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International Theory: The Second Debate Realism versus Behavioralism


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Title: International Theory: The Second Debate Realism versus Behavioralism

International Theory The Second DebateRealism
versus Behavioralism
  • Or, to be more precise
  • Traditionalism versus Scientism
  • Or also
  • the debate between Understanding and Explanation

Basic Terms
  • Ontological concerning itself with what exists -
    a 17th century coinage for the respective branch
    of philosophical metaphysics
  • Epistemological concerning itself with the
    theory of knowledge origin of knowledge,
    the role of experience in generating know-ledge,
    the function of reason in generating knowledge,
    the relationship between know-ledge and
    certainty, and the criteria accor-ding to which
    we decide on the validity and tenability of

  • During the first part of the seminar, we looked
    at the ontology of I.R., at the respective world
    views linked to particular Grand Theories.
  • Classic Example of different ontologies the
    First Great Debate betweeen Idealism and Realism
    (or between a Hobbesian a Lockean/Kantian/Grotia
    n view of IR)
  • The Second Great Debate between Traditionalism
    and Scientism looks at the epistemology of I.R.
    How can we be sure that the statements we
    formulate are correct ??

The methodological-epistemological/ontological
field of I.R.theory
  • Billiard-Ball-Model of
    Int. Politics
  • Traditionalism
  • Qualitative, historical-
  • hermeneutical ,
    (deductively-) empirical,
  • common-sensual
  • Cobweb-Model of
    Int. Politics

The Billard-Ball-Model of International Politics
Cobweb model of international Relations
Traditionalism vs. Scientism I
  • The Traditional Approach to theorizing derives
    from philosophy, history, and law, and is
    characterized above all by explicit reliance upon
    the exercise of judgment and by the assumption
    that if we confine ourselves to strict standards
    of verification very little can be said of
    international relations. General propositions
    about this field must therefore derive from a
    scientifically imperfect process of perception
    and intuition general propositions cannot be
    accorded more than tentative and inconclusive
    status adequate to their doubtful fuzzy origin

Traditionalism vs. Scientism II
  • The Behavioralist or Scientistic Approach shows a
    concern with
  • explanatory rather than normative theory
  • recurring patterns rather than the single case
  • operational concepts that have measurable
    empirical referents rather than reified concepts
  • conceptual frameworks rather than
    all-encompassing world-explaining theories
  • the techniques of precise data gathering,
    measurement and presentation.

  • Klaus Knorr/James N. Rosenau (eds.) Contending
    Approaches to International Politics. Princeton,
    N.J. Princeton UP 1969
  • Martin Hollis/Steve Smith Explaining and
    Understanding in International Relations. Oxford
    Clarendon Press 1990

Traditionalism I
  • scientific/cognitive interest
  • Scientific advice to those who govern, and
    political education of those who are governed
    evaluating comments, norm-based opinions, and
    recom-mendations for action regarding present
    political decisions on the basis of respective
    scientific research results

Traditionalism II
  • Problem statement
  • striving for an understanding of politics on the
    basis of an insight into and of a knowledge of
    historical-social deve-lopments and processes

Traditionalism III
  • specific view of the object of enquiry
  • Politics is a specific social form of action full
    of sense and values an art which can be learned
    on the basis of historical examples. Historical
    and social phenomena can be clearly distinguished
    from natural phenomena thus, they are not
    susceptible to scientific explanations taking the
    form of if - then statements
  • b) International Politics competitive
    zero-sum-game for power and influence in an
    anarchic world of states, characterized by the
    security dilemma and the role of states as
    primary (if not near-exclusive) international

Traditionalism IV
  • methods of analysis
  • hermeneutic, ideographic, descriptive, or
    normative approaches typical for the arts and
    historical sciences
  • validity criteria of scientific statements
    Common Sense the view that we know most, if not
    all, of those things which ordinary people think
    they know and that any satisfactory
    epistemological theory must be adequate to the
    fact that we know such things
  • Value relationship scientific statements are
    characterized by explicit dependence on values

Traditionalism V
  • Concept of Theory
  • Constitution of a general theory of political
    action based on the regular appearance of
    phenomena and forms of international politics
    over time, formulating recommendations to
    political decision-makers for action in
    comparable situations
  • Formulation of ideal types based on historical
    comparisons which help with the understanding and
    classification of concrete historical and
    political phenomena

The Birth of Realism Morgenthau
  • In the immediate aftermath of the Second World
    War, Hans J. Morganthau was credited with having
    systematised classical Realism. His Politics
    Among Nations became the standard textbook, and
    continued to be reprinted after his death.
  • Morgenthau starts with the claim that he is
    presenting a "theory of international politics".
    He sees his theory bringing "order and meaning"
    to the mass of facts. It both explains the
    observed phenomena and is logically consistent,
    based on fixed premises. Like Carr, he sees this
    Realism as a contrast to liberal-idealism.

