THEORETICAL AND PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF IR
THEORETICALAND PRACTICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF IR
Researchon the relationship between IR scholars and policy makers hasrevealed that the gap between the two fields has grown wider over theyears. IR scholars lament about the dismissal their ideas have beentreated with by policy makers hence rendering their influence onglobal politics irrelevant. For scholarly ideas to be used in policymaking processes, the type of academic ideas been used should relateto the gaps policy makers are seeking to fill. By explaining thetheoretical significance, the paper seeks to understand how IR ideashave been applied while the practical relevance shall reflect on thegap between IR ideas and practice in policy making.
Part1: Reflections on Real World Relevance of International Relations(IR)
Therelevance of International Relations (IR) in the real world has beenconstantly undermined by the gap that evidently exists betweenpolicymakers and IR idealists. Over the years since the introductionof IR theories, liberalism and realism have been the major theoriesapplied when dealing with various global matters.1The relevance of these concepts has been the foundation ofinternational relationships where scholars have been charged withunderstanding existing theories and their application and coming upwith new approaches for every new global issue that comes up.
Ina world where terror crimes are on the rise, the importance of IRcomes into play since there is need for states to interact andcommunicate to come up with solutions. Apart from the war onterrorism other aspects that call for international actions are suchas trade and the growing environmental concerns. Internationalrelations have for the longest time helped create easy communicationand interaction channels between nations, leading theorists tobelieve that some of the greatest wars in history such as World WarOne would have been prevented if the countries that sparked it hadbetter communication.2The relationship between states in according to IR has beenclassified using various theories that have helped bring about betterunderstanding on various issues. Application of these philosophieshas brought out the relevance of IR especially in understandingglobal politics especially those that examine and scrutinizemulti-pivotal phenomena.
Oneof the major IR theories that have been used to understand staterelationships has been Realism which comprises of a lack ofcentralized power. This theory has explained states that believe insovereignty where interaction with other states is rigid in naturewhere influence by other states is either forced or as a result ofconsent. This theory explains various aspects of inter-countryrelationships where for example if they feel situations arethreatening, the only choice of action is one that isself-preservative.3Additionally, this theory holds to the belief that all states havemilitary capacity making the world uncertain and dangerous since noneknows what the other is capable of. Due to the economicstratification and distribution of power, countries that are economicand military powers according to the theory make internationalrelations occur based on power-based politics.4This theory brings out the explanation that applies to real lifepolitics where global influence is held by economic and militarypowers such as the United States.
Additionally,under realism, states are believed to act in such a way that theyseek to increase their power over other states especially when theirrivals increase their power, bringing them under their power.5It is due to this type of relationships that some realists are knownto act on the defensive and pursue balanced power distribution wherenone of the states creates a threat over the other. The applicationof realism in international relationships has consequently led to thecreation of international organizations and laws under which statesare able to remain balanced as power and economic interests remainunder check.
Liberalismalso explains international relations in the real world where thecharacteristics of each state determine how they interact with otherstates.6This theory attempts to explain the relationship between democracieswhich have no fights occurring between them. In cases wheredemocracies have been observed to go into war, the assumption is thatthe states are usually acting for the greater good of their people.7With the liberal states acting under the will of their people,creation of international institutions such as the InternationalCriminal Court which is one of the bodies meant to have an influenceon the actions of domestic states.8
Thecreation of intuitionalism as a theory has particularly contributedto understanding trade relationships between states.9The issue of self-interest and gains by given states over others iswell explained under institutionalism where materialism comes to playand the economic uncertainties and threats created by theserelationships determine how states react. Under this approach to IR,states take actions as reducing their trading tariffs if only theother states do the same, leading them both to have increasedprofits.
However,if one state opts to place tariffs on imports from the other, therelationship is threatened and as such, the counteractive action ismainly to raise their tariffs to. Creation of institutions, toregulate such competitive behaviors sets to create rules andregulations that govern relationships between countries.10With the set rules and regulations, institutions are able to collectinformation regarding given states and how they react to differentsituations thereby explaining their behavior in relation to otherstates.11
Part2: Reflections on the Practical Significance of IR
Accordingto policy makers, the practical significance of internationalrelationships remains questionable, where most of it has been termedas useless to actual application on global issues. According toLepgold and Nincic, observe that majority of today’s IR scholarshave found it difficult to penetrate it which has led them towithdraw from its practice and instead specialize on theories, whichare largely criticized for their inapplicability by policy makers.12The two further note that following the end of the Cold War which iswhen majority of the current theories were created, very fewapplicable IR ideas have been of use in strengthening the linkbetween policy makers and application in the international setting.
