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Critiques Of International Society Essay

2013 words - 9 pages

Critiques of International Society
Several major criticisms can be made of the lnternational Society approach to IR. First, there is the realist critique that the evidence of International norms as determinants of state policy and behavior is weak or non-existent. Second, there Is the liberal critique that the International Society tradition downplays domestic politics-e.g. democracy-and cannot account for progressive change in international politics. Third, there is the IPE critique that it fails to give an account of international economic relationships. Finally, there are several solidarist critiques that emerge from within the International Society tradition itself that focus on its ...view middle of the document...

When there is a conflict between international obligations and national interests the latter will always win, because the fundamental concern of states is always their own advantage and ultimately their security and survival. That is the concern that guides foreign policy. The International Society approach is not as soft a target as the realist critique claims. As pointed out, realism is built into the approach as one of its three basic elements. Wight (1966) characterizes IR as a “theory of survival” which is an acknowledgment of the primacy of states, their right to exist and the legitimacy of their interests. But the International society approach does not stop there. It emphasizes that states bind themselves to other states via treaties, and that justification for that can be more than merely self-interests (realism) or even enlightened self-interest (moderate realism). It emphasizes that states have legitimate interests that other states recognize and respect; it also emphasizes that states recognize the general advantages of observing a principle of reciprocity in international affairs (rationalism). Likewise, it notices that states do not observe treaties only when it is in their best interest to do so. Rather, they enter into treaty commitments with caution because they know that they are binding themselves to the terms of such treaties. If states really acted the way realists claim there would be no binding treaties, because no state could be expected to keep their promise when it was no longer in their interest to do so. Yet binding treaties are commonplace in world politics.
A more damaging criticism of the International Society approach is the theoretical incoherence that could result from trying to combine realism, rationalism and revolutionism within a single framework of interpretation, and from emphasizing not only international order but also international justice.
Liberals have directed most of their critical attention at realism, and the debate between liberals (or idealists) and realists was the most conspicuous IR debate in the twentieth century. However, one implied liberal critique is the lack of interest of International Society theorists in the role of domestic politics in international relations. Like realists, International Society theorists draw a firm line between international relations and the internal politics of states. They are not inclined to investigate the domestic aspects of foreign policy. A second implied liberal critique derives from the claim that liberal democracies are more peace-loving than non-democratic political systems. Here, republican liberals are criticizing not only realists but also-by implication-International Society theorists who tend to ignore the subject. A third implied liberal critique is the inability of the International Society approach to account for progressive change in international relations. Wight (1966: 33) claims that domestic politics is sphere of progressive change,...

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