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THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

THEORY

The earlier textbooks contained some theoretical observations on such topics as nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, the emergence of the Third World, ideology, and propaganda, and the impact of economic and technological factors upon international relations. Some contained chapters on alliances, regional or functional integration, disarmament or arms control, and such specific techniques of foreign policy as intervention, nonalignment, and isolation. Seldom was there an effort to draw precise linkages between the theories, or to find out whether partial theories could be fitted together into a larger, coherent whole .3' This is not to suggest that the authors necessarily lacked their own informing theory. But they did not present generalized theory in a systematic manner. Indeed, several of them were probably suspicious of single, overarching theories.


Throughout the period since the late 1940s, there has been a steady development of methodologies and techniques for research, analysis, and teaching in international relations, which have contributed to the growth of theory.35 The effort toward comprehensive theory building began with the "Great Debate" between realists and idealists (treated in Chapter 3). Originally, most of the members of both of these schools were what we now call traditionalists. Those who were interested in rejecting the premises of traditional international politics led the way in the development of behavioral/ quantitative methodologies, but were. soon joined by some realists who wished to show that the basic assessment of power could not be easily set aside.

The 1960s witnessed a considerable expansion of interest in theoretical analysis, ­and its validation by means of such methodologies as content analysis and bivariate and multivariate correlations. Insights from the biological, psychological, anthropological, sociological, economic, and other behavioral sciences were borrowed in the effort to explain international politics. There was an emphasis on abstract model building, as well as a variety of new approaches to the understanding of ecological factors and the individual relationships between humans and their milieu, regional integration, interaction in the international system, the causes of war, the conditions for deterrence, arms races and arms control decisionmaking, games theory, and related subjects in foreign policy and international relations.
"Grand" and "Middle Range" Theories
International relations theorists have been preoccupied with several basic questions in recent decades. Not all theorists have worked on or shown interest in all of the questions. Indeed, most of the better known theoretical, writers have devoted their attention principally to one favorite approach (usually a comprehensive or "grand" theory) or else to one or a few partial, "middle range" theories. Under the heading of "grand" theory, which purports to explain in a generalized way a wide range of phenomena, we would include such overarching perspectives as the following:


  1. the field theories of Quincy Wright and Rudolf Rummel gional integration, interaction in the international system, the causes of war, the conditions for deterrence, arms races

  2. the realist (or power theories of Hans Morgenthau, Raymond Aron, and Henry Kissinger and

neorealism (Kenneth Waltz, and Karl Gottfried Kindermann)

3. the systems theories of Morton Kaplan and Richard Rosecrance. Examples of partial, middle range theories designed to explain a limited range of phenomena with a few variables include those pertaining to

a. the influence of the geographical environment (Alfred Thayer Mahan, Halford Mackinder, Nicholas Spykman, Harold and Margaret Sprout)

b. communications patterns and community building (Karl Deutsch)

c. functionalism and sector integration (David Mitrany, Ernst Haas, Leon Lindberg, and Joseph

S. Nye)


d. deterrence (Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, Glenn Snyder, and Paul Diesing)

e. international development and conflict (Nazli Choucri and Robert North)

f. the correlates of war (J. David Singer and Melvin Small)

g. alliance behavior (William Riker and Stephen Walt)

h. bargaining behavior (Thomas Schelling and Anatol Rapaport)

i. decision making (Richard Snyder, Graham Allison, and Glenn Paige)

Even the effort to classify theories as "grand" or "middle range" can provoke debate. They are not completely disjunctive categories; some theories might fall in between, and others might not fit well into either. The decision making theory of Richard Snyder and his colleagues, for example, is not so much an explanatory theory with predictive power as it is a precise taxonomy or classificatory scheme, a conceptual framework

that provides a researcher doing a single or comparative case study in decision making with an orderly framework for collecting and analyzing data. Other theories of decision making such as the "cybernetic" (John Steinbruner), "satisficing behavior" (Herbert Simon), "bureaucratic" (Morton Halperin) and "rational actor" or "organizational process" (Gra­ham Allison) come closer to being explanatory. All of the theories men­tioned above, plus others, will be treated in subsequent chapters. The purpose of mentioning them here is not so much to overwhelm, much less discourage, the student, as to indicate that there are not only many differ­ent theories, but also different types of and approaches to theorizing about international relations. Authorities in the field are not at all agreed on which would be better to build grand theory first and let the formulation of middle range theories flow from it, or to test out and solidify a number of middle range theories before proceeding to a higher, more abstract level. Stanley Hoffmann, for example, prefers to start with grand theory whereas J. David Singer would lean toward laying the foundation with middle range, empirically based theories. The situation has changed little since Glenn Snyder and Paul Diesing wrote, over a decade ago,


