's assumptions and relevance in
4.2 Core assumptions of the Marxist theory
The following are the basic tenets advanced by Marxists in their interpretation of the
international relations. In this sub-section, an analysis of each assumption is given to shed more
The economy as the major determinant of societal behaviour: Unlike the realists and liberalists
who advance state conflict or cooperation, Marxism contends that economic and material aspects
are the major factors that determine state-to-state interactions (Buecker, 2003). They add that the
economy takes priority in every decision-making process and that it alone determines both the
social, political and economic aspects of a state. Marxists also reveal how the economy outdoes
other societal concerns and that over the years, the elites have taken advantage of the economic
power imbalances to exploit those at the base of the production (International Organizations.org,
Classism as a unit of analysis: Marxists emphasize that economic exploitation by the bourgeoisie
who own the means of production brings about classism in the society (Nkrumah, 1970). They
believe that those having economic control will use their powers to exploit the worker who is at
the production end and that it's the bourgeoisie who will benefit most from the product sales due
to their economic superiority. Marxists believe that such exploitation is mainly orchestrated by
the state which uses the economic power to exploit others and they view the state as a tool for the
bourgeoisie who are economically wealthy and powerful to misuse their power and enrich
themselves at the expense of the proletariat. Such imbalances allow for the elevation of class as
the focus of the study (International Organizations.org, 2014). They argue that the bourgeoisie
uses a variety of mechanisms to exploit the working class to their own advantage and these
include political or economic institutions, laws or regulation mechanisms. Marxists further
criticize some international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank for their economic
neoliberal policies which they believe doesn't cater for the working-class interests, i.e. protection
of laborers' human rights and their working conditions. As Davenport (2011) concurs, capitalism
advocated by liberalists encourages more exploitation by multinational corporations which
produce items in economies that have no regard for human rights and where labour is cheaper.
By doing this, they produce products cheaply which they sell at a higher price thus leading to a
higher profits margin, e.g. Apple Inc. that manufactures its iPhone products in China and then
sells them exorbitantly in European and USA markets.
Marxists also attach great importance to the class concept and also argue that class interests are
dominant and hence make up the state interests. According to Buecker (2003), the dominant
actor in the international system is the class and that the clashes within the international system
are due to class conflicts and not its anarchical nature as advanced by realists. Marxists also
claim that bourgeoisies are in control of the state's affairs through regulating the economy while
advancing state interests beyond the class borders and that these are the ones who set and pursue
a state's foreign policies and according to Miliband (1986), an "economic interest might arise
between the existing dominant class" who are in control of the state and therefore, the interest of
the class is the interest of the state. Therefore, in a Marxist analysis, state behaviour reflects the
interests of the ruling class (Block, 1977).
4.3 Relevance of Marxism in international relations.
Unlike the traditional theories of liberalism and realism which just give us the points of view on
international relations, Marxism deepens scholars' understanding of how things have changed
through the in-depth analysis of interstate relations (Essays, 2013).
Even though Marxism has steadily lost influence on the global scene especially with the demise
of the cold war, it has always been a great resource for understanding the mechanisms of the
complicated international system. Describing the international system in economic terms gives
us an alternate point of view different from the old-fashioned liberal and realist perspectives. The
Marxist assumptions can be true especially in an increasingly free market capitalist society
where the absence of government regulation is characterized by the forces of supply and demand
which determines the prices of the products (Smith, 1880). The current free market economy has
brought about an era where some necessity items have become luxurious and hence only
affordable by the rich and this is a true interpretation of Marxism.
The importance of labour movements and workers' unions can't be underestimated in the 21st
century as workers continuously demand their equal share of the economy through staging
demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins. In the Encyclopaedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line
(2005), Marxists are credited for developing a theory of the working-class liberation and were
the leading activists during the working-class industrial revolutions throughout Europe. The
current labour unions are inspired by Marx's ideologies and have been vocal in demanding for
workers' rights, better working conditions and an end to workers' exploitation by politicians.
Some socialist ideologies as enshrined in Karl Marx's writings still maintain a considerable
stronghold in the international system. A definition on Wikipedia (2016) describes socialism as a
"range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control
of the means of production." The number of states ascribing to Marxist/Leninist and socialist
beliefs has increased over time and some socialist states include; Tanzania, China, Cuba, Laos,
Vietnam, Angola, North Korea, China, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, etc. In these states, the
means of production, distribution, and exchange are wholly or partly owned or regulated by the
society. Even in capitalist economies like the USA, the government still controls and implements
some general socialist programs such like the welfare, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid
(Online forum, 2010).
Marxism has also been critical of capitalism and its effects as it vehemently opposes the
economic exploitation of free market economy by exposing its flaws that only seek to
"impoverish the working class and thereby create the social conditions for a revolution."
(Boundless, 2016). By giving the ownership of means of production to private businesses,
capitalism is creating "dependence of non-owning classes on the ruling class, and ultimately as a
source of restriction of human freedom" (Boundless, 2016). In this way, Marxism offers the best
alternative interpretation of the international system as opposed to the ever-conflicting realism
and liberalism. In his writings, Walt (1998) stresses that "...where realism and liberalism took
the state system for granted, Marxism offered both a different explanation for international
conflict and a blueprint for fundamentally transforming the existing international order." This
clearly shows how those dissatisfied with both theories can find an alternative version as
assumed by Marxism.
Marxism as a theory has also contributed a lot to the emergence of other theoretical approaches
that explain international relations in a revised format. Being a very old theory, Marxist views
were penned down in the 19th century, and now things are entirely different. The ideologies in
this theory have given way to the rise of other neo-Marxist theories like the dependency theory
and the world systems theory which respectively explain international politics according to the
existing international systems.
