An Anlysis Of Marxism In International Relations Theory Politics Essay
Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional academic writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.
Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Marxism was the first theory to provide a one with an alternative view on history, societal relation, religion and theory itself. It challenges the epistemology laid down by ‘traditional’ IR e.g. Realism/neorealist and challenges the ‘everlasting’ and timeless nature of the assumptions made by their proponents. Apart from providing us with just ‘another point of view’ on IR Marxism helps us deepened our understanding and unlike Realism does not lead our way into a dead end, or forces us to analyse the decisions made by agents/ analyse theory behaviour according to the ‘pre-programmed rules’. Instead Marxism allows for evolution out of the vicious circle. Marxism takes off the blinds and the ‘tracks’ preset by traditional thinkers and allows one to see how things could have turned out differently through analyzing the realms both intra and interstate politics.
Does Marxism contribute to, or criticise mainstream IR theory?
Intro quote The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
– George Bernard Shaw, (1856 – 1950) “Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists” ( $ ) ( ? )
Use Stuff from Bob jessopp article in cocnlusino – good intro statement
Better start with something like – with the end of cold war Marxism is generally considered to be a ‘dead theory’ – good stuff from marx is dead paper.
Marxism as a theory has very unique destiny in the field of political science. The very essence of Marxism challenged the established norms and epistemologies engraved in our society as well as the societal order themselves. Consequently Marxism although arguably held a large contribution to IR was pre-determined to be the ‘radical outcast’ across the theories in social science. Furthermore its initial negative reputation has been reinforced by its association with Marxism-Leninism developed in the USSR, a stereotype that imprisons it until this very present day.
As mentioned previously Marx’s encompassment of IR in his writings was very limited and therefore his work will mainly be used for laying down the general princip[les and ground rules needed for understanding the ‘otherness’ of Marxism in IR and essential for outlining his contribution to the discipline relative to the mainstream theories.
Origins of Marxist thought – early roots of deviance :
For the purpose of a thorough understanding of the latter study it is essential to first lay down some ground rules. In short what would capture the essence of Marxism? Marxism was one of the notorious pioneers of questioning the status quo of our existence and the ‘givenness’ of the rules governing the behaviour and reasoning of agents in a social system. Realism that is guided by a set of Hobbesian rules (find some stuff)…
Reason for Marxism providing us with an alternative view of ‘reality’ is in its roots.While Realism bases its understanding of reality on the tenets proposed by Hobbes and Machiavelli, Marxist thought is a result of careful analysis of Hegel’s master-slave dialect. Unlike Hegel who has explored the ‘relentless struggle’ within the human consciousness  , Marx diverted from a philosophical route into a political one, as he saw the dialect as the ‘manifestation of the struggle between the social classes rather then that between the human consciousness  ‘. In his view after the concepts of bondage and lordship are applied to the system of social classes it appears that ‘individuals in a social system were bound with an obligation to recognise their bondage to one another  ‘, instead of their minds being an independent self-reflection of their habitat.
The deviant Hegelian philosophy outlined above became the basis for Marx’s dialect leading to his ‘material concept of history’. The differentiation of Marx’s and Hegel’s dialects lies in their differing view on the outcome of the dialect. Unlike Hegel, Marx does not see the master-slave dialect as a ‘continuous spiral’, but rather a route to a barrier, a barrier that can be overcome if a ‘necessary critical mass’ is accumulated, with the conquest resulting in a revolution towards evolution. The possibility of conquering this ‘abstract barrier’ is in my view the most important aspect that distinguishes Marxism from the ‘timeless realms’ of Realism and other mainstream theories that bind one to an existence in a world guided by ‘generally accepted’ and ‘timeless rules’ that are never questioned – obedience is a given. At the same time the possibility of evolution is Marxism’s main contribution to IR.
The ability of Marxism to look ‘outside of the box’ , question our existence and not only provide an alternative route, but most importantly allow for the possibility of change in the ‘status quo’ is what makes it attractive for further exploration in the conditions of the contemporary world. And it is these features that are going to be explored throughout this paper(rewrite).