In our teaching and research, we are like travelers in a houseboat, shuttling back and forth between separate "islands" of theory, whose relatedness con­sists only in their being commonly in the great "ocean" of "international behavior." Some theorists take up permanent residence on one island or other, others continue to shuttle, but few attempt to build bridges, perhaps because the islands seem too far apart .
At the risk of oversimplifying, we can say that those who adopt a careful "counting" approach prefer the more modest hypotheses that become embodied in middle range or even "small scale" theories, whereas those of a more philosophizing bent favor the larger, more sweep­ing vision. (This is not exactly the same as the dichotomy between the quantifying behaviorists and the traditionalists, to be explained later, but it is related to that dichotomy.) Modern academicians who are often un­justly accused of knowing and writing more and more about less and less significant things often exhibit impatience or contempt toward the prod­ucts of generalizing minds such as Toynbee, Parsons, or Morgenthau. Kenneth Boulding, on the other hand, shuns scholarly research on a nar­row scale and urges those who would understand the international system to abandon the microscope and the infinitesimally trivial and take up the telescope to encompass the whole universe as it evolves through space and time. Only then, he says, can we begin to see how the international human society on this tiny planet fits into the increasingly complex, in­teractive scheme of the larger universe. Since inevitable change is the fundamental law, he argues, we must throw off the apparently unchanging concepts of power politics inherited from Thucydides, Machiavelli, and Hobbes and recognize that threat and conflict will sooner or later give way to mutually beneficial cooperation and integration. Boulding strikes a novel and refreshing note that probably sounds more comforting to the philosopher than to the responsible policymaker, who thinks not in terms of aeons or centuries but of next year, next week, or tomorrow. The main point at the moment is that much depends upon one's general philosophical outlook, including one's view of history and human nature, as well as whether human nature remains pretty much the same or undergoes genuine progressive development from egoism to altruism during the course of history. Obviously society changes outwardly as a result of accumulated knowledge and the impact of education, science, technology, production, economics, religion, and culture. But whether human beings experience equally profound internal change in their psychological and moral qualities is a different question.
Logically Prior Questions
Before we examine in detail the writings of modern international theorists, certain issues ought to be considered first because they are logically prior:
1. What do we mean by "international relations"? What is the scope of the field?

2. What do we mean by "theory"? What are its functions?

3. What is the relation between theory and practice?

4. Which method is better the inductive or the deductive?

5. What is the "level of analysis problem"?

6. On which units (or actors) should we focus our attention?

7. Which predominates politics or economics? Or, to put it differently, is "power" being replaced by "interdependence"?

8. To what extent can or should theory be value free?

9. What is the appropriate place of normative theory?
THE DEFINITION AND SCOPE OF INTERNATIONAL

RELATIONS


Definition is only the beginning, not the end, of systematic inquiry. Modern science began, as Alfred North Whitehead noted in a 1925 lecture, when emphasis was shifted from the Aristotelian method of classification to the Pythagorean Platonist method of measurement, yet he hastened to add that classification is necessary for orderly, logical thought. Every disciplinary field should be able to define itself clearly, just as every scientific thinker should undertake a research project with a precise notion of the phenomenon to be investigated. When the subject of international relations was just emerging as a field of study within British and American universities, academicians on both sides of the Atlantic had difficulty coming to grips with its nature and scope. In 1935, Sir Alfred Zimmern suggested that "the study of international relations extends from the natural sciences at one end to moral philosophy . . . at the other." He defined the field not as a single subject or discipline but as a "bundle of subjects... viewed from a common angle. Many teachers since his time have wryly noted with Zimmern that students who "major" in international relations wish that they knew more about history, politics, economics, geography, demography, diplomacy, international law, ethics, religion, and nearly every branch of contemporary science and technology. Certainly those who achieve enduring distinction within the field seem to be those prepared by a liberal educational background for a life of active inquiry based upon an insatiable interest in the "international dimension."

Nicholas J. Spykman, among the first to propose a rigorous definition, used the term interstate relations, which, however, he did not expect would gain wide acceptance: "International relations are relations between individuals belonging to different states, . . . international behavior is the social behavior of individuals or groups aimed at . . . or influenced by the existence or behavior of individuals or groups belonging to a different state."'1 Loosely defined, the term international relations could encompass many different activities international communications, business transactions, athletic contests, tourism, scientific conferences, educational exchange programs, and religious missionary activities. International relations scholars have never agreed on where the boundaries of their field lie. Frederick S. Dunn once warned that the word scope is dangerously ambiguous because it implies the existence of clearly discernible boundary lines as readily identifiable as a surveyor's mark.



