Our series on International Relations (I.R.) ends here with the last two essential approaches. They are alternative theories which have developed during the end are useful instruments in the toolkit of any student of I.R. because they offer both new, radical explanations of international politics and bring complementary ideas. This brief paper sets out to discuss two of these alternative theories, Marxism and Constructivism.
In the 19th century, Marx and Engels wrote that the main source of instability in the international system would be capitalist globalization, more specifically the conflict between two classes: the national bourgeoisie and the cosmopolitan proletariat. Historical materialism was going to be Marxism’s guideline in understanding the processes both in domestic and international affairs. Thus, for Marx human history has been a struggle to satisfy material needs and to resists class domination and exploitation.
Despite ideological criticism, Marxism has strong empirical advantages on its side. Firstly, by emphasizing injustice and inequality it is very relevant to every period of time, as these two failures of the human society have never been absent. Marxism is a structural theory just like neorealism, but it focuses on the economic sector instead of the military-political one. Its analysis reflects the relation between the base (the modes of production) and the superstructure (political institutions). The source of structural effects is not anarchy, but the capitalist mode of production which defines unjust political institutions and state relations.
This economic reductionism is considered also to be a central flaw. As a solution, the neo-Gramscian school proposed a further development. By combining global capitalism, state structure, and political-economic institutions they managed to create a theory of global hegemony (ideological domination). According to this theory, hegemony is maintained through close cooperation between powerful elites inside and outside the core regions of the world system. Global governance is constituted by political and economic institutions that put pressure on the less developed and unstable peripheral countries.
From an epistemological point of view, Marxism created the foundations for critical theory, and it is superior in this sense to the dominant approaches of Anglo-American I.R., that are problem-solving theories. Marxism, as any other critical theory, has a normative interest in identifying possibilities for social transformation and how theory is instrumental to power. This is why Marx wrote about capitalism with an interest in the social forces that would bring about its downfall hoping that humanity would be free from domination and exploitation. Realists in particular see this to be politically motivated and not objective and neutral. The normative disadvantage of Marxism is that it can be seen as Eurocentric by promoting the Enlightenment ideal of cosmopolitanism.
Another challenging alternative approach is Constructivism which rose as a school of thought with the end of the Cold War. It can be seen as the continuation of critical international theory, even though it differs from the first wave of critical theory due to its emphasis on empirical analysis instead of philosophical contemplation.
The main purpose of constructivism was to challenge rationalism by proposing a radically different ontological perspective based on three main propositions. Firstly, ideational structure is just as important as the realist material structure in shaping the identity and ultimately the actions of the actors. Second, as opposed to the rationalist conception of a priori interests, constructivists are interested in how self-perceived identity determines interest-formation. Thirdly, agent and structure are mutually constituted (a structurationalist theory, not a structuralist one). Therefore, the core of constructivism is its contrast with rationalism.
Nevertheless, this approach can be perceived as complementary to rationalism. The former focuses on how norms shape identities and interests (interest-formation) and the latter on how actors pursue the given interests (interest-satisfaction). Based on a scholarly division of labour, constructivism would try to explain how actors gain their preferences, while rationalism would explore how they realize those preferences. This would be a process of bridge-building between the two.
One of its admitted limitations is that constructivism is not actually a theory : these scholars’ main aim is to interpret and explain different aspects of world politics, not to create a general theory of international affairs. It is more of an analytical framework. Constructivists think that there is no such thing as a universal, transhistorical, culturally autonomous idea or identity. Everything is socially constructed, hence the name of the approach.
Finally, despite this limitation, the undeniable contribution of constructivism to I.R. theory is that it brought back into discussion the social, historical and normative aspects of political thinking. This way it succeeded in further develop the English School approach and in better explaining the mainstream theories’ problematic issues like for example, the fall of the Soviet Union.
For a detailed study of IR theories the following sources and scholars are recommended:
- Burchill S., Linklater A., Devetak R., Donnelly J., Paterson M., Reus-Smit C. and True J., Theories of International
- Relations, Third edition, 2005, Palgrave Macmillan;
- E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939. An Introduction to the Study of International Relations, 1946;
Mearsheimer J., Waltz K., Keohane R., Morgenthau H., Buzan B., Wendt A., Bull H., – articles, books, interviews.
Weathering the Storm: How Political Climates Affect the Financial Markets
There are numerous factors that can potentially have an effect on financial markets and which traders have to be aware of. They can range from extreme weather events, terror attacks, corporate announcements, all the way to the political climate of a country. In most of these scenarios, the ramifications for an economy and the subsequent reflection in the stock markets can be relatively predictable – we expect to see a drop in stock prices when a disaster hits , for example. When it comes to the political climate, however, things become a whole lot less predictable. This is due to various reasons, not least because of the inherently fickle nature of politics itself and the sometimes vast differences in the political cultures and traditions of different countries.