It would be improper to say that Marxism as a theory has lost relevance in the international
system because some practices we witness in the international system owe their origins in
Marx's writings. Marxism will still remain relevant as before as long as the liberalism and
realism theories continue to have flaws in their ideologies. By ascribing to Marxist teachings, a
number of states have achieved a considerable growth and development based on
communal/mutual benefit. States have promulgated policies that have ensured fairly distributed
economic gains and this has improved livelihoods. Labour movements and workers' unions have
also agitated for the proletariats' rights all of which is an indication of how relevant the theory is
in the international arena. What's notable is the fact that even states that ascribe to
Marxist/Leninist ideologies have outperformed capitalist states by a larger margin, i.e. China
which presently ranks as the second-biggest economy after the USA (Statistics Times, 2016).
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In the previous three chapters, an evaluation of the ideologies that these theories represent has
enabled us to make a thorough assessment of their relevance in this field. The final section of this
paper provides a general summary of the paper and then the conclusion.
5.2 Summarising the assessment of grand theories
Throughout this paper, it has been emphasized that each theory maintains a considerable
relevance to a certain extent and without these theories, international relations studies would be
invalid. It should be remembered that some of these theories emerged during the times of great
hostilities around the world. Each came up with its own interpretation of what was going on,
predictions were made which equipped scholars with insights to better understand the
international system and the whole decision-making process. Theories of international relations
have always been relevant and effective and will always remain such as long as the international
system is still in place. The good thing is that as scholars, we are able to interpret the actors'
actions based on what these theories assume. This not only gives us an approach from which to
interpret actions and reactions, but it also explains the reasons behind the actions or decisions
taken by those who rule over us.
Without theories, it would practically be impossible to appreciate the role international studies
play in global politics. These theories have been tested over time and they have proved to be
correct. Many global events have been explained based on assumptions forwarded by
international scholars such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA, the North Korea nuclear
weaponry, etc. Each individual theory contributes something significant in the study and practice
of international relations; the liberalism theory offers a perspective on how things should be if
some changes are initiated and also offers an analysis of how things should be rather than how
they are. This shows that liberalists are advocates for changes in the world system like the term
suggests, liberalism is all about the absence of restriction on human life, the absence of conflicts
and the lack of any form of exploitative control over people's lives. By emphasizing free trade
and wide-spread globalization, liberalists are agitating for a borderless world where the fittest
survives. Liberalists also believe that humanity can live without conflicts if resources are shared
so as to achieve the desired goals. All of this tells us that there's still greater hope for humankind
to overcome the current problems once and for all and that human freedom and peace are by far
the most righteous virtues that should be observed by mankind. Liberalism's best achievement
was the fall of communism which was interpreted as the fall of bad politics and the rise of good
politics. Since then, more and more states have sought to share their resources with others
through integration, others have embraced democracy and also achieved successes in other areas
like security, human rights, and economic growth.
Liberalism has always succeeded in other areas where other theories have failed like explaining
the rise of non-state actors like international organizations and multinational organizations and
the reason behind their influence on the world scene. The world is opening up more than ever
before and globalism is spreading like wildfire, aided by improved communications and
transport technology and liberalism has the finest approach to explain this turn of events because
it informs us that globalism/universalism is the epitome of human unity and development which
is exactly happening now. On the other side, realism has been very important to the study of
international relations due to its `realistic' interpretation of global events. The fact that realists
maintain a hard stance on the way they view global politics sometimes comes in line with what
states are doing now. Powerful states like USA, China, France and Russia are still flexing their
military muscles as if world war three is about to happen. The same countries seek to expand
their influence around the world through exploiting developing states, i.e. China has been
criticised for exploiting African resources, both mineral, land, water and animal resources and
most saddening is the increased demand for ivory from China which has led to the massive
massacre of elephants and rhinos to near extinction (Pinnock, 2016). These actions can be
interpreted as power politics where powerful states are relentlessly pursuing endless short-term
goals. Realism is also the most suitable theory to explain why wars happen and why states
pursue certain goals which is due to the varying national interests.
Marxism provides a much better alternative to the two traditional theories by emphasizing the
economy as being the top priority among state concerns. By rejecting the liberal and realist views
that power politics and global interests are the major motives, Marxists have proved that none of
them is as influential as the economy. The same theory also offers a genuine picture of the
society where the rich are getting wealthier while the poor are getting poorer due to the unfair
economic policies or imbalances in the production process. It explains why those in charge of the
production process are exploiting the working class and how the proletariat can rise against this
injustice to form a socialist economy which can assure them a fair share of their efforts. Though
realism and liberalism have dominated international studies for so long, Marxism is still much
relevant to tackle the flaws of both capitalism and power politics and it is better at providing
alternative versions where the other two main theories have failed. Therefore, in summary, all
the three grand theories are essential and still relevant to the study of international relations due
to their insightful interpretations of the complex nature of the international system, there's no
better way to understand global events without them coming into play.
It's been worthwhile to go in-depth and explore the extensiveness of the grand theories of
international relations and it's also very satisfying to know that despite the different approaches
to its study, international relations is still a thought-provoking field of study. These theories are
like airplane wings, they hold together the different areas of the field and they keep nourishing it
with useful social science evidence. The theories have greatly improved this study and there's no
way international relations can remain relevant without them. It is the duty of scholars to uphold
and preserve these ideologies for the continuous benefit of future scholars.
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