A field of knowledge does not possess a fixed extension in space but is a constantly changing focus of data and methods that happen at the moment to be useful in answering an identifiable set of questions. It presents at any given time different aspects to different observers, depending on their point of view and purpose. The boundaries that supposedly divide one field of knowledge from another are not fixed walls between separate cells of truth but are convenient devices for arranging known facts and methods in manageable segments for instruction and practice. But the foci of interest are constantly shifting and these divisions tend to change with them.
He went on to suggest, quite sensibly, that the "subject matter of international relations consists of whatever knowledge, from any sources, may be of assistance in meeting new international problems or understanding old ones.”

For more than a decade after World War II, scholars debated whether international relations could be called a discipline with a methodology and substantive content of its own, or whether it was so encyclopaedic as to belong to several disciplines. Quincy Wright regarded it as "an emerging discipline," one in the process of formation, and argued that it meets the definitional criteria of its critics as well as most academic disciplines, in the development of which history has played as much a part as logic." Morton A. Kaplan, insisting that international relations lacks the character of a discipline because there is "no common disciplinary core to be enriched as there had been in the companion subject matter of political science," no set of unique skills and techniques, and no developed body of theoretical propositions, preferred to recognize international politics merely as a subdiscipline of political science.

Frederick S. Dunn states that international relations may "be looked upon as the actual relations that take place across national boundaries, or as the body of knowledge which we have of those relations at any given time. This is a fairly standard approach, but is it adequate? It is comprehensive, and it does not limit the subject to official relations between states and governments. But is this delineation too broad, and would it be better to include transnational relations on the basis of their political significance, for example, by focusing upon the influences that they exert on the world's political units? As students of politics, we are concerned with relationships between or among all of the actors state and nonstate, international and transnational to the extent that they contribute to an understanding of political phenomena. We define international politics as the effort of one state or other international actor, to influence in some way another state, or other international actor. An influence relationship may encompass the actual or threatened use of military force, or it may be based entirely or partly on other inducements, such as political or economic ones. International politics, moreover, like all politics, represents the reconciliation of varying perspectives, goals, and interests. Thus international politics includes many but not necessarily all transactions or interactions that take place across national frontiers.

Stanley Hoffmann found that "debates which try to determine the scope of a social science are rather pointless" because there are no immutable essences in social relationships. In his view, all definitions are bound to involve ambiguities and difficulties, especially in the case of a field marked by constant flux. Preferring a formula that leads to perceptive investigations and does not violate common sense, Hoffmann suggests an operational definition of the field to encompass "the factors and the activities which affect the external policies and the power of the basic units into which the world is divided. He warns, however, against trying to gather everything within the fold, noting that "a flea market is not a discipline."

The prudent international theorist will avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of either including trivia or excluding significant phenomena. A field that is too broad or cluttered cannot be comprehended by the human mind, and may seem to outsiders in other academic disciplines to be intellectually arrogant, if not downright imperialistic. On the other hand, if something can be shown to be relevant to a full understanding of an issue
that belongs to international relations, it should not be "kept outside the walls" on the grounds that it is part of a different academic preserve. Much depends, of course, upon the nature of the problem under investigation and

upon the degree to which material from another field can be incorporated and handled competently. As for the scope of our field, more will be said below when we take up "The Level of Analysis Problem" and the "units" or "actors" on which we should focus attention.



Should international theory focus on the contemporary scene? There is an inescapable attractiveness about the present, bounded by what has recently happened and what is imminently about to happen. Fascination with the contemporary is heightened by the attention it receives in the news media, by the preoccupation of policymakers, and by the fact that research funding is more readily available for topics of current interest and concern. Nevertheless, most experienced scholars in international relations realize that a knowledge of history is essential because it broadens immensely the data base from which extrapolations into the future are to be made, and it also refines our ability to formulate hypotheses that approximate social reality. Morton Kaplan opens his principal work on the international system with a tribute to history: "There is one respect in which a science of international politics must always be indebted to history. History is the great laboratory within which international action occurs. "4' Kaplan calls for investigations into the ancient Greek city state system the Italian state system of the Renaissance period, and the balance of power system that dominated Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, so that typical system behaviors in different eras might be compared .'9 In his view, international theorists should be interested in all systems past, present, future, and hypothetical .s° (Kaplan's theory will be examined in Chapter 4.) If we limit our attention exclusively to the existing nation state system, and ignore the vast record of the past out of which present reality evolved, we seriously restrict our ability to imagine possible futures. The history of international relations is not an international theory, but as the primary source of empirical data it is the essential raw material with which the theoretician works. One can hardly grasp, for example, the functionalist theory of economic sector integration (cf.Chapter10) without accurate historical knowledge of the European Community's formative years.
The Nature and Function of Theory
A theory any theory, in any field is a general explanation of certain selected phenomena set forth in a manner satisfactory to someone acquainted with the characteristics of the reality being studied. It need not be acceptable to all experts; indeed, it may satisfy the expounder and horrify all others. Powerful theories are those that exercise great influence upon the thinking of large numbers, perhaps the overwhelming majority, of knowledgeable persons for a long time before being replaced by new theories. (Among the enduring theories are those of the economists pertaining to the division of labor and the principle of comparative advantage; those of social theorists pertaining to the ethnocentricism of groups the preference for traditional over new and alien ways and the relationship between external conflict and internal cohesiveness; those of physicists pertaining to the conservation of energy and the relativity of the time space continuum; and those of international theorists in the realist school pertaining to the nearly universal tendency of states to seek their interests as defined in terms of power.) In the social sciences, however, not even the most powerful theories command unquestioning assent within a disciplinary field. As we survey throughout this text a variety of theories in the academic discipline of international relations, it will become clear that no single generalization, principle, or hypothesis has yet been demon­strated with sufficient force to serve as the foundation for a universally accepted comprehensive theory of international relations.