To get a sense of just how a country’s political climate can affect various aspects of a nation’s economy and its financial markets, we’ll take a practical recent example of the USA following President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016. It serves as an interesting case study due not only to its unexpected nature which highlighted the basic unpredictability of political climates, but because it brought about some very interesting reactions and results from businesses and the financial sector in general.
A general statement can be made to the effect that a country’s political climate and its economic environment are closely related. Investors, no matter how large their risk appetite, like to have a reasonable assurance of their money’s safety, which is why stock markets are usually the first industries to react to any political climate changes. In fact, research suggest that stock markets follow a predictable general pattern along a four-year cycle punctuated by the Presidential Elections in the USA and perhaps many other countries worldwide, with the market showing signs of increased caution as election season comes around.
Following President Trump’s unexpected victory, many organizations held the hope that the bold fiscal proposals he had talked about during the campaign – including increased spending and tax cuts – would serve to boost the country’s economy. The Federal Reserve actually went ahead and increased interest rates in anticipation of the changes, showing how even the promise of a policy change will directly be felt on the financial market.
Anticipated Regulatory Changes
When a country undergoes a significant political change of pace, it is expected that this will come with significant regulatory standards and practices. It is widely acknowledged that increased government regulation and bureaucratic interference in a country’s economy and industrial activity will usually result in a slowing down of the economy in question.
President Trump had poised to relax the regulatory framework in the country as well as consolidating the numerous bodies tasked with formulating the regulations to make it easier to do business in the country, and this came as good news to organizations and their stakeholders.
Political Stability Concerns
Political stability has a very real effect on the state of businesses within an economy, as we can all agree. While many business owners and stakeholders were encouraged by the promise of deregulation and fiscal policy reform, many were also given cause for concern when it came to the President’s apparent pattern of unexpected and inconsistent policy decisions.
His stance on immigration, promise to wall of the USA’s southern border with Mexico, and his abandonment of previous trade deals all went into fueling anxiety and a sense of uncertainty in the financial markets. This was especially felt in the case of organizations with a global business presence. These feelings decrease investor confidence and often lead to a depreciation in stock market values as the more risk-averse investors keep away.
When looked at in totality, countries all over the world face the same types of political risks. We’re not talking about complete government collapses such as might occur in times of a coup, but relatively smaller yet high-impact moves and policies by governments on matters such as regulation, currency valuation, taxes, spending, minimum wage laws, labor laws, environmental regulations, and the like.The financial market of a country, being highly sensitive to such shocks, can register an impact when such actions are merely proposed, without their implementation having taken place yet. The impacts may be long or short-term, but they are definitely felt throughout the financial markets.
What a Rising Xi Jinping Means for China and the World
“Watch this man.” These were the three words used by the founding father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to describe a relatively unknown Xi Jinping while he was yet to become the President of the People’s Republic of China. Today, in addition to being China’s “paramount leader”, Xi is arguably the most powerful man in the world, and even if leaders across the world were doubtful about it till now, the developments in the previous week were sure to make them think again.
19th Party Congress: How it unfolded
Xi today, Xi forever?
The Communist Party of China assembled the previous week for its 19th Party Congress, a political summit that takes place every five years to decide upon the country’s future and the future is precisely what Xi has fixated his eyes upon. According to the current rules, Mr Xi must step down as the leader when his term ends in 2022 and as tradition dictates, a successor must be appointed. While only time will reveal whether Mr Xi steps down from the presidency at the end of his term, it increasingly looks that he is not keen to do so, having failed to hint towards any successor for the time being. His apparent intentions to stay put were further solidified with the appointment of the new members to the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision making authority in the country after the president. Each of the members appointed to the body is over 60 years of age, which means that they are highly likely to retire when their term comes to an end with the next meeting five years later. Interestingly, two-thirds of them are also known to be Mr Xi’s loyalists.
Xi Jinping Thought: A force to be reckoned with
“Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” or the “Xi Jinping Thought” for short was written into the party’s constitution at the end of the Congress. The thought consists of 14 principles calling for deep reforms, conserving the environment, the party’s complete control over the army, and the importance of the unification of the country. The development was highly publicised and with good reason. With the “Xi Jinping Thought” embedded in the constitution while still being in power, Xi Jinping has drawn comparisons from all over the world to Mao Zedong himself. Moreover, he has ensured that anyone that opposes him will do so at the cost of their removal from the party. When Xi asked the delegates at the end of his address for any objections, shouts of “meiyou” which means “none” rang through the Great Hall of the People.