The outcome of the philosophical discourse outlined above was Marx synthesizing the essence of his theory and stating that ‘legal relations or political forms can be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind […] but on the contrary they rather originate in the material conditions of life  ‘. Marx observed a peculiar relationship previously ignored a relationship that will later on be known to undermine the concept of ‘historical materialism’ (insert from Cox?). , stating that ‘it is not the consciousness of men that undermines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness  ‘, which gradually brings us the materialist conception of history.
Fundamentals of Marxism stemming from above can be summarise in three points:
1st – Marx says world should be analysed as a totality, the world cannot be segregated into separate disciplines or to be more exact , one cannot understand the world basing his opinion on just one of these disciplines, all need to be taken into account.
2nd main idea – materialist conception of history. Social change as the reflection of the level of development of society. Marx outlines the tension between the means of production and the relations of production. (good quotes above)
3rd in essence Marxism unlike Realism sees change as a possibility achieved through a revolution (very similar to the entrepreneurship models – look up)
Marxism and the Artificial Consciousness (and challenging epistemology?):
Social norms are accepted because the citizens cannot conceive of other ways of being governed
and regard the system as “natural
,,3 (Brzezinski 1 976: 342).
Numerous efforts have been made especially by the later neo-Marxist scholars, to elucidate the biased nature of theory. A famous statement by Robert Cox pointed out that ‘theory is always for someone and for some purpose  ‘.The common example is the Neorealist dominance the field of IR for decades, a paradigm in which established societal forms are assumed to be ‘timeless’, concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘state’, and society are assumed to be universal. However all of these disintegrate under the scrutiny of Marxist analysis that points out their origin and embededness exclusively in Western Capitalism. Rosenberg for example ‘finds historical claims of realism to be tenuous and its theoretical premises lacking explanatory power  ‘. Examining one of the fundamentals of IR theory – the concept of power, Rosenberg states that unlike in mainstream view , power should not be associated with capability or the amount of resources , but rather with the ability to ‘determine historical configuration of societal relations  ‘. Overall Rosenberg in his work, attempts to construct an alternative to the mainstream IR view not based on positivism, but rather on ‘thorough understanding of social structures  ‘.
Teschke and other contributors have built up on Cox’s work by pointing out that most of the analytical frameworks currently dominating in IR theory are themselves fundamentally embedded in and derived from the historical construction of capitalist relations outlined above(relate better). More specifically as in the case of Neo-realism ‘its epistemological survival is predicated on its move to cut off the political from the social  ‘, a framework that guarantees the self perpetuation of a relationship in which the ‘internal mechanics’ of the society are thoroughly concealed thus delivering a very distorted picture of what reality is and additionally limiting the scope in which an IR theory can operate. The above leads one to a common conclusion – Marxist contribution to IR lies mainly in terms of critical evaluation of civil society fundament. However in my opinion it is more elaborate.
A contribution not confined to ‘acknowledgement of an alternative point of view’, while providing the ability to comprehend that world not as a given, pointing to the existence of a structure of ‘artificial reality’ deeply embedded in the minds of social agents. Marxist scholarship has been virtually nonexistent in the discipline of IR and unlike in sociology, has been almost entirely absent from the mainstream discourse of IR  .Consequently contemporary Marxists are not equipped with a ‘Marxist text book approach to IR’ and are faced with various interpretations of Marxist theory. Nevertheless as Kirchberger points out ‘the consistency in Marxist approach will come to the one who seeks it  ‘.
The contribution mentioned above is in elucidating the concept of an ideological model itself. As stated in the preface to the German Ideology (1845) ‘the production of ideas, conceptions, of consciousness, is directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appears at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour […]. In all ideology mean and their circumstances appear upside down as in camera obscure  ‘. While this initial outline of the relationship between human behaviour and ideas guiding them is an essential starting point, ideology as an independent ‘standalone concept’ inert to any external influences has been first pointed out by Engels.