Studieson IR differentiate it from the theories of international relationswhere IR is defined as the study of exchanges between nations inmatters involving politics, economics, military and culture while IRtheories and ideas are derived from contributions from variousdisciplines such as historians, economists, psychologists andphilosophers among other distinguished fields. Lepgold and Nincicsuggest that to fully get the impact of IR in global politics, thereneeds to be a distinction between the two since internationalrelations means to create applicable policy interventions while thetheories are the scholarly part of IR.13
Additionally,the separation that exists between the two has made it difficult forthe application of IR in solving global issues, unlike the approachused by traditional IR theorists who combined the two by acting asboth scholarly experts in IR and additionally participating in thepractical application of their theories. Examples of such theoristsare such as Marx Weber who is known to have been actively engaged inthe two.14With this argument in mind, it is assumed that the practicalapplication of current IR in policy making can only be achieved ifthe scholars are also actively engaged in practical level policymaking and implementation.
Atthe moment, it appears that the gap between theory and practice hasimpacted on the relevance of international relationships, however,the applicability of theories churned by scholars at the moment havebeen continuously shunned by policy makers as inapplicable andirrelevant. This, according to Byman and Kroenig has been due to thelack of adequate policy-relevant scholarship, which they define asideas that get featured in the policy making process.15The constant failure of these ideas in capturing the attention ofpolicy makers has led them to be termed as irrelevant or inapplicablesince it translates to mean that policy makers were not impressed,leading them to ignore them. The relevance of academic IR ideas topolicy makers appears to be based on a scale of the least to the mostsignificant where the least pertinent are not noticed at all, theseare followed by those that are noticed by policy makers but end upbeing dismissed. The level of significance increases when an idea isincluded in the policy making discussions while the most relevantideas influence the final decision of policy making.16
Astudy by Charles King centered on International Relationships andimplications to East Asia where they noted the impact of the gapbetween IR and policy making and its implications on practice of IRin the region.17The findings of the research found that scholars in the field wanttheir work to have influence in the policy making process. In fact,according to the research, the IR scholars focused on East Asiarelations claimed that they had also made relevant research thatcould be used by policy makers.18Scholars focused on studying the region and its relevance to theglobal economics and politics have been classified under existingtheories such as realism, liberalism, Marxism constructivism andnon-paradigmatic, to discuss the relationship of the region which hasbeen on the rise with other global powers such as the U.S.
However,IR scholars in the East Asia region seem to have neglected relevantissues such as environmental, and human rights issues, which are ofsignificance to policy makers. They are, however, noted to havefocused on issues that had been studied during the Cold War eras suchas economic and military power, which has reduced their relevance topractice.19As Lepgold notes, international relations have changed over time,where the modern world as it is known today has become more complexissues that have undermined the relevance of issues that were thefocus when most IR theories were created. The current issues offoreign policy fall off the scope of these traditional approaches,hence the suggestion that policy makers change their approach byconsulting with scholars in current IR issues particularly those whochose to focus on specific regions.20
Therelevance of International Relations in global politics depends onits significance at a practical level. However, this relevance hasbeen undermined by the gap that currently exists betweeninternational relation theories that are based on scholarly ideas andpolicy makers. Due to this gap, a lot of scholarly ideas on IR havebeen termed irrelevant by policy makers which calls for the two toreconcile by bridging the gap which will in turn help create ideasrelevant to the policy making process.