Mr Xi has declared the start of a “new era” for China, and undoubtedly for the entire world. It is therefore important to ask what significance these developments hold for the country and for the world at large.
What this means for China
The inclusion of Xi’s thought in the constitution means that the same will be taught in schools, colleges, and other institutions throughout the country, infusing his ideology among the Chinese on a cultural level. Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center puts it aptly when he says that the move “greatly increases, … broadens, and deepens Xi Jinping’s personal power within the Chinese system”.
The president has already found a wide support of the Chinese population with his push for modernisation and his crackdown on corruption has been hugely popular among the masses. Since his election in 2012, Mr Xi’s anti-corruption drive, famously known within the country as the “tiger and flies campaign” has either disciplined or expelled nearly a million party members. As his stance on corruption remains as stern as ever, many have come to view it as a political tool used by him time and again to get rid of political rivals. However, the corruption drive has undoubtedly proved to be effective and fruitful for the country’s business climate.
While Mr Xi’s crackdown on corruption has garnered immense coverage, the crackdown on humans rights activists and NGOs has not received its fair share. China has struggled for decades in its battle for free speech. In 2015, many human rights lawyers were detained and many international NGOs faced stricter curbs to keep them from functioning. As the president has left little room for any opposition within the party, the authoritarianism and censorship are by no means expected to be relaxed, ensuring that there is no opposition from outside the party as well.
Powerplay: China’s standing on the global stage
Donald Trump was among the world leaders who wished the Chinese president when he congratulated him on his “extraordinary elevation”. The reverence he holds for Mr Xi was quite apparent when he said: “some people might call him the king of China.” The surprise, however, came when North Korea’s Kim Jong Un congratulated the president on his “great success” since the two leaders are not known to be fond of each other. The intent here is clear. Both sides need a China that is continuously growing in power on their side in their stand against each other, and that means a closer association with Mr Xi. Chinese influence in the world is unlikely to stop there.
While speaking to CNN, James McGregor, author of “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism”, mentioned that “given the chaos in Washington and also the dysfunction in Europe, the world is looking for leadership.” Mr Xi enjoys a great level of stability and largely unquestioned authority in a time where the leaders of Western democracies face intense competition at home. As such, his message to his party and to the world is clear: in the coming decades, China will “stand proudly among the nations of the world” and “become a leading global power. ” However, it will do so on its own terms, emphatically rejecting the Western political models.
These intentions are perhaps best evidenced by The Belt and Road initiative, China’s attempt at connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa with each other through a modern take on the Silk Route, into which it has already pumped hundreds of billions as loans and aid to countries across all three continents. While the project has been met with opposition from Japan, India, and the USA, many of China’s neighbours have expressed their support for it, which speaks of its influence on the global stage.
With the people’s army under the control of the party, Mr Xi also looks to achieve the twin goals of increasing the military might and the protection of China’s sovereignty. “We will not tolerate anyone, using any means, at any time to separate one inch of land from China”, he said in his address which is seen as a warning to both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Enhancing combat capability is also linked to the Chinese interests in the South China Sea, where its activities of building and militarisation of islands have received backlash from the international community.
“If one is big”, Mr Xi said on the final day of the Congress, “one must act big.” There’s no doubt that Mr Xi intends to put these words into action at the global level. Lee Kuan Yew once rightly pointed out about China that the world would do well to remember: “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.”
UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels
As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.
Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.
The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.
One year on…
It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.
Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;
“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.
The Man Who Unlocked the Universe Produced by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev
Important Calculations for Property Investment
Sterling Whipsaws as Brexit Negotiations Fall Flag
Strategies to boost your return on investment
Dental tourism, actually one of the most popular
Is the US Housing Market Slowing Down?
The Subtle Nuances That Count: 5 Factors That Could Have an Effect on Your Car Accident Settlement
Dental tourism, actually one of the most popular
A step by step guide on how to make a successful property investment
Sterling Whipsaws as Brexit Negotiations Fall Flag
Business11 months ago
Don’t Forget These Important Points When Starting a Business
Technology6 months ago
Wars: From Weapons to Cyberattacks
War and Military6 months ago
How Weaker Nations Are Taking Cyber Warfare Advantage
War and Military10 months ago
Is World Peace A War Away?
Opinion11 months ago
Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!
Business9 months ago
The Importance of a Strong Brand Identity
Technology10 months ago
How Cutting Edge Technology Is Giving Us Safer Lives
Business10 months ago
The Future of the UK Used Car Market