Based on Marx’s earlier work he derived ‘ideology as a process which is carried out with the consciousness of the ‘thinker’ but with a false consciousness. The real driving force which move him, he remains unaware of, and otherwise not be an ideological process  ‘. The importance of Engels understanding this relationship as well as its’ ability to reproduce itself in human consciousness cannot be stressed enough. The significance of the above discovery becomes evident considering the events of the 20th century and the role of ideology, as an instrument of ‘artificial consciousnesses’ imposed on the masses by the totalitarian regimes in order to sustain the hierarchical position of the ruling class in a ‘hegemonic order’. The insight outlined above has not gone unnoticed by ‘the powerful of this world’ and has been skilfully exploited by functionaries such as Adolf Hitler who understood that ‘the receptivity of great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. Surprising effect can be achieved when propaganda confines itself to a few points and repeats them over and over’. Moreover the outcome of taking the approach of ‘ideological engraving’ can be immense. While keeping in mind what was said let’s not forget that ‘advertising, whether in the field of business or politics, achieves great success through the continuity and sustained uniformity of its application  ‘. However the role of ideology in the 20th century needs not to be confined to totalitarian regimes, as capitalism itself can be viewed as an ideology surpassing any national or regulatory boundaries by an extent that political leaders could not even dream of.
This insight once again stresses the importance of the necessity of relentless critical epistemological and ontological analysis, in order to be able to keep the ideological framework constantly exposed. Gramsci’s work is a good reflection of the latter approach and his hegemonic analysis stems directly from the appreciation of above. The way of applying it to the events of contemporary politics is going to be discussed later on in this study.
For the purpose of study I would like to briefly demonstrate how the approach can be applied to a general concept of IR. Kirchberger (ref?) noted that growth when examined through a Marxist approach is seen as a simple accumulation of commodities and capital. This is particularly evident when the notions such as Gross Domestic Product are deconstructed, as they reflect nothing but ‘the proliferation of products and services, injected into the market by growth consumed by the masses  ‘. Nowhere is anything said about the rationality, fairness or evenness of the distribution of wealth, or about the extent of public involvement in economic affairs. Moreover the extent of ethnic or linguistic fractionalization in a society or the density of the population is being left out. The repercussions of the above are seen in the way the method most commonly used by assessing the nation’s wealth and prosperity – the GDP. Even George Bush when speaking of the general improvement of the situation in Iraq in June 2008 used ‘the signs of improvement in security and economic indicators as the means of assessing fragile but significant gains  ‘. Furthermore this distorted method of assessment becomes further embedded and re-established as further generations of scholars employ it. Marx himself employed a similar method in order to reveal the hidden interests and to explain how certain assumptions in the field of political economy came to be understood as ‘inevitable natural laws on which the society in the abstract is founded  ‘. Only once one embraces the approach above it is possible to explain recent political events such as the financial crisis , where certain ‘economic actors’ were allowed to carry out market business deals resulting in a financial crisis , also known as the crisis of governance.
Needless to say that none of the mainstream ideologies have much to say on the matters outlined above. Perhaps it is the lack of understanding of ‘ideological control’ of the population and the fact that ideology is constructed and not given and is therefore not invincible, is the missing link that prevents mainstream IR theories from giving us a possibility of evolving and ‘moving on’. Marxism on the other hand takes us down the route of challenging IR epistemological orthodoxy  , that reveals the reasons behind the hegemonic dominance of ‘artificial frameworks’ successful in self-sustaining and reincarnating the orthodoxy of its actions
Marxism and the state( andjuha, Marx and the international+jessopp )
Since the time of its origination, Marxism has always signified the role, State plays in the political system, but at the same time Marxist theory has bestowed no singular ‘end theory’ of how Marxism regards the state  . Nevertheless ‘during the last decade [,] when liberal capitalism seemed to have reached a kind of global apotheosis, the study of international relations has witnessed a revival of intellectual traditions associated with the legacy of Karl Marx and his many and various interpreters  ‘. Consequently the above resulted in a significant contribution to IR through a production of an alternative account of the State, differing from the mainstream account both in the depth of its insight and in the breadth of its application.
