International Relations Paradigms: Realism and Marxism

One of the international relations theory’s characteristic features is the fact that its object is in the process of constant changes that hamper the effective scientific approach establishment to its study. It is no accident in this area that the different research paradigms are competing. The most widespread of these theories are political realism and Marxism. At the same time, the international relations and world politics’ growing influence and global processes, in general, leave a significant imprint on the fate of humanity. Thus, the society and individuals stimulate the desire of scientists to recognize each of the approaches’ right to exist, to end the ‘war of paradigms.’ This method would help combine their efforts to analyze the object in the different positions’ view. At the same time, by continuing these approaches’ evolution and changing the content of paradigms, all of them are aimed to comply with the transformations undergone by the international relations. Therefore, this paper will argue that political realism is a better way to understand the international relations. To achieve this goal, it is critical to contrast the realism paradigm with the one of Marxism providing a reference to the historic event to prove the assumption. 

The political realism traditions’ essence has a long history in the study of international relations and is associated with the names of such outstanding thinkers as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Carl von Clausewitz and others. The 20th-century scholars E. H. Carr and Hans Morgenthau  made a decisive contribution to these traditions’ development.

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Realism is based on the provision that the nature of international relations is the anarchic nature, that is characterized by the absence of the supreme power. Consequently, the states represent the main participants of international relations, which are forced to rely only on their capabilities in conjunction with each other. At the core of international relations, the national interests of states and their control lie: the power and the balance of authority between the great powers are of the only importance. Certainly, as Carr states, this statement of powers’ significance is to be regarded with a certain degree of skepticism. The author makes an emphasis on the fact that “skepticism attacked not only the premise that public opinion is certain to prevail, but also the premise that public opinion is certain to be right”.

The realism is ‘realistic’ to the extent that it permits more freedoms and determines them in connection with the logic approach. The states formulate their leaders by their original understanding of the national interest, which is being fundamentally changed. Morgenthau has a conviction that realism in politics “is to think and act regarding the national interest, and… “personal wish,” which is to see their moral values and political principles realized throughout the world.” It means that national interest is understood regarding the state of force in relations with other countries. As a consequence, success is linked to those leaders, who act reasonably in international relations with their partners, always using a strategy of supporting or expanding their power (force). Such concepts as the right or the morality ultimately serve the interests of either the strongest or do not play a prominent role in international relations. 

To support the statement that the realistic paradigm is more up-to-date and better, it is necessary to state that the essence of international relations is unchangeable. This is because they have based on unchanging nature of a man himself, but they can acquire new forms with the development of scientific and technological progress and the evolution of social structures, etc..

By the realism paradigm, the primary way is the consideration of a functionally similar element of the international system. The very same system is understood as the ordering principles of consistency and permanence requirements for functioning of the state as it consists of the formally differentiated cells. Thus, all changes in the anarchic international system are associated with the distribution of power and influence of the existing balance of forces. 

Thus, the critical behavior of states gains the structure of the international system, which is defined as a set of external constraints and restrictions. In other words, foreign policy is dictated by the logic of the international system and the distribution of power (force) among the states. For example, if the international structure of the system is determined by the struggle between the two superpowers, (which is referred to as bipolar), not only medium and small states, but also the great powers, are to be engaged in this struggle’ logic. The basis of this logic is represented by the arms race, the division of spheres of influence, strict requirements of the superpowers to its allies, deterrence, and containment of the enemy, etc. 

As a consequence, to prove the fact that realism is ‘realistic’ and serves better for the international relations, it is necessary to cite an example of a historical case. In the Cold War era, the popularity of the positions of realism in the international relations was reinforced by the bipolar structure of the interstate system. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union (which represented the Marxist paradigm) and the end of the confrontation between the two has largely been undermined. There has been a massive intrusion into the sphere of world politics of non-traditional actors, a new generation of conflicts. 

To show the advantages of realism, it is necessary to contrast it with another paradigm, Marxism. The paradigm of Marxism in the theory of international relations dates back to the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels. In contrast to the proponents of realism, the adherents of this doctrine believe that the nature of international relations is not so much an anarchist as imperialist and exploitative. Their major players are especially not the state and not transnational groups or associations, but the social classes. On the one hand, these are the owners of productive capital and monopoly, owning and controlling the means of production in the global economy and come into sharp competition (including the armed) struggle. On the other hand, it is the proletariat, oppressed and exploited by world imperialism. 

Therefore, the dominant processes in the international arena are represented by the inter-imperialist crisis, the contradictions and the struggle between these basic classes, between rich and poor. However, Marx, Engels and Moore state that “the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society.” In fact, this statement is much closer to the depiction of Marxism. Finally, to sum up, Marxism, it is necessary to cite Volk, who state that “there is no security in the policy.”

The nature of international relations is not eternal, as the class struggle and revolution (the main regulators of International Relations) frequently happen. The priority is given to the Marxism economic relations by its supporters. The process of the states’ roles’ minimizing can hypothetically lead to emerge of the radical groups. In general, the groups of radicals are convinced that the basis of the nature of international relations constitutes a contradiction, constant crises, and continuous conflicts. This approach, to some extent, coincides with the understanding of the realism.

To sum up, political realism paradigm belongs to the most progressive ones because the realism’s approach to the international relations excludes the minimal state’s participation in the international relations. This lack of participation is likely to cause numerous detrimental shortcomings for the social area of society’s existence. Also, realism is characterized by giving more freedoms and loyalty to ordinary people and reduces the possibility of conflicts.

May 27, 2020 in Informative
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