Realism, And Constructivism: The Three International Relation Theories

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There are three international relation theories, Realism, Liberal institutionalism, and Constructivism, which attempt to predict state behavior. Neorealism best predicts state’s behavior.
Neo-realists claim that the international system is anarchic meaning there is no legitimate authority. The states are the major actors of the system. Since the system is anarchic, states fear for survival and thus help themselves by pursuing hard power: territory, resources, money, and population. The ability to gain comes at the expense of another state creating a zero sum game (one state’s gain in power is another state’s loss). So as states gain more hard power the other states see them as a threat, causing a security dilemma. The security dilemma “is
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States are still in a security dilemma, and they still fear each other but states also know that the gains from cooperation are greater. If cooperation is possible through institutions it allows states to pursue absolute gains (states care about the size of their gain rather than their rivals) instead of relative gains (states want to gain as large a power advantage as possible over potential rivals). This is because states are less fearful of each other since states are locked into these institutions that have rules, norms, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms. The goal of institutions is to prevent defection and free riding. For example the prisoner's’ dilemma game shows that the two states can either cooperate with each other or defect. Each state is concerned about their absolute gains and not the relative gains. Both states should cooperate, which liberal institutionalism claims because they would gain more; however, from either state's individual perspective it would be best for them to defect because they could always gain power by defecting. One counterargument would be nash equilibrium, which is when neither state has an incentive to unilaterally change their behavior given what the other state is doing. As illustrated in the prisoner’s’ dilemma, states will always want to do what is in their best interest because they do not want to …show more content…
Interests are not determined by the structure of the system; they are formed by identities. State’s identity is constructed by experience, learning, observations, and interaction. Constructivism suggests that social identities are important for a state to develop as a way to interact with other states. Constructivism is not a predictive theory because the nature of a state’s identity is not fixed and very few understand the many different identities of other states. Thus one state cannot trust that they can predict the behavior of another state based on the social construct. This contrasts with realism where states’ interests support creating a military and economic strength that can be measured and predicted. Constructivism cannot be as predictive of action because it is based on identities, which is less uniformly defined and measured and can vary with changes in leadership, population shifts, and other social constructs. Identities differ from states to state so it is hard to predict how states will react. Constructivism also claims that norms constrain the behavior of states. Norms become norms when there are enough countries that believe in the ideology. Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink claim that there are three stages of the norm “life cycle”. The first stage is norm emergence, then norm cascade, and finally internalization, which means that the acquired norms are taken for granted and

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