The exercise of state analysis continues the tradition of Marxist epistemological enquiry, while taking it to a higher structural level (?). A consequence of such enquiry is the revelation of the state as a product of history and thus of intersubjective meanings. Further enquiry by Halliday shows that portraying notions such as ‘nation, state and sovereignty’ as inevitable and natural seems to be ‘one of the major functions of political socialisation in any society  ‘ and therefore on constant agenda of dominant structural theories in a society, such as Neorealism. Furthermore a deeper insight into the origins of the state is provided by Barker who pointed out that the current treatment of the state by mainstream IR theories remains ‘at an inappropriate level of abstraction, in particular in that it treats the state as if it existed only in the singular. Capitalism, however, is a world system of states, and the form that the capitalist state takes is the nation-state form. Any discussion, therefore, of the capitalist state form must take account of the state both as an apparatus of class domination and as an apparatus of competition among segments of the bourgeoisie  ‘.
Consequently the previously mentioned Robert Cox in his innovative ‘Social Forces, states and World Orders’ proposed a new framework of the global political system, as an alternative the Realist tradition of treating state as a unitary actor  ‘. The latter points to the inferior state of current insight into the state/society complex in IR theory , which is hugely surprising due to the extremely close connection and relation of the formed and the extensive variety of state forms across the globe. Bob Jessop aso needs to be mentioned, as an academic filling in the void outlined above and providing ‘strategic-relational’ account of the state after refined analysis. An account that treats the state as a ‘social relation’ and an ‘exercise of power’ as a ‘form determined condensation of the changing balance of forces’ that are a product of plurality of determination ,irreducible to class antagonisms  ‘. The outcome of this analysis is presenting the ‘supposed’ change in state form during the past generation from’ Keynesian welfare national state'(KWNS) to ‘Schumpeterian Workfare Postnational Regime'(SWPR).
Cox however pursues different reasoning and outlines the interdependent nature of modes of production, intersubjective meanings and institutions  , thus concluding that in the contemporary world the idea of a state authority confined to national borders is a foremost demonstration of an ‘shared meaning – a meaning dictating the type of ‘social relations  ‘. Further insight into this will be in the intervention part
On the other hand it is essential to note that, although state is a standalone complex distinct from the society, there is a reciprocal bond of a state and the ideas influencing the path of its development  . This equilibrium therefore results not just in the state being shaped by the ideas of ht society, but at the same time the society being shaped by the ideology embedded by the state. Furthermore a similar conclusion is reached by Robert Cox who concludes with the idea of a state being a product of historical development , but additionally the position the state occupies in our consciousness results directly from the ‘artificial mentalities’ embedded by the state dominating over time.
The conclusion above is fundamentally opposing that of one achieved by the Realist tradition that depicts ‘the state system as an invincible framework  ‘. Marxism appreciates the idea that the notion of state has ‘existed as long as the earth itself’, but they relentlessly point out that it is not a creation of nature like human beings , but a mere product of human intellect. It would be therefore incorrect to see the State as a ‘separate entity from the forces creating it  ‘. Therefore keeping in mind what was said above, by no logic can the social forces creating the state be confined to sovereign boundaries, which would run in contradiction with historical experience. The latter thus results in a framework stating that ‘ IR should not be a study of interstate relations, but of relations between social forms  ‘. This point is oine of extreme importance as it justifies the possibility of once again creating a point of view alternative to th at of mainstream IR view. Reforming concepts of the International and Balance of Power and focusing on Intersubjective and Homogeneity balance instead. These are jsut a few examples, but more on that as we progress in the study.
The above is relevant currently more than ever when the discipline of IR longs for injection of new ideas in order to cope with the rapidly evolving global political system where capacity is shifted upwards to the supranational level. Marxism provides for such a need filling in the void left out by the mainstream doctrines. While Bob Jessop denies the possibility of the State withering away and points out that what is really happening is merely a shift in state form from KWNS to SWPR. Perhaps earlier Marxists were right when noting that ‘the State has an essential role in securing the preconditions for further global development, however the institutional forms and forms of intervention must be transformed as capitalism changes and develops  ‘. And arguably this is exactly what is currently happening on the global arena where increasing power is gained to supranational organisations. A good example of such transformation is the EU – a coalition of 27 states that have already given up national borders and are gradually moving towards shared sovereignty and integration in both issues of Foreign Policy, as well as National Security through initiatives such as Common foreign and Security Policy established with the ratification of the Lisbon treaty.