Byman,Daniel, and Matthew Kroenig. "Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower: AHow-to Manual." SecurityStudies 25,no. 2 (2016): 289-319.Retrieved fromhttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthew_Kroenig/publication/280977522_Reaching_Beyond_the_Ivory_Tower/links/55cf2dd308ae6a88138566e5.pdf
ForeignPolicy Staff. “Does the Academy Matter? Should You get a PhD? AndWhere Are All the Women?”, ForeignPolicy,(2014). Retrieved fromhttp://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/15/does-the-academy-matter/
King,Charles. "The Decline of International Studies." ForeignAff. 94(2015): 88. Retrieved fromhttps://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/feb5/b2fdaf4c2e4887a5e515b2a131ca037e5bea.pdf
Lepgold,Joseph. "Is Anyone Listening? International Relations Theory andthe Problem of Policy Relevance." PoliticalScience Quarterly 113,no. 1 (1998): 43-62. Retrieved fromhttp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2307/2657650/full
Lepgold,Joseph, and Miroslav Nincic. Beyondthe Ivory Tower: International Relations Theory and the Issue ofPolicy Relevance.Columbia University Press, 2001. Retrieved fromhttps://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lSvxCvvgJ4kC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Beyond+the+Ivory+Tower:+International+Relations+Theory+and+the+Issue+of+Policy+Relevance&ots=nUYyEUOpmJ&sig=lOKH_VCGp6Qwq1GAxpycdODBYqQ
Nincic,Miroslav, and Joseph Lepgold. BeingUseful: Policy Relevance and International Relations Theory.University of Michigan Press, 2000. Retrieved fromhttps://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zDj6Xds51sMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Being+Useful:+Policy+Relevance+and+International+Relations+Theory.+United+States&ots=Zjj-aAr97Z&sig=uII_IkKq5jUNt5lDLP_C9bmRmFs
Soofer,Robert. "Documentation: “The Politics of Nuclear WeaponsPolicy,” Presentation to Johns Hopkins University Graduate SchoolSymposia, Washington, DC, April 8, 2015." ComparativeStrategy 35,no. 2 (2016): 169-175.Retrieved fromhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01495933.2016.1176478
Walt,Stephen M. "The Relationship Between Theory and Policy inInternational Relations." Annu.Rev. Polit. Sci. 8(2005): 23-48. Retrieved fromhttps://ic.ucsc.edu/~rlipsch/Pol272/Walt.theory.pdf
Zambernardi,Lorenzo. "Politics Is Too Important to Be Left to PoliticalScientists: A Critique of the Theory–Policy Nexus in InternationalRelations." EuropeanJournal of International Relations 22,no. 1 (2016): 3-23. Retrieved fromhttp://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1354066115580137
1 Lorenzo Zambernardi, "Politics Is Too Important to Be Left to Political Scientists: A Critique of the Theory–Policy Nexus in International Relations." European Journal of International Relations 22, no. 1 (2016): 8. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1354066115580137
2 Lorenzo Zambernardi, "Politics Is Too Important to Be Left to Political Scientists”, p. 11.
3 Stephen Walt, "The Relationship Between Theory and Policy in International Relations." Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 8 (2005): 28. Retrieved from https://ic.ucsc.edu/~rlipsch/Pol272/Walt.theory.pdf
4 Ibid., p. 30.
5 Daniel Byman and Matthew Kroenig, "Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower: A How-to Manual." Security Studies 25, no. 2 (2016): 290. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthew_Kroenig/publication/280977522_Reaching_Beyond_the_Ivory_Tower/links/55cf2dd308ae6a88138566e5.pdf
6 Miroslav Nincic and Joseph Lepgold, Being Useful: Policy Relevance and International Relations Theory. (University of Michigan Press, 2000). P. 90. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zDj6Xds51sMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Being+Useful:+Policy+Relevance+and+International+Relations+Theory.+United+States&ots=Zjj-aAr97Z&sig=uII_IkKq5jUNt5lDLP_C9bmRmFs
7 Robert Soofer, "Documentation: “The Politics of Nuclear Weapons Policy,” Presentation to Johns Hopkins University Graduate School Symposia, Washington, DC, April 8, 2015." Comparative Strategy 35, no. 2 (2016): 172. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01495933.2016.1176478
8 Lorenzo Zambernardi, "Politics Is Too Important to Be Left to Political Scientists, p. 11.
9 Ibid., p. 12.
10 Charles King, "The Decline of International Studies." Foreign Aff. 94 (2015): 88. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/feb5/b2fdaf4c2e4887a5e515b2a131ca037e5bea.pdf
11 Foreign Policy Staff. “Does the Academy Matter? Should You get a PhD? And Where Are All the Women?”, Foreign Policy, (2014). Retrieved from http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/15/does-the-academy-matter/
12 Joseph Lepgold, "Is Anyone Listening? International Relations Theory and the Problem of Policy Relevance." Political Science Quarterly 113, no. 1 (1998): 49. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2307/2657650/full
13 Joseph Lepgold and Miroslav Nincic, Beyond the Ivory Tower: International Relations Theory and the Issue of Policy Relevance. (Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 10. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lSvxCvvgJ4kC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Beyond+the+Ivory+Tower:+International+Relations+Theory+and+the+Issue+of+Policy+Relevance&ots=nUYyEUOpmJ&sig=lOKH_VCGp6Qwq1GAxpycdODBYqQ
14 Joseph Lepgold and Miroslav Nincic, Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 20.
15 Daniel Byman and Matthew Kroenig, "Reaching Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 295.
16 Charles King, "The Decline of International Studies", p. 88.
17 Charles King, "The Decline of International Studies", p. 88.
18 Ibid., p. 89.
19 Ibid. p. 91.
20 Joseph Lepgold, "Is Anyone Listening? International Relations Theory and the Problem of Policy Relevance." Political Science Quarterly 113, no. 1 (1998): 50. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2307/2657650/full
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