Morgenthau Six principles
  • Morgenthaus theory is based on six principles he
    enumerates in his first chapter. In summary,
    these principles were
  • International relations "is governed by
    objective laws that have their roots in human
  • The key consideration "is the concept of
    interest defined in terms of power.
  • "Interest defined as power is an objective
    category which is universally valid", although
    its exact meaning may change with time and
  • While moral principles have a place, they cannot
    be defined identically at every time and place,
    and apply differently to individuals and the
  • "The moral aspirations of a particular nation"
    are not "moral laws that govern the universe".
  • Politics is an autonomous sphere that needs to be
    analysed as an entity, without being subordinated
    to outside values.

What is Realism II
  • Of the threads that make up the Realist school,
    the most important ideas include
  • International relations are amenable of objective
    study. Events can be described in terms of laws,
    in much the way that a theory in the sciences
    might be described. These laws remain true at all
    places and times.
  • The state is the most important actor. At times
    the state may be represented by the city-state,
    empire, kingdom or tribe. Implicit in this is
    that supra-national structures, sub-national ones
    and individuals are of lesser importance. Thus
    the United Nations, Shell, the Papacy, political
    parties, etc, are all relatively unimportant.
  • The first corollary is that the international
    system is one of anarchy, with no common
  • A second corollary is that the state is a unitary
    actor. The state acts in a consistent way,
    without any sign of divided aims.

What is Realism III
  • Further, state behaviour is rational - or can be
    best approximated by rational decision-making.
    States act as though they logically assess the
    costs and benefits of each course open to them.
  • States act to maximise either their security or
    power. The distinction here often proves moot as
    the optimum method to guarantee security is
    frequently equated to maximising power.
  • States often rely on force or the threat of force
    to achieve their ends.
  • The most important factor in determining what
    happens in international relations is the
    distribution of power.
  • Ethical considerations are usually discounted.
    Universal moral values are difficult to define,
    and unachievable without both survival and power.

Realistische Prämisse
  • Die Staaten sind die einzigen bedeutenden Akteure
    der internationalen Beziehungen. Zu erforschen
    sind daher ihre Motive und Verhaltensweisen oder
    genauer die Motive und Verhaltensweisen der sie
    nach aussen vertretenden politischen
    Entscheidungsträger. Anderen internationalen
    Akteuren kommt allein in ihrer Funktion als
    Mittel, Agenten oder Auftragnehmer der Staaten
    Bedeutung zu.
  • Internationale Beziehungen sind das Ergebnis
    einzelstaatlicher aussenpolitischen (Inter-)
    Aktionen, die das Ziel der Erhaltung der in
    Kategorien militärischer Macht sowie
    territorialer und/oder weltanschaulicher
    Herrschaft definierten nationalen Sicherheit
    (sog. high politics) verfolgen. Andere Ziele
    werden als low politics definiert und belegen
    im Ziel- und Wertinventar der Staaten einen
    nachrangigen Stellenwert

High Politics/Low Politics
Realistische Prämisse
  • Die internationalen Beziehungen sind ein
    Nullsummenspiel der (Macht- und Status-) Gewinn
    eines Akteurs im internationalen System geht zu
    Lasten eines/mehrerer/aller anderen Mitspieler.
    Der Austragungsmodus des Spiels ist der Konflikt
    (militärische) Gewalt dient latent oder offen als
  • Internationaler Einfluss resultiert aus dem
    Einsatz von oder der Drohung mit dem Einsatz von
    Macht, definiert als aktuelle oder potentielle
    militärische und/oder wirtschaftliche

Realism ontological and analytical problems
  • Problematic premisses
  • a) Elevation of states to the status of rational,
    unitary actors which follow, within the context
    of the an-archic international system. the aim of
    guaranteeing their own survival by means of the
    game of power politics
  • b) The political calculus of states is solely
    governed by the distribution of power within the
  • c) State action is primarily oriented towards the
    acquisition, conservation, augmentation, and
    demonstration of power secondarily towards the
    conservation of the Balance of Power

Realism ontological and analytical problems II
  • Hypostization of concepts
  • International System
  • The international system regulates the
    behaviour of its units in the same way the market
    regulates the behaviour of firms power politics
    based on self-help assumes the same function in
    international politics as the maximization of
    profit in a market economy
  • State
  • If the unitary actor is dissolved - as e.g.
    in the bureaucratic politics model - it splinters
    into an uneasy conglomerate of competing/warring
    power factions and political and socioeconomic
  • This suspends
  • - the homogeneity of state actions
  • - the likeness and comparabi1ity of actors
    and of their systemic behaviour