Nevertheless there are still those that argue that ‘new forms of imperialism , by contrast to older forms of empire depends more than ever on a system of multiple sovereign states […] No conceivable form of global governance would be able to provide the kind of daily order or the conditions of accumulation that the ‘new capital’ requires  ‘. In conclusion of this section i would like to say that as long as there are deviant ideas there will always be a system trying to oppose it, however what is important is that the contemporary society allows for alternative points of view in the first place. And even if Marxism is wrong regarding the state, what is important is that it gives place to an intellectual struggle. And in struggle progress is born.
Homogeneity vs BOP
After Marxist contribution in the form of ideology and state, I would like to continue the reassessment of mainstream epistemology. Fred Halliday in ‘Rethinking IR’ makes ambitious attempts to evolve from the common realist approach by combining elements of Idealism and Marxism. His approach significantly contributes to IR by questioning the ‘timeless epistemology’ of the Balance of Power as a driver behind global affairs and offers a fresh alternative, better suited for theorising on global affairs.
Yet before proceeding to the alternatives proposed it would be essential to examine Dan Reiter’s ‘Exploding the Powder keg Myth’ exploring the costs of pre-emptive war in order to appreciate the importance of homogeneity. What he noticed is that political expenditure related to conducting preemptive war is closely correated with the relationship maintained with strong political powers. In both the cases of war in Vietnam and the early Israeli-Palestininan conflict both France and Israel have held off preemptive military operations until they had certainty of support from global powers – in htis case the US. The reason for doing so was not only for the purpose of support in military hardware, but more importantly political support which is seen as more valuable. Since US is building up a perception of a ‘beacon of democracy’ and order associated with a homogenous system, military operations carried out under their direct support will automatically be ‘democratically legitimised’.
But what is the reason for states putting the effort to appear legitimate? If we come back to Hobbes and the nature of a man all humans are ‘selfish by nature and act in the interests of gain and security  ‘, therefore the factor constraining nations from preemptive warfare is not their good nature, as they would only be acting in the interests of their own security by preventing the possibility of violence. As Reiter argues the fact that aggressive military behaviour is internationally perceived as a negative role plays a more important role and ‘states go to great lengths to avoid being accused of playing this role. Entering a war against the norm might mean winning the war militarily, but losing the victory politically  ‘. According to Reiter the Israel, in the six day war, was ‘reluctant to enter into formal combat despite obvious Egyptian provocations… most crucial of which was closing the Straits of Tiran – Israel’s main link to the Indian Ocean  ‘. Postponing military intervention in this case resulted in undermining ‘Israel’s reputation as a military deterrent  ‘.Reiter further stresses the importance of the deterrence because of the underlying ideology behind it. The state of deterrence while potentially beneficial for the state is counteracted by the established practice that prefers purely peace or war. The example above vividly demonstrates how convention is prioritised in a supposedly anarchic system  .
Furthermore the scenario above directly disproves the notion of the global realm postulated in mainstream IR through Neorealism. Neorealism states that the international realm is anarchic and all cooperation or interaction is motivated purely by the logic of self interest and self help. However a more important criticism of conventional IR is of its static and repetitive nature. Halliday criticises such an approach by providing an alternative that allows for the possibility of dynamism and evolution through focusing on homogeneity instead – a concept that is ‘adaptive and apt to change over time  ‘. Focusing on the ‘Spiral Model’ instead the deterrence model, he shows that by maintaining a fear of pre-emption ‘where each side is cautious to avoid provocation  ‘not only encourages actor deterrence but additionally forces them into the acceptance of homogeneity. The following has serious implication for assessing inter-state interaction on a geopolitical level. This approach discards the imbalance of powers as reason for international conflict and instead focuses on the impossibility of coexistence for two different organizing principles in one system as a reason for conflict. The above has been historically demonstrated by the conflict between communist and capitalist systems , or Judaism and Islam. Such framework therefore concludes that ‘homogeneity is […] the natural state of affairs and that heterogeneity cannot last  ‘
However the important implication of this concept is not just another theoretical abstraction. This way of thinking finally allows us to understand why certain conflicts arise and why they cannot be resolved by pure brute ‘realist’ force. A good demonstration of real life significance of this Neo-Marxist theory can be drawn from the author’s personal life experience of being an ‘alien citizen’ in Latvia – a countr
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: