International Relations in Theory and Practice

The study of international relations deals with relations, contacts, dealings and communications respecting grounds such as social, economic, cultural and most importantly political, among the existent sovereign nations of the world. In the true sense, study of International relations was started being studied after World War-1, but it has its origins in the treaty of Westphalia, 1648. Relations among the nations are said to be deeply influenced by the study of international relations because in this global village in which communications has made much advancement, states can not hide their internal as well as external policies from the comity of nations. Papp (2002) expresses that the profound insight into this discipline, different theories have been advanced by the scholars of this discipline. These theories not only help understand relations among the nations but also provide a complete framework of body for effective governance of the states and deal world politics at large.

These theories include Realism, Neo-realism, Liberalism, Neo-liberalism, Constructivism, Idealism, Liberal Internationalism, Marxism, Functionalism and Post-structuralism etc which mark their existence as dominating thought of international system ever since emphasis on this discipline’s has been laid upon. According to Donnelly (2000), these theories endeavour to provide a conceptual framework to comprehend the basis of relations among the nations. In connection with asserting their actuality and validity, these theories take into account various assumptions for establishment of conceptualisation which have become mandatory under all circumstances for a profound insight into international relations. Before going further, a look at these concepts which seek their origin from these theories is all the most necessary.

They are Nation-state, Balance of Power, National Interests, Elements of Power etc. they draw their birth from this theoretical system of body. Importance of these theories can be understood from the fact that without a conceptual framework of these theories, understanding world politics through international relations’ concepts was not possible. Keeping aside all other theories, for instance Waltz (1979), current debate on distinction between explanatory approach and constitutive approach in international relations will be deal by this paper. These approaches were taken into consideration for the classification of the international relations’ theories.

Literature Review

In a practical perspective the realism is major participant in the relations world; however, liberalism is excluded from a logical idea. Hempel (1965) elaborates that the assumptions and ideas about the environment and dynamics of world politics rely on institutionalism/realism. The political scientists, for instance Papp (2002), find the origins of the noninterventionist custom in worldwide annals. Today, the world is highlighting some widespread topics appeared in the variants, and suggest a typology of up to date strands of liberalism. According to Waltz (1979), the neo-liberalism evolves the intuition that the world of relations between coalition and transnational collaboration context enable that they are merged in a nation. This is a basic influence on nations for relation according to constitutive and explanatory theories of IR. Mingst (1999) expresses that the concept of international-community concerns union of state bureaus to set up state fondness. Expert, for instance, Katzenstein (1996), inquire several assumptions evolved three foremost deviations of liberalism (economic, political and social), and it displays that an investigation of institutionalism characterizes situation. Posen (1984) describes that the assumptions about enduring state that soft spot in institutionalism is weakness of states; but it is not a logical theory. Diverse concept of realism modifies the rudimentary part and in some situations the most significant player in world is government head.

Mingst (1999) is of the opinion that the worldwide state relations are mostly distinguished by anarchism. Anarchy is also the main theory in the context of IR. Anarchy aspires to make the most of the homeland is their power or their security, and to manage the reasonable in alignment to encourage their concerns contrary to other nations. Groom and Light (1994) describe that these nations are inclined to use or endangered use of infantry. Nations’ foreign principles are restricted by the transmission of influence amidst them. The exceptional ideas are made distinct, and occasionally, the propositions of definite categories of happenings opposing to the rudimentary values of theories. The constitutive and explanatory theories of IR, for liberalism, institutionalism/realism, anarchy, dictatorship, are basically distinct from other political schemes. Many professionals, for example Russet, is a up to designated day exponent of these amazing theories. The production of facts and numbers on dialogues and arguments put the likely interpretations of phenomena and it presents the clues from very old times.

Donnelly (2000) projects that the two world wars and industrialism have bread a new theory in the IR field- Globalization. The concept that the connections between states become very strong with the directions of trade facilities is the emerging theory in IR. Government, furthermore, is the center of significant trade policies in international perspective. Nuclear energy and civilian energy technologies are freely imported and exported. These ideas, with the outcomes, image a conclusion on North Atlantic organization’s atomic scheme and implementation. It focuses on both the outcomes of these episodes and the methods that lead to outcomes, documented that the outlooks made functional realism incorrect about most of the outcomes, customary realism with rightly forecasting the conclusion of the most, but the method does not rendezvous.

Explanatory Approach in International Relations

Explanatory theory is said to be a theory that is somewhat external to the theories concerning the world. According to Smith (2000), explanatory theory encompasses neo-realism, neo-liberalism and much of mainstream constructivism. It is characterized, above all, by positivist premises: explanatory theorists are committed to the view, as Smith (2000) states ‘the social world is amenable to the same kinds of analysis as … the natural world’, to a ‘separation between facts and values’, to ‘uncovering patterns and regularities’ and to ‘empiricism as the arbiter of what counts as knowledge’ (p. 380).