  • Benjamin Frankel (ed.) Roots of Realism. London
    Frank Cass 1996
  • Stefano Guzzini Realism in International
    Relations and International Political Economy.
    The Continuing Story of a Death Foretold. London
    Routledge 1998
  • Christoph Rohde Hans J. Morgenthau und der
    weltpolitische Realismus. Wiesbaden VS-Verlag

  • Scientism is a philosophical position that exalts
    the methods of the natural sciences above all
    other modes of human inquiry. Scientism embraces
    only empiricism and reason to explain phenomena
    of any dimension, whether physical, social,
    cultural, or psychological.
  • Drawing from the general empiricism of The
    Enlightenment, scientism is most closely
    associated with the positivism of August Comte
    (1798-1857) who held an extreme view of
    empiricism, insisting that true knowledge of the
    world arises only from perceptual experience.
    Comte criticized ungrounded speculations about
    phenomena that cannot be directly encountered by
    proper observation, analysis and experiment.
  • Such a doctrinaire stance associated with science
    leads to an abuse of reason that transforms a
    rational philosophy of science into an irrational
    dogma. It is this ideological dimension that we
    associate with the term scientism. Today the term
    is used with pejorative intent to dismiss
    substantive arguments that appeal to scientific
    authority in contexts where science might not

Scientism (2)
  • Epistemological scientism lays claim to an
    exclusive approach to knowledge. Human inquiry is
    reduced to matters of material reality. We can
    know only those things that are ascertained by
    experimentation through application of the
    scientific method. And since the method is
    emphasized with such great importance, the
    scientistic tendency is to privilege the
    expertise of a scientific elite who can properly
    implement the method.

  • The so-called behavioral revolution took hold
    in academic disciplines and grant-making bodies
    during the 1940s, placing emphasis on individual
    level psychological variables and quantitative

The Behavioral Revolution
  • Goal an interdisciplinary, methodologically
    rigorous science of human behavior, with the
    ability to predict as well as prescribe.
  • Announcing its commitment to behavioralism, the
    Ford Foundation identified two main convictions
  • All problems from war to individual adjustment
    could be traced to individual behavior and human
  • Methodologically rigorous research might uncover
    laws of human behavior and thus help to inform

Behavioralism Characteristics
  • One of the most "influential" definitions of
    behavioralism has been David Easton's list of its
  • 1) search for regularities, even with explanatory
    and predictive value,
  • 2) verification with testable propositions,
  • 3) self-conscious examination for rigorous
  • 4) quantification for precision when possible and
  • 5) keeping values and empirical explanations
    analytically distinct,
  • 6) systematization as an intertwining of theory
    and research,
  • 7) pure science preceding the application of
    knowledge, and
  • 8) integration of the social sciences
  • (Easton 1962 7-8 Easton 1965 7).

  • Stimulus-Response-Model (Reiz-Reaktions-Modell)
  • S R
  • Later, in somewhat less rigorous form,
  • Stimulus-Organism-Response-Model

  • David Easton The New Revolution in Political
    Science.. The American PoliticalScience Review,
    Vol. 63, No. 4, Dez.1969., 1051-1061.
  • Falter, Jürgen W. Der "Positivismusstreit" in
    der amerikanischen Politikwissenschaft, Opladen
    Westdeutscher Verlag 1982
  • Falter, J. W./Honolka, H./Ludz, U. Politische
    Theorie in den USA. Eine empirische Analyse der
    Entwicklung von 1950 bis 1980. Opladen
    Westdeutscher Verlag 1990

Positivism I
  • Axioms correspondence theory of truth,
    methodological unity of science, value-free
    scientific knowledge
  • Premisses Division of Subject and Object,
    Naturalism deduction of all phenomena from
    natural facts, Division of statements of facts
    and statements of values

Positivism II
  • Consequences
  • Postulated existence of a real world (Object)
    independent from the theory- loaded grasp of the
    scientist (subject)
  • identification of facts in an intersubjectively
    valid observation language independent from
  • methodological exclusion of idiosyncratic
    characteristics and/or individual (subject)
    identities assures objective knowledge of an
    intersubjectively transferable character

Positivism III
  • Postulate of like regularities in the natural as
    well as the social world, independent of time,
    place, and observer, enables the transfer of
    analytic approaches and deductive-nomological
    processes of theory formulation from the field of
    the natural to the field of the social sciences
    to the analysis of social/societal problems
  • Knowledge generated on the basis of positivist
    research approaches and methodologies is limited
    to the objective (i.e. empirical) world.
    Statements and decisions on values are outside
    the sphere of competence of science.