A theory is an intellectual tool that helps us to organize our knowl­edge, to ask significant questions, and to guide the formulation of priorities in research as well as the selection of methods to carry out research in a fruitful manner. In other words, theory although not to be confused with scientific method enables us to apply the methods of scientific inquiry in an orderly rather than a haphazard way. It helps us to relate knowledge in our own field to that of other fields. Finally, it provides a framework for evaluating the policy recommendations, either explicit or implicit, that abound in all the social sciences. We are often in a better position to judge the soundness of specific policy recommendations if we know something about the theoretical assumptions on which they are based, and if we are also familiar with alternative theories that might lead to different policy recommendations.

In literature on the philosophy of science the term theory has assumed a specific meaning. A theory is defined as a symbolic construction, a series of interrelated hypotheses together with definitions, laws, theorems, and axioms. A theory sets forth a systematic view of phenomena by presenting a series of propositions or hypotheses that specify relations among varia­bles in order to present explanations and make predictions about the phenomena. In the physical sciences a theory may be viewed as a system consisting of the following elements: (1) a set of axioms whose truth is assumed and can be tested only by testing their logical consequences an axiom cannot be deduced from other statements contained in the system; (2) statements, or theorems, that are deduced from the axioms, or from other theorems and definitions; and (3) definitions of descriptive terms contained in the axioms. A theory is a group of laws that are deductively connected. Some of the laws are premises from which other laws are deduced. Those laws deduced from the axioms are the theorems of the theory. Whether or not a law is an axiom or a theorem depends on its position in a theory.

A theory does not depend necessarily upon empirical referents for validity; it need only state logically deduced relationships among the phe­nomena with which the theory is concerned. According to Abraham Kaplan, the ability to apply the theory successfully is not a necessary condition for its success, since the failure of the application may be traceable to many factors external to the theory itself." But the development of empirical referents makes possible the testing of a theory. Carl Hempel has offered the following analogy:


A scientific theory might therefore be likened to a complex spatial network: Its terms are represented by the knots, while the threads connecting the latter correspond, in part, to the definitions and, in part, to the fundamental and derivative hypotheses contained in the theory. The whole system floats, as it were, above the plane of observation and is anchored to it by rules of interpre­tation. These might be viewed as strings which are not part of the network but link certain parts of the latter with specific laces in the plane of observa­tion. By virtue of those interpretive connectors, the network can function as a scientific theory. From certain observational data, we may ascend, via an interpretive string, to some point in the theoretical network, thence proceed, via definitions and hypotheses, to other points from which another interpre­tive string permits a descent to the place of observation
In the field of international relations, as in all the social sciences, theory is somewhat more diffuse and less precise than one finds in the physical sciences (for reasons to be explained later), and may assume several different forms. In international relations, the term theory has been used, like so many other terms, in distinctive and often confusing ways. Among the most important usages are the following. Theory has been equated with a philosophy, ideology, hypotheses, a set of interrelated concepts, a set of interrelated hypotheses, a set of interrelated hypotheses with a requisite amount of supporting evidence, and a set of axioms and concepts from which hypotheses may be derived. Theory may be deduc­tive or inductive, a distinction to be elaborated below. It may be a taxon­omy—a classification scheme or a conceptual framework that provides for the orderly arrangement and examination of data. It may be a description and analysis of the political behavior of rational actors, based upon a single dominant motive such as power. Or, instead of describing how rational actors do in fact behave, it may be normative, indicating how they ought to behave a subject on which more will be said subsequently. Finally, as suggested above, it may be a set of policy recommendations for following a particular course of action.
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