Thus explanatory theorists might be expected to apply their theories in accordance with the covering law model of explanation, in which an episode ‘is explained by subsuming it under general laws, i.e. by showing that it occurred in accordance with those laws, in virtue of the realization of certain specified antecedent conditions’. Thus it emphasizes causal generalization of the theories that might be obtained from particular assumptions. Then deducing explanatory claims from those assumptions and testing them against the facts.

Theorists of this approach find this model applicable under certain conditions. It argues that the theorist must ‘contrive explanations from which hypotheses can then be inferred and tested’; while Moravcsik (1997) argues that ‘any no tautological social scientific theory must be grounded in a set of positive assumptions from which arguments, explanations, and predictions can be derived’ (p.514). It has been articulated that on the other hand, some theorists have attempted to apply explanatory theories deductively. The comparison of organizational theory and neorealist balance of power theory can be defined: ‘by deducing specific propositions’ about French, British and German military doctrine during the interwar period.

The thought that such explanatory theories are not in deed resultantly applied is quite commonplace. In this connection the neo-realism holds forth the promise of a tight, deductive theory’; it cannot be directly applied to questions of national security: it is therefore employed only as an ‘orienting framework’.

Constitutive approach in international relations

The constitutive approach in international relations signifies the belief that theories, in fact, help construct the world. Constitutional theory, which is derived from Hegel, and highlights that we constitute one another as moral beings through a process of reciprocal recognition within a hierarchy of institutions which include the family, civil society, the state, and the society of states. Except neo-realism, neo-liberalism and constructivism, many other theories of international relations are included in constitutive approach of international arena.

In fact, as Moravcsik (1997) projects, constitutive is one ethical theory which highlights that ethics is accorded a marginal position within the academic study of international relations so lately. Order based theories, utilitarian theories and right based theories are taken into consideration while classifying international system with reference to constitutive approach. It stands in sharp contradiction with explanatory theory of international relations and so recently much debate has been made on the distinction between both these theories within the purview of international relations discipline.

Distinction between explanatory and constitutive theory

Groom and Light (1994) elaborate that discipline of international relations has witnessed four debates over nature and scope of different theories. First second and third debates were regarding realism versus idealism, a dispute between scientific IR scholars, inter-paradigm respectively. In this connection, the most recent debate which is often called fourth debate possesses immense importance. This debate was carried out to understand nature and scope of explanatory and constitutive approach. The end result is a profound insight into distinction between both these theories. In fourth debate, distinction between both these approaches was made in terms of a scientific approach versus an interpretive or hermeneutic approach. This debate is often regarded as debate between positivists and post-positivists.

Both these approaches are rather different from one another in letter and spirit. Commentators of explanatory approach have discussed it in detail and have explained that it offers explanatory accounts of international relations. Further it also stresses that the social world is like the natural world and this natural world is an object existing outside. Donnelly (2000) defines that this social world is independent from our perceptions and theories so, theories must not be applied to international relations in this particular sense. But the existence of phenomenon and facts must be reasoned and their causes be explained with reference to explanatory theory of international relations. Thus the major function of explanatory theory is to find cause and reasons for the existence of the phenomenon and concepts of international relations.

On the other hand, Hempel (1965) of the opinion that constitutive theory stands for constitution of the reality in international relations. The commentators of this approach emphasis the fact that social world is what we make it to be. This purpose is achieved with the help of constructing the social world through the application of basis of theories. It signifies the position of this approach and stresses that all knowledge in the world is theory-laden. It implies that knowledge is based on theories or dependant upon theoretical framework at international arena. Thus the function that constitutive approach does is constitution of specifies areas of reality by means of theoretical concepts.

While explanatory theorists seek to emulate the natural sciences in following scientific methods and in seeking to identify general causes, advocates of understanding focus on the analysis of the ‘internal’ meanings, reasons, and beliefs actors hold and act (Papp (2002)).

For the advocates of constitutive approach, for instance Waltz (1979), social meanings, language, and beliefs are said to constitute the most important (ontological) aspects of social existence. Explanatory theorists do not generally disagree with this claim; however, they do not see how such objects can be incorporated into a scientific framework of analysis. Scientific knowledge, for the explanatory theorist, requires empirical justification; and meanings, beliefs, and ideas are not susceptible to validation by such techniques. Without such justifications, knowledge claims can be nothing more than mere speculation. Advocates of an interpretive approach, on the other hand, argue that we should be guided in our analytical procedures by the most important factors impacting on human behavior (beliefs, ideas, meanings, reasons), not by an a priori commitment to something called science. The explanatory theorist reduces the ontological complexity of the social world to those aspects of it that can be observed and measured.



Thus it has become evident that while the explanatory approach stands for strong belief that the social order is beyond the limitations of theories and it does not encompass theoretical concepts for international relations, the constitutive approach believes in theoretical concepts which help understand the reality of the social world. Posen (1984) expresses that this distinction has caused much debate on international arena and has recently engulfed the world politics with reference to various theories of this discipline.

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