Positivism IV
  • Further Consequences
  • Concept of Reason predicated on the purposeful
    rationality/rationality of purpose of
    instrumental action aiding the actor to
    technically master her/his environment
  • Rationalisation of societal (inter-)action by its
    predication on planned/plannable means-
    end-relationships, technical (or engineering)
    knowledge, depersonalisation of relationships of
    power and dominance, and extension of control
    over natural and social objects (rationalisation
    of the world we live in)

Positivism V
  • Theory regards itself as problem-solving theory,
    which accepts the institutions and
    power/dominance relationships of a pre-given
    reality as analytical and reference frameworks,
    and strives for the explanation of causal
    relationships between societal phenomena its aim
    is the elimination of disturbances and/or their
    sources in order to insure friction-less
    action/functioning of social actors
  • International politics is regarded as the
    interaction of exogeneously constituted actors
    under anarchy, the behaviour of which is as a
    rule explained by recourse to the characteristics
    or parameters of the international system
    (top-down explanation)

  • Positivism VI

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Positivist theory creation and testing
logical deduction
theory amended
Prediction not fulfilled, theory appears
inconsistent with the facts
empirical observation
Prediction fulfilled, theory appears consistent
with the facts
theory discarded, new theory needed
theory correct
  • A.J.Ayer Logical Positivism. New York Free
    Press 1959
  • Rudolf Haller Neopositivismus. Eine Historische
    Einführung in die Philosophie des Wiener Kreises.
    Darmstadt Wissen-schaftliche Buchgesellschaft

Neorealism - a New Life for Realism Kenneth
  • Morgenthaus work formed the basis for many other
    authors in the Realist tradition. Yet it was not
    until 1979 that Kenneth N. Waltz attempted to
    reformulate Realism in a new and distinctive way.
    His aim was to cure the defects with earlier
    theories of international relations, including
    classical realism, by applying a more scientific
    approach. The approach he took in Theory of
    International Politics became known as
  • While classical Realists saw international
    politics in terms of the characteristics of
    states and their interaction with each other,
    Waltz believed that there was a level above this.
    According to Waltz, "The idea that international
    politics can be thought of as a system with a
    precisely defined structure is Neorealisms
    fundamental departure from traditional realism".
    The conditions of the system as a whole
    influenced state behaviour, not just state level

Neorealism - a New Life for Realism Kenneth
Waltz II
  • By concentrating on the nature of the
    system-level structure, Waltz avoided the need to
    make assumptions about human nature, morality,
    power and interest. Neorealists were thus able to
    see power in a different way. For the classical
    Realists power was both a means and an end, and
    rational state behaviour was simply to
    accumulate a maximum of power. Neorealists found
    a better guide to IR was provided by assuming
    that the ultimate state interest was in security,
    and while gathering power often ensured that, in
    some cases it merely provoked an arms race. Yet
    while power was no longer the prime motivator,
    its distribution was the major factor determining
    the nature of the structure.

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Inhaltlich-perspektivische Differenzen von
klassischem Realismus und Neorealismus
Gemeinsame Prämisse Verhalten von Staaten über
Zeit und Raum zeigt mehr Gemeinsamkeiten als
Dominanz des internationalen Systems
Dominanz des Akteurs
Akteursverhalten bestimmt durch systemische
Grundannahme strukturelle Anarchie
Akteursverhalten bestimmt durch
anthropozentrische Grundannahme Machtstreben
Charakteristische Eigenschaften,
Situationsdefinitionen und Zielsetzungen der
Akteure eines Systems bestimmen dessen
Verhaltensergebnisse (bottom-up-view)
Struktur des Systems (Verteilung der Macht unter
den Akteuren) bestimmt das Interaktionsverhalten
der Akteure und die Verhaltensergebnisse (
Primat des in Kategorien von Macht definierten
Primat der Sicherheit
Erwerb, Vermehrung, Demonstration von Macht als
Zweck der Aussenpolitik des Akteurs
Verteidigung der Akteursposition im System
relativ zu den Positionen anderer Akteure
Maximierung von Macht als absoluter Gewinn im
Nullsummenspiel der Akteure
Sicherung der nationalen Souveränität als
Voraussetzung des Überlebens des Akteurs in einer
feindlichen Umwelt
Herstellung und Sicherung des Gleichgewichts im
System als Voraussetzung des Überlebens der
Akteure unter Anarchie
  • Kenneth N.Waltz Theory of International
    Politics. Reading/Mass. Addison-Wesley 1979
  • Carlo Masala Kenneth N. Waltz. Ein-führung in
    seine Theorie und Ausein-andersetzung mit seinen
    Kritikern. Baden-Baden Nomos 2005
  • Benjamin Frankel (ed.) Realism Restatement and
    Renewal. London Frank